Dirt Under My Nails

There’s something extremely satisfying in doing physical labor, working so hard you are utterly exhausted. Today I spent almost the whole school day working in the garden. Usually that means I am directing, teaching, or doing something easy like adding food to the wormery or planting seeds. Today I WORKED! Shovel, trowel, pitchfork, and plenty of thorns.

Something had been bothering me at school since the start of the term: how overgrown and messy the flower garden looked. A little rain and lots of sun-loving succulents meant that our garden was out of control. On one hand, I loved the splash of intense green in the courtyard (and yellows, oranges, whites, and purples). On the other hand, the marigolds and other flowers were crowding out our trees. Our trees are the most valuable asset to our garden, and a few had scarcely grown since we planted them last February. Despite the repeated assaults by goats and donkeys, the trees should have been growing. But some of the marigold plants were taller than the trees!

I finally asked permission to dig up lots of flowers, grabbed a fork and trowel, and started war with these marigolds. It was the perfect day: the rain had just stopped, so the soil was soft and the sun was still behind the clouds. For the first 1.5-2 hours, I got down and dirty in the garden, uncovering the trees and herbs, uprooting marigolds, flowers, and weeds, and digging up mint to plant around the school. I rested for a bit to have lunch and work on some stuff, then went back out. More digging, uprooting, and transplanting. I checked the worms, who had happily eaten all their food and told my counterpart we needed to feed them tomorrow. Then I started planting mint in the “wet” areas of the schoolyard: around the tap and at the bottom on the downspouts. I also put some mint at the base of each tree, with the intent of starting some guilds (next-yarrow, tansy, comfrey, and nasturtiums).

By noon, I was pretty exhausted, but I was bound and determined to finish a job I had started yesterday: to weed and loosen the soil in the herb garden. A pumpkin plant had taken root in our herb garden, providing ample shade for weeds to take root and thrive during the holidays. I had started it the day before, and really wanted to finish so I could prepare it for planting. The herb garden is my baby, and needed some attention. So I worked until I could barely lift the shovel, and finally uprooted the last weed! I’ll get some boys to shovel grass out from around it tomorrow, so it doesn’t invade again soon. And hopefully I have some seeds to plant a barrier (chives?) so the weeds and bugs stay OUT! While I was working in the herb garden, the Garden Club (my other baby) was mulching in the main garden. Yay mulch!

Tomorrow my APCD is visiting, and she’ll likely find me digging up and dividing up the comfrey, or preparing the herb garden for planting. Needless to say, I’ll probably be covered in dirt. I hope that she doesn’t get too concerned about me!

Man, I am so tired. It’s 4:30 and I could seriously sleep now. I know I’ll be sore in the morning, but it’s worth it. We had several visitors to the school today, and they obviously were confused by this white lady who was working in the garden. Shattering those racial barriers, one shovelful at a time!

I took several cuttings home for my host mom, and she was really happy. The chickens have eaten all her potted plants, so I was able to bring several new (hardier) ones. Before she’d take them in, she brought me a plate of food. What a way to express thanks!


About Jen Lamos

Christ follower. Writer. Permaculturist. RPCV. Photographer. Gardener. Keeper of Chickens. Daughter of God.

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