I’m slowly making friends, building a partnership, with my clay soil, gradually over the last seventeen years. I no longer criticize, complain, despair over my native allotment, but marvel at what is possible. Guess I was attracted to the challenge of growing in the stuff, or I would have carted the stuff away years ago and bought a few cubic yards of sandy loam, which can be had from formerly fertile valleys now paved over with malls and car dealerships.
This morning the sun was angling in the kitchen windows, and though I had cleaning and packing to do, I took my camera out to record some frames. On the surfaces of the paths, which had been trampled by many feet to a slick, water-bonded foot of clay, I saw tiny piles of worm castings, like little brown squirts of toothpaste escaped from tiny tubes squeezed from underground. How the creatures managed to plow through is a wonder, but plow they did, and in the clay I could see their work, though it was invisible in the crumbly, dug beds. Something has switched on this week with the warming of the soil, as if it has reached the biological equivalent of a melting point. Two weeks ago when loosening the soil with a spading fork I came upon many an earthworm and night crawler, but they were sluggish and waiting. This week, suddenly there are castings, the grass has started to send out new shoots, and the groundwater is sinking away. The earth is gripped by a mighty force of many little muscle fibers, root hairs, dividing cells, capillary forces, swelling buds, as the earthworms labor to aerate and each kind of plant in turn reaches its appointed budding, leafing, flowering time.