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Wednesday, January 2, 2013


(I write for the NZGardener and enjoy doing so very much. I've just now been sitting thinking, and what I thought was, that when I blog, I don't try to be especially readable, just pithy. In case you, dear reader, don't read NZGardener, and wonder what sorts of articles I submit to the magazine for publication, here's one for you to read, if you've the time and inclination.)

I'm a gardening guy and therefore I am dirty. I have dirty trousers, often, and dirty shoes, usually. My socks are impregnated with dirt. I know I shouldn't walk outside in them but I regularly do; to look at the progress of some bulb or other, or to empty some left-over herb tea onto a parched seedling, out I trot, in my socks. If I do take them off first, I get dirty feet and that ruines the snowy-whiteness of my sheets and I become unpopular. I've usually got soil in my hair as well; gritty stuff that comes from I know not where; I like to dig but I'm not a mole. I find it on my pillow some mornings, like a gardener's halo. I don't have a particularly expansive cultivation style, so how I come to be covered in dirt puzzles me. It's like twigs. I get lots of twigs; down my collar, in my pockets, occasionally in my ears. How and when do they arrive at their final resting place bemuses me; I don't fling them about like confetti. Or roll about on the forest floor. Much. It could be that I'm magnetic to forest duff. Dirt though, is my real issue. I have it under my nails on most days. Occasionally, I meet well-known people, important people, people who are clean. I shake their laundered hands and notice I have humus under my nails. Or clay. They notice too. I regard dirty nails as a sign that a politician can be trusted. I've only met a handful whose nails matched mine. Some evenings I feel tired from my day's activities in the garden and wonder if that weariness comes from the weight of the soil I've been carrying around all day. Every gardener, farmer, labourer on a building site, knows that the heaviest soil of all is clay and the most debilitating place to have it, is clinging to your boots. Like the young flamingoes wading in the salt-lakes of Africa with their feet encased in great lumps of crystalised salt rendering them barely able to walk, a working man or woman can be slowed almost to a standstill by clay encrusted boots. It's like being in one of those walking-in-molasses dreams. On days when the ground is gumboot-sticky, it's best to stay right off it and wait til it loses it's glug. The soil under my native trees I've noticed, never hitches a ride on my boots or bare feet. The thousands of leaves, twigs and flakes of bark that carpet the ground in my native area, haven't the clinging habit of exposed soil, and cause me no bother. That non-attaching habit of soils in the forests of Aotearoa must have been appreciated by kiwi for millenia. A bird with feet the size of theirs would not last long on wet clay. Soil type and condition are critical considerations for gardeners. We are forever modifying what we've got; lightening-up heavy soils, providing some 'guts' to those that are light. Even the perfect soil needs attention if you're drawing crops out of it. Soil and gardeners go hand in hand and one relies on the other to be the best they can be. I don't mind carrying a bit of it around with me wherever I go – a smudge of dirt on my chin, collar or coat is a badge of honour to a dirty gardener like me.  


homepaddock said...

Wearing a bit of clean dirt from honest toil isn't being dirty.

robertguyton said...

Maybe I should have said, 'dirt-y'.
Either way, I'm generally soiled.

JayWontdart said...

What about leaving Robs Jandals by your door? Kick your shoes off and commit the greatest sin in all the bible, socks and sandals! :-)

Imagine the darning bills being slashed, instead of your poor socks polyester integrity! :-)

robertguyton said...

Polyester! Perish the thought!
The reason I grow my lawns long is so that I can wipe the earth from my feet before I step over the threshold, though I occasionally forget and have to be reminded...