8. I Love you for your Dirt


I do love gardening in our rich Virginia soil. This past weekend I canned pints and pints of carrots and beets, all grown in our garden. Although quite a lot of work goes into canning, it’s so rewarding to reap the rewards of the seeds we planted in the spring.

The following post is by my good friend, Deborah Tilson Clark. Deb is a native Appalachian who enjoys reading and writing, growing vegetables and eating, having friends and being a friend, and learning every day.* Deb, her husband, and their cat live on the banks of Guffy Creek. Their children live elsewhere. Deb’s mother lives a short drive away, from whence she continues to dispense advice and direction to all and sundry. Thanks so much, Deb, for this delightful post.

How do I love thee, Virginia? I love thy dirt, thy rich and loamy soil, thy sandy creeksides and red clay banks, thy stony gullies and ah, the fields where limestone lumps rise like yeasty bubbles in good bread.

One of my mother’s remedies for the blues is, “Go dig in the dirt.” In this, as in many other things, I have found her to be right. And now, science agrees. In a recent re-posting of an article in Gardening Know How, Bonnie L. Grant explained that certain microbes commonly found in soil have an ability to raise serotonin.  Artificially-manufactured serotonin is the stuff that does the job in Prozac and other popular antidepressants. People who “dig in the dirt” may absorb the microbes by inhaling them in dust or through cuts or scratches in their skin – or if, like me, they accidentally swallow some in the process of planting, weeding, or re-designing landscaping. The effects are noted to last for up to three weeks.

Here in the southern Appalachians, we have dirt that has been millions of years in the making. We have earth that has been uplifted, ground down, simmered under an ocean, rolled over by glaciers, and built by layers upon layers of leaves that fell from a forest primeval. It has supported small farms and towns; forests; and plant, insect, and animal species uncounted, for ages. It even makes us happy! But it works only if we take care of it, and keep it healthy. Evidently, this is another of those cycle-things: we absorb happiness from the soil, the soil is enriched by our caretaking of it.

Another thing my mother likes to say: “What goes around, comes around.”

* We also happen to know Deb as an award-winning writer, teacher, journalist and community builder.  Sample some of Deb’s writing by reading the posts on her Mountain Stock Pot Blog

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