The Power of Dirt

Matt running a tiller

As I watched The Deer Hunter turn over Granny’s little garden patches I was struck by how dirt just keeps on giving.

The mounds I planted squash and cucumbers in last summer were still evident as was the layer of mulch we’d added to the entire garden to hold in moisture and keep weeds at bay.

In a matter of minutes The Deer Hunter literally destroyed the careful set up we built with the turn of the tines as he made his way back and forth.

Coming from a longline of folks who appreciate and embrace the ability to grow their own food I know well the value of good rich dirt, but at that moment it was as if the realization, the very goodness, of the earth solidified itself in my mind. Sounds strange, but I may never look at dirt the same way again.

Regularly amending garden soil ensures it will continue to produce well, but my main focus was on the literal pieces of matter that make up dirt. When I think on it at that level I’m astounded that each year we turn it over, till through it, mound it and shape it to our needs and it just keeps on doing the job for us over and over again. I’m beyond thankful for the blessings God has poured out on my head and dirt is at the top of that list.


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  • Reply
    April 1, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    When I was a child, and one of us fell and got a mouth full of dirt, my mother would say, “don’t worry, you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.
    We would sometimes say the same thing when we ate a bit of sour grass, or sucked on a honeysuckle blossom.
    We are part of the dirt, and the dirt is part of us. Thanks Tipper, this is lovely.

  • Reply
    John Hart
    March 31, 2022 at 11:47 am

    There is a new song entitled “Buy Dirt”. I do not think it is in your genre, but I like it.
    Your post is a GREAT one. What would we do without dirt?

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein weaves a poignant story of the many ways an old tree gives to a boy as he grows up. Your precious acknowledgment about Earth’s ‘earth’ brought tears to my eyes in the same way as did that book. Blessings poured on us, indeed. And many blessings to you and yours, sweet girl.

  • Reply
    Karen Boone
    March 29, 2022 at 8:41 pm

    Tipper—I love your writing. It just puts it our there and spells it out so simply—but with lots of deep thinking. Thanks.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 8:03 pm

    You may have omitted one aspect of dirt.
    When we were little kids, and one of us careened when we should have caroomed and “kissed” the cement, rocks, gravel or whatever else “broke our fall”, causing gashing and scraping of our knees, elbows, shins, cheeks, and hands? Then another, usually older child would come over and inspect the damages and, if no body parts were missing, declare, “Just rub some dirt on it!” Tears stopped, we got some cleanish dirt and rubbed it in gently and went back to what ever fool thing we were doing before the mishap.
    But not in cuts! Oh no, for cuts we searched for plantain leaves and wrapped them around the cut and continued on.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    March 29, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    The best thing for a garden is to add leaves and organic matter. I now have 6 to 12″ of the richest blackest soil for a garden by adding truck load after truck load of leaves every year. I check ph and add a little lime as needed. My father never listened about amending the red clay he tilled every year and only put chemical fertilizer.
    Here as probably every where else the farm land is being rented for solar fields. Corn and soybeans give way to sheets of black panels. I will not live to see the day my fields are covered in black. they will go to weeds and trees first. I love the soil and land more than the get rich quick schemes.

  • Reply
    Miss Gina
    March 29, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    One of my most treasured memories of my Mississippi home “The Roebuck Place” is our spring time ritual. We would arrive home from school sling off our shoes and run as fast as we could down the path past the plum thicket and our corn patch lower down to our garden. Daddy would be pushing a plow behind a mule breaking up the rows. He would smile and throw up his hand happy to see us. We would run through the black dirt feeling the coolness on our bare feet and smelling the wonderful richness of turned earth. It was a glorious time anticipating what would follow during the summer. Mama always allowed us to help plant seeds. We all would do the work later come harvest. Mama took great pride in cooking it all and putting up plenty for the winter. She had great faith and knew God would provide.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 29, 2022 at 11:05 am

    One of my favorite sayings is “Dirt’s not dirty!” Sometimes I stretch it out to say “Dirt’s not dirty, people are dirty!” It’s only in the past few generations that humans have felt a need to concrete or asphalt over the very thing that sustains them.
    So many people have been so packed and stacked in cities that they seem to have lost a part of their humanity. They are marooned there. Their ways of transport never take them back to where they really come from, dirt.

