The Way I See it: It’s time to play in the dirt

Michele Blais shares fond memories of gardening with her young children and her own childhood spent playing in the garden.

I love to get my hands dirty in the garden.

Dirt is great in the garden, horrible in the house. In the garden I like to throw off the gloves and feel the soil between my fingers. I always start out the day with great intentions of keeping the gloves on to protect my hands and off they come because I can’t seem to get close enough to the plants or soil. I need that earthly connection of the magic of how what is dead can become magic growing powder, linking the past to the future.

My children liked to play in the dirt when they were younger as well. In our family home on Sunnyview there was a large garden with vegetables and flowers when we first moved in. I built a sandbox in the corner for the lads to play in, which kept them close and amused while I putzed away, hoping that my father’s gift for growing would some how see its way into me; perhaps it has but it has been a slow process.

The sandbox was a great play space for the kids as long as the cats didn’t poop in it, and for the most part feline friends ignored it. Just do a check every time the kids go out. This was cheap entertainment but oh what a minefield of learning. Various containers of all shapes and sizes, lots of PVC pipe and joints, trucks, cars, plastic people were all part of this space.

With the PVC pipe and containers the boys made a town complete with running water through the pipes. They experimented with various formats to get the water to the houses they had built. I was certain an engineer, architect and construction manager would be a future job choice.

This was where they were captains of their world, driving the big dump truck, or front end loader moving this, adding stones, pieces of wood to create their world. Using examples from their community of places they liked, they built their village, homes, stores, ski hills.

As they got older the villages were more elaborate, busy active places and then eventually the box was abandoned. It was used occasionally for a base for the small ball diamond they created.

The ball is another great toy for children, and adults really. It may be the first toy a baby plays with, with the soft squishy ones they can roll ever so gently and the last as they try to hit that little white ball into a hole 300 yards away with the big stick.

As a kid I loved playing in the dirt, and I hated wearing shoes, and the combination led to some pretty long soaks, to remove the dirt that the next day I would re-apply. I liked the feel of the dirt in my toes, whether I was playing in the sandy area building my own villages, or making mud pies to feed my brothers, somehow squishing the mud with my feet gave it more appeal.

Now my playing consists of my garden. I like the smell of the spring dirt, that sort of musky combination of the leaves and other debris blended in. I like to search for the plants from the bulbs and what survived the winter, or see what seeds the birds have planted. Gardening is a great family activity, though kids like to miss the middle tending, they are great planters and pickers.

Food freshly picked from your vegetable garden, whether from pots, raised beds or a garden patch is so absolutely delicious.

A garden connects us with the earth and the cycle of life, so go ahead and get dirty.

Michele Blais is a Vernon realtor and a longtime columnist at The Morning Star, writing every other Sunday on a variety of topics.

Vernon Morning Star