Digging Dirt

84 bags of “Peat Free, Earth Friendly, Mom Approved, Sustainable, Biology Inside, Organic, Premium Ingredient” soil arrived on Friday.

That sentence makes such an arrival sound far simpler than it was. 

A couple of days ago, a driver pulled up to my door in a 40 foot truck that he’d manouvered through an old neighborhood of narrow streets overhung with large trees.  Then, he walked out back with me to look at the alley where the soil needed to go.  More curved streets, more large trees.  A head’s up call to the trucking company yesterday and a surcharge on the delivery fee didn’t widen the streets or trim the low tree limbs.  It required  kindness  and a lot of extra effort for the driver to help me land 2 pallets of “black gold” in this spot.

He drove the truck to the larger street that intersects the alley, loaded a dolly with 2000 pounds of soil and, with a running start, pushed the pallet as far up the  gravel driveway as  it would go.  Not far.  I  grabbed some scissors to cut open the wrapping, and started to unload the first pallet while the driver, Pete, got the next load.  I must have looked pitiful, standing next to a couple of piles of bagged soil taller than I am, because Pete was nice enough to help me unload the bags.  Together, we stacked and talked.  

Not having a loading dock gave me a chance to get to know the driver.  As we worked, I learned that Pete is a woodworker, and when he noticed my great-grandmother’s sewing machine we talked about the art of furniture making.  My grandfather’s business was restoring antiques.  Our conversation moved from furniture back to gardening, and we discussed what plants he might use at the house he just bought in York, PA, and I agree to swap some design advice for his help unloading.  

The foundation of organic agriculture is healthy, hummus rich soil.  If plants have all the nutrients they need to thrive, it is easier for them to ward off disease and recover from pest damage.  If the soil is rich in micronutrients, there’s no need for synthetic fertilizers which run into our streams.  Somewhere in the many courses I’ve taken on soil and permaculture, I heard that it takes 100 years for an inch of topsoil to form.  That’s why construction companies scrape and sell topsoil from their building sites.

So, while it took a lot of phone calls, driver flexibility and 15 minutes of heavy lifting, I’m grateful  that Mark Highland founded Organic Mechanics in 2007, and that I  could get a delivery of planting and potting mixes that will speed up that topsoil production at my place.  A few extra hours of searching and planning feels like nothing compared to 100 years….