In about nine hours it will officially be spring. With significant flooding over the past few weeks, our boil water advisories have finally been lifted, we look forward to Monday evening as we gather for our second class, this time helping us to deal with pests and disease. Our seeds are planted in our makeshift greenhouse to be ready for transplanting when the time comes. Many of us have submitted our soil samples for testing and as soon as the ground dries out a bit more, plowing and tilling will begin again. We have expanded the number of our family plots this year and are still getting everything in order. Last year was the first time I grew a garden, other than a few tomatoes. Some plants did better than others, especially the crop of rocks which are still coming to the surface each time I walk the garden. What I do know is in the past week we have had beans, corn, zucchini, carrots, turnips, and okra grown last summer. I have enough to last until it is time to start canning and freezing again this summer. I know many of our garden families are also still reaping last year’s produce.
There is another aspect I find to this gardening thing. I spent a number of years doing roofing. While that ended almost a decade ago, I still find that I cannot go by a building without looking at the roof and seeing if I can find missing shingles or signs of trouble. I seem to be doing the same with gardens. As I drive throughout eastern Kentucky, I see an area of cultivated ground and wonder, what was planted last year and if it will be planted again this. As I pass by the commercial fields that will be corn or soy beans this year, I realize that the mud left behind is not all bad as once dried and plowed in will be refreshed soil. It is a cycle repeated time and again to this bottom land. In college, one of our engineering professors was affectionately called “Dirt Daddy” because he would get upset any time a student called earth dirt and not soil. I find that as I kneel and dig the ground, I now have that same respect for the earth he had. It is from the soil that soon our shoots will push up as the days lengthen and the ground warms. This summer, we will eat again from what rises from the soil. I have to suspect that as my own garden improves year after year, as we produce more than we can use and share with friends and neighbors, it will never again be dirt to me. In the church, we begin this season we call Lent that leads up to Easter on Ash Wednesday. Our custom is to place ashes on the forehead as a sign of our mortality with the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is part of the rhythm of life, and death, just as the rising waters of the rivers and streams flood our lowlands. It is the same cycle in which we place the seeds in the soil, only to rise again bringing the green life we experience each spring over and over again.