Some people end the day with a beer or a wine or even a home-made limoncello but I ended my day with a fine tilth, and ecstatic I am about it too. There are few things that give me greater pleasure than achieving such a thing, especially after the rugged start the soil had earlier in the day.
Wednesday gardening at my place saw some looks of concern as I described the job for the morning which was to clear out a large strip of garden, totally overgrown with last season's vegetables gone to seed. We could not even see the end of the strip, so high had the flower heads grown, many being 2 metres or more.
Summer in southern Tasmania had turned dry and warm the last couple of weeks (at last!!) and the soil was hard, compacted and full of the wretched thick stems and tough roots associated with plants intent on reproducing. There were fennel, kale, beetroot, red cabbage, celery and parsnip, all particularly robust. I had cringed for weeks, every time I walked past this part of the garden on my way to visiting the chooks, at the thought of launching into tackling the job.
But, I smiled sweetly and made light of the work ahead as I showed the gang what I wanted them to do.... no good backing off now, when I had 4 great women willing to make the attack with me! I headed in first, with shears drawn ready to cut my way through the forest. Following close behind was Lorna, who collected up the debris and threw it over into the chook yard so that Robin could get to the stumps and dig them out. On the other side of the bed Sandra and Ann followed a similar routine with Lorna managing well to keep up with the clearing up.
These seed heads were not left to grow due to laziness on my part but rather to supply friends and seedsavers with seeds to sow. Most of the seed pods were well developed but not yet fully mature so I chose to leave standing 2 or 3 of each variety until I am able to collect the seeds. Some were not worth keeping as they will have crossed with others or because they were not that good a variety in my opinion.
Once cleared, we aerated the soil by pushing in a fork to its full depth then levering up the soil just enough to break the clumps.... no turning involved; much easier on your back and on the soil life below the surface.
Some time later we stood and admired a job well done..... the day moved on and I did not have time to get back to it until much later. Earlier, someone had said the only way I'd get a decent sowing surface was to borrow their tiller but, although I did not say so, I had another option in mind; something as old as farming itself.... so in the meantime I put the sprinkler on for a while so when I did get a chance to do stage 2 the soil had turned from heavy and grey to moist and dark.
All was quiet and peaceful when I returned at 5.30 with my trusty old rake. I placed the rake on the soil and began the rhythmic motion required to rake the surface ready for seed sowing. It was then that I felt that connection I sometimes get with the earth; something innate, ancient and deep. The big clumps of dry dirt from the morning slowly turned to a fine, dark, damp tilth between the tines of my old rake. This soil has a beautiful texture; the best in my whole garden.
As the evening light softened, and the chooks crooned their gentle words to one another behind the fence, I once again thought how much I enjoy working with soil and sowing seeds; how right and good it feels, how purposeful and meaningful it is and how seeds are the basis of all our food, and by sowing them year after year we are sowing the seeds of the future of our own civilisation. Food security, climate change, biodiversity, in fact the health of every living thing on the earth, depends on seeds.
Life is good. Rake a fine tilth and sow some seeds with me.