It is possible that I have taken the idea of using what is at hand to do the work of homesteading too far. It started with my four year old son's desire to "do what you are doing." He held the clamshell shovel along with me and we raised it and pounded it into our blessedly forgiving soil, pulled the handles apart to capture the soil and lifted it off to the side to dump the load. He was fascinated by the motion of it, and by the way the hole grew so quickly from a dent in the ground into a vertical tunnel. When he couldn't see the bottom clearly any more, he looked up at me, genuinely awestruck, and said with quiet reverence, "Can I get in there?"
We are digging the post holes for the garden fence. Twenty two of them. And as my son sticks his feet into the first hole and slides in, standing on the bottom, only his arms and head above ground, I suddenly exclaim, “Hey, we could use you to measure the depth of the holes!” To be of use, to be, as he says, “inside the earth,” these are things that excite him and make his eyes open wide with disbelief at his good fortune. He climbs out of the hole and I use the tape measure to determine that the vertical line that describes his chest, at armpit level, is exactly two feet from the bottoms of his feet. We move more quickly now, the urgency of his desire to get inside the earth again giving us the energy to pound the shovel into the ground over and over again, pulling out first rich dark soil, then a golden clay. We discover, to my great relief, that shortly after hitting clay, we are at the right depth to set the posts and we confirm this by lowering him into the hole until his armpits rest on the edge. He wants not only to feel its depth, but the squeeze of the earth around him, how cool it is down there, and to examine the surface of the earth from this unusual perspective just inches from it, yet standing upright.
With even the most typically developing child, moments like this can feel like gifts to a parent. For me, they feel like miracles. Until he was over 3 years old, my son found the sensation of dirt on his skin so unpleasant, he completely avoided it. Not just dirt, but anything with the slightest potential to feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar, and not just tactile experiences, but sounds, visual stimuli, even the feeling of his own internal bodily functions caused him enormous stress. He came into the world quickly, and seemed poised to leave it just as quickly when he aspirated on his own spit up a few hours after we finally laid eyes upon him. I don’t expect to ever know what came first -- the sensitivity to sensation causing the aspiration, or the aspiration and all that followed in an effort to save his life causing the sensitivity to sensation, a bit of both, or something else entirely -- but I do know that the first few years of his life were far from typical. The hidden jewel in that being that even a seemingly simple act like choosing to climb into a hole in the ground and get dirty leaves my heart so full of happiness and hope that it cannot be contained inside my body, and my tears become the first drops of irrigation in our garden.
Apple House Blog
In the winter of 2009 we purchased 11 neglected acres in lower Bonny Doon. These are the stories of our unfolding lives as we attempt to create what we need, where we are.