The Joy of Physical Labor

| 3/26/2014 9:08:00 AM


The spade bites into the earth and I turn over a shovelful of garden soil. It’s a windy March day, but the sun is warm on bare arms blanched from a winter of layered clothing. A male cardinal sings out his cheery presence, and in the distance, crows scold some unseen interloper.

I am reworking my garden beds, turning up earthworms and little clumps of grass and weeds as I go. At the end of the row, I lay down the shovel and kneel in the path along the newly forming row to break up the clumps with my hands, shaking loose the toupees of grass and throwing them upside-down into the path to compost.

The earth crumbles between my fingers and smells clean.

I work my way back down the row on my knees, then stand, retrieve the shovel, and begin turning over another row. I continue until the bed is 4 feet wide and 50 feet long then make another path on the other side, about 2 feet wide, throwing the topsoil from the path back up on this bed that I am creating. I cover both row and path with old straw mucked from the goats’ shed.

Behind me are four completed rows neatly tucked into their straw blankets, snoozing out the last weeks of cold weather. The first bed already has onions peeking out of the straw, and further down the row, potatoes will soon make their appearance. Working a little each day, I hope to complete one or two more rows before it’s time to plant the warm-season vegetables.

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