125 / 365 – Dirt

MIKE ENGELS

Even though we had a warm winter this year, and a warm spring, I played it safe. The sprouts are still stacked up on the glass porch, in the family room. I rigged up some shelves running planks between two castoff bookcases I found down in Devil’s Lake. Plastic bookcases — who would ever put books up on plastic shelves? Dirt’s been leaking out of the bottom of the containers since we put them out in March. The dogs get in it sometimes when they’re playing with the kids, chasing after balls. You look in any room and you see little bits of tracked dirt. Sharon has been nice and doesn’t complain about it, just vacuums it up. In the family room and kitchen you smell that sweet but raw smell of compost. It’s not so good at breakfast time. But no one has been complaining. I like to think it’s the anticipation. It’s the promise of warm days, everything turning green again. Good food from the yard.

(Actually, my kids probably just tolerate it because they know it’s not worth arguing about. They’re starting to get into those years, those middle school years, where they’ll have their own opinions. Where I had my own opinions. God knows what they are. I’m sure they’re not as positive and life-loving as I would wish.)

A few weeks ago, we put out the leafy vegetables. The ground was wet, getting warmer. Rich, thick stuff. Dark. Worms in every handful — I know, I know, I get excited about worms. Bits of things, and you can smell how it’s a whole world of good stuff in that dark clump in your hands. It takes a couple of years, with a lot of love and a lot of junk from the kitchen, but then it starts to live on its own. It’s amazing what you can set loose in your backyard. Amazing to me, anyway.

So tomorrow, tomatoes tomatoes. Squash and beans. Corn along the back wall of the garage where it soaks up the heat. I get most excited about the tomatoes. Ours are about out from last summer. People always warn about planting too many tomatoes. Too much work to pick, way too much work to cook down and can. But then you get to this time of year where you’re rationing, trying to make the last few jars last until mid-summer when the new ones will be here, and you realize you can’t ever have too much. And the soil is happy to give you more if you let it do it it’s own way.

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