    See, I was able to restrain myself from going off into another diatribe. Ain’t you proud of me?

  • Reply
    Rita F Speers
    March 29, 2022 at 10:46 am

    Your writing style is to be admired. The way you gently lead our thoughts to an issue and expand upon it in a seemingly effortless way is much appreciated. It causes me to pause what I had been thinking and doing and accompany you in your experience. It’s like a mini vacation! The trip with you always has meaning and value. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Most of my family did not inherit that deep love for garden soil. but I certainly did. No matter the problem, it cannot be so huge that it cannot be put on a back burner while I play in the dirt. I remember it well when the Glenwood home was bought, and I went out and dug into the rich soil. As a longtime gardener I could tell a lot by the color and smell of that rich soil. I instantly proclaimed it would be “good garden soil.” Unlike some of the new homes where dozers and landscaping had moved and misplaced the top soil, this home still had the original soil from what once was an old cattle farm. Year after year as I tilled and planted it never once let me down. Far more than even the soil was the great neighbors who would come over to chat, and we shared our bounty. Even though I had my own bounty, one kind neighbor left corn, tomatoes, and any surplus in a paper bag on my shaded side stoop. My grandson and I always referred to one kind neighbor as “Joe on the hill” as all in the little neighborhood aged together. When Joe was no longer able to plant, I would always make sure I saved some of his favorites, and either my grandson or I would run these up the sloping hillside to his home. In her last years, Mom loved my garden and enjoyed shelling the beans. I would actually get her in the car and drive around the house so she could stand near the garden with her walker. I was once the youngest in the neighborhood, and I watched through the years most of my neighbors and my mom left for that “better place. ” It seemed overnight I was suddenly the oldest surrounded by younger neighbors on three sides. Working the soil has kept me going, and it gives me exercise, food, neighbors to chat with, and an opportunity to feel the sunshine and hear the birds. Yes, that dirt rewards me year after year in so many ways, as it lifts my spirit and keeps me grounded.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 10:38 am

    You wrote “as he made his way back and forth…” You have to go FORTH before you can go BACK. He had to go forth before he could go back. That may be another form of Appalachian speech that you might look into. A cou[ple of others I hear often are Hot water heater and hosepipes. A water heater heats cold water. Hoses are flexible and pipes are rigid. There is no such thing as a hosepipe.

    • Reply
      Guerry McConnell
      March 30, 2022 at 3:30 pm

      All I can say, Jackie, is Where you from?! When these things came to be, we described them the best we could, from how they worked.
      If you want to live in Appalachia, you learn how to appreciate the Appalachian expressions. There’s no need to scold and try to change them!
      Do we try to change your speech? And I’ve got to tell you, I have a hard time understanding your dialect!
      I’ve learned “Operational English” to communicate with foreigners; but enjoy speaking mountain or colloquially, when I’m home.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 10:11 am

    I know of some that believe tilling causes loss of the resource. Can’t give their reasoning cause it’s been so many years now. And personally, I tend to lean towards container or elevated bed gardening these days now that I am older with disability. Possible the thot behind no-till comes from the dust bowl era or not.
    And with established small beds & containers, I don’t dig the whole up. No rocks. Just organic matter. Yes, I do loosen the soil where the seedlings or starts go in from in other containers. My maintenance gardening tools are only a trowel & 3-prong hand claw for when needed. (Weeds do suck nutrients away.) Also, when I was in FL, the sand there just made it too easy to loosen. Roots have few obstacles other than tree roots.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 9:49 am

    What a blessing when God opens our eyes to see through His.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 29, 2022 at 9:15 am

    We would be in deep trouble if dirt could get used up and not grow anything. In fact we wouldn’t be at all. Wouldn’t it be something to know how much a single acre that has been tended for hundreds of years has produced? It would be humbling knowledge. There is an old land ethic that says treat the land well and it will treat you well. You all have lived that and are living it still. There’s another related piece, pass it on better than you found it.

