August 21, 2020 – Dirt is a Girl’s Best Friend

Shopping at the grocery store Wednesday, Dick and I found a ‘Hot Deal’ on blueberries. The question ‘Do I have time to put-them-up?’ flitted across my mind. Not really, but I’d find a way because this was a ‘Hot Deal’ I didn’t want to pass on. The last of our homemade blueberry jam devoured, I’d be without when family comes to visit.

At the same time, there were more tomatoes to be sauced for tonight’s lasagna. It was going to be a hectic day in the kitchen.

Also vying for our time are the back deck tomatoes we wanted in the hoop house, four tomato suckers, and two potted tomatoes that needed to be transplanted. And before they could get transplanted, we needed to make dirt.

Make dirt? Yes, to make dirt.

Dick and I could buy bags of garden soil to save time as we did in April, but the cost gave us a bottom-of-our-stomach queasy feeling on our fixed income – our new norm. We’ve also learned, since then, from numerous garden vloggers that bagged dirt isn’t the best solution. Our experience with anemic plants confirmed that nutrients didn’t last as long as the packaging stated.

We had to come up with a different solution and researched using forest soil, which we have in abundance. Questions we had were how much would we need? Could we keep up with the garden’s demand for soil and compost? Would it be too acidic?

We still don’t have all the answers but haven’t let it stop us from experimenting.

The one thing we do know is that the forest connected to mycelium supports the cycle of life. Fallen trees and leaves and other natural debris over multiple years have created a rich layer of soil, mostly untouched.

Excavating a perimeter road after purchasing the neighboring property uncovered an invaluable resource. Digger’s (John Deere excavator) tread revealed loamy soil under deep piles of leaves. The undergrowth, along with deadwood and stumps pushed aside, made the gradual change to soil.

Like compost, the piles of limbs and leaves need turning, ever so often. Rain helps to channel the soil through the large debris of logs and branches. Digger’s shovel munches on the larger limbs, cracking and splintering them into smaller pieces. The biomass shrinks as decomposition gains a foothold. Earthworms and other organisms refine the process until only soil is left behind.

Dick and I, not able to wait for the final product scooped up the pile and brought it to the potting shed to be dumped and sifted. Sifting filters out the larger pieces of wood, roots, or hickory nuts. The size of the earthworms buried in the dirt really surprised us.

Using a screen and a wheelbarrow, we get our ‘backyard’ dirt to fill our containers. The soil has a denser, more substantial weight to it than compost.

It was a busy day of making jam and tomato sauce, and wheelbarrows of dirt. And the lasagna turned out awesome-sauce.

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