Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dirt Is Dirt

Or Not.

With four kids, one quickly realizes that there are many different kinds of dirty. There’s the sandy dirt that falls off kid shoes and collects in the floorboard of the mini-van. Then there’s the cakey, earthy dirt that coats hands and faces after a round of making mud holes and mud pies. Then there’s the red clay ubiquitous on sporting fields throughout the Southeast, the stains of which won’t come out of anything, no matter how many gallons of bleach is applied.

Gardeners and farmers have known this for, well, forever. Some soil is good for planting certain crops and plants, some not, and some requires rehab in order to be productive.

My green thumb has long ago proven to be black, and I kill more plants than I tend well. We were sprucing up the greenery around the house, and discovered that the dirt there was the hard clay variety. I had to use an assortment of pickaxes, shovels, and sticks of dynamite to produce a hole big enough for a geranium. I mixed the clay with good soil from other parts of the yard in a big pile in the driveway, and while doing so I noticed something very strange.
When mixed, a very small proportion of good soil would quickly turn a much larger pile of red clay into good, brown dirt that could go directly into the hole with the new plant. The small amount of rich, life-sustaining material rehabilitates a large amount of sterile, life-snuffing material.

’The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ He told them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.’” Matthew 13:31-33.

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