    My Mom used to send us boys out in the woods to get that dark topsoil for her flowers. We would sift it through a screen with 1/4″ mesh (hardware cloth) and the result was dirt it was a pleasure to run your hands through. It was like little black beads. Lord knows how many pounds of it and of rotted sawdust we carried home.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      March 29, 2022 at 10:42 am

      My mother sent me to get “stump dirt” to plant African Violets in. The best of it was found in the hollow of a rotten stump. It is almost purely organic material, which is a little much for most plants, but her African Violets thrived in it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 29, 2022 at 9:04 am

    O am moving back to the area in May, can’t wsit. Is there a second planting? Will be too late for this one.

    • Reply
      March 29, 2022 at 9:04 am

      Sheryl-you’ll still be able to plant lots of things in May 🙂

  • Reply
    Margie G
    March 29, 2022 at 7:58 am

    Tipper, sometimes the deep person you are and your deep thoughts come rushing out, like for instance, today’s thoughts on dirt. Today many young people are embracing homesteading and gardening not to mention a newfound love of dirt and simple living. If selling your soul and all things holy or decent made you happy, why is mostly everybody in power absolutely wallowing in misery? Oh yeah, there’s a new movement called GROUNDING which is a fancy name for walking barefoot to FEEL the earth and let the dirt touch your feet. It makes you feel better. Hillbillies and country folk are way past the curve on this “ new fangled” data… lol

    • Reply
      March 29, 2022 at 8:44 am

      That’s a pretty deep thought as well, Margie; ” … why is everybody in power absolutely wallowing in misery.” I’ve wondered that many times, but it seems almost everyone of them are. Great point. I think the answer to that query is those who have lost touch with Nature and the land are the most unhappy.

  • Reply
    Kathy Gautier
    March 29, 2022 at 7:55 am

    Really good dirt is a sight to behold. Tipper, we must be kindred spirits. This weekend we planted part of our garden, and as we were tilling the soil, I had some of the same thoughts you had. Without good soil, we cannot sustain ourselves. We add mulch and compost to improve it and enrich it, much the same as we do our lives, with music and learning and our relationships with others. Keep on making us stop and think and enjoy life, even as small as a grain of dirt. Have an awesome day everyone.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 7:48 am

    It really is profound when you think of it Tipper. I’m still awed that a tiny seed, acorn perhaps, can grow and give us so very much. The literal material for our shelter and fruit and homes for critters and on and on. From that one small seed. The good earth accommodates. It’s magnificent.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 7:31 am

    Good morning,
    I too am amazed at the way that dirt is made, and the way that it keeps producing what it does when it is tended with compost, etc.
    I too thank God for the blessing that he has poured onto me as well.

  • Reply
    Martha Justice
    March 29, 2022 at 7:29 am

    It is truly amazing how some plants must have good,rich dirt and others can make do with dry, rocky dirt that worms can’t even live in. I think people are the same way. If some don’t have the” best dirt” they just sit and complain. Others who have the ” worst dirt” can have a bountiful life. ❤ PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW !!!

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    March 29, 2022 at 7:21 am

    The hymn writer said it well, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 6:54 am

    Good soil is so nice to work in, to get your hands into it. It amazes me that you can put a tiny seed in the soil and the most delicious fruit, vegetable and herb grows out of it — and not only that: Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground…” All of God’s creation is amazing.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 29, 2022 at 6:08 am

    It doesn’t seem like much, it’s just dirt, but without it we would not eat, and what would we stand on, rocks? Dirt is a very important part of our lives, even if we never think about it.
    Thanks for the reminder! I bet I will think about it all day. Profound, right there under our feet!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    March 29, 2022 at 4:11 am

    It is amazing how something will hit us like the way you looked at dirt differently. It’s like the blinders come off, and a deeper understanding sets in. I love how God is constantly revealing little things to me, bit by bit the pieces of life come alive to me. Sometimes I wish I knew everything from the start, wouldn’t everything be much simpler then? But then what would I have to be in awe of each new day? God is so very good!

    Donna. : )

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