Digging in the Dirt

By Kaleigha Martin /

What is it about getting your hands in the dirt that just makes you feel better about life? Can you relate? Whenever I feel stressed, overwhelmed, under-appreciated or just plain blue, I take to the dirt and within no time find myself feeling better.

Perhaps it’s the ritual of sliding into my overalls one leg at a time, pulling on my rubber boots, fitting each finger into my favorite gloves and lifting my hat off the peg rack in our mudroom. It might be the walk across the lawn to grab my tools from the little potting bench I have set up. I’m sure it has something to do with pushing the wheelbarrow around the yard until I find a good spot, then plunking down on my hands and knees to get to work. Pulling weeds, clearing beds, spreading soil and planting new seeds.

Whatever the reason, as I work I can feel the tension in my body slowly release. I relax.

The activity of my hands sorts out the chaos in my mind and my thoughts flow rhythmically, one at a time, passing by slowly and allowing me a moment to dwell on each one.

Things make sense down in the dirt.

Especially now that I’m a mama to sweet Emmett (20 months), time spent outside in nature is all the more vital to my well-being. And to my delight, he seems to be just as big of a fan of getting his hands in the dirt as I am. Though it wasn’t a seamless process by any means, having his help through all the stages of our vegetable garden this year was so much fun!

We planted seeds in the spring and he was very excited about placing each one carefully in their little trench. We used our bare hands to push the dirt over the rows of seeds and he lovingly stuck the little wooden markers at the end of each row. All summer he helped me stay on top of thinning the radishes and carrots, harvesting and washing lettuce leaves, peeling beets, snapping beans, slicing squash, shucking peas, plucking tomatoes and cutting countless bundles of herbs.

Emmett has always been a pretty good eater, but something about being able to pick the vegetables himself, help me wash, peel and prepare them, made him all the more eager to try them out. You could have picked my jaw up off the floor when he happily consumed a pile of roasted chiogga beets and then signed for more.

It’s been so fun to watch him take such pride in caring for our garden. Even though he doesn’t have the most robust vocabulary, he knows exactly where to go when I say “let’s head to the garden”. He sits down on the back step, pulls on his little rubber boots with great focus and grabs his garden tools from his bucket.

Whenever I’m ready to head out, he never fails to be right by my side with a cheerful heart, ready to get to work.

Even though he has scattered quite a few seeds where they weren’t intended to go, dug up more than a couple row markers and snatched a seedling here or there, overall he’s taken such care with the vegetables. It’s not always easy, but incorporating kiddos into the things we love and teaching them how to do it themselves is SO worth it. I always had my own little patch in the garden growing up, and even though it took a while for my thumb to turn green, I’m so thankful that my Mom took the time to include me.

Nothing ever tasted so sweet as the little red radishes I grew or the sweet lettuce leaves I had tended myself.

Just because we’re heading into fall, doesn’t mean that it’s too late to get your hands in the dirt either! There are plenty of kid-friendly crops that can be planted now and harvested later on in autumn. Kales, chards, garlic, root veggies and lots of herbs are a great place to start. Look through a seed catalog with your kiddos and let them pick out a few veggies to try. Whether you have a backyard garden or just a few pots on the windowsill, there’s nothing quite like a little garden therapy. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Kali Ramey Martin is an Oregon mama, farmer’s wife, writer and photographer at birdisthewordpdx.com.

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