Things I Dig Up: Part 1 of 89,765,409

Growing food and flowers on family land is an ongoing archeological dig.  A few weeks ago I was planting tulip bulbs when I unearthed an old fence post. 

I first noticed it when I drove my broadfork into the soil and hit hard resistance  (read more about my love for this tool here). Thinking at first it was just another rock, I reached for my shovel and began to dig around its edges, realizing quickly whatever it was ran lengthwise down the garden row. After some effort, I wrestled the large post out of the red clay soil.  

I pressed my fingers into the spongy, water-logged  wood---the stuff of my hugelkultur dreams--- and thought about how my father had probably driven the post into the ground to hold the barbed wire for the two horses that once lived here in the 1970s through early 1990s: Tony and Stormy. Or maybe it was even from my Grandfather's time between 1940 and 1970 and housed his many mule teams with zippy monikers: Ned and Nell, Bert and Ader, and, my personal favorite, Ornery and Troubles. 

Digging things out of the ground is an almost daily practice here. There is always a little squirrel skeleton under the top soil, a random rooster bone left from a coyote attack, a very old, moldy shoe that defies all explanations  When I happen upon one of my grandparents' old trash piles things get really exciting. I often save the stuff I pull from ground there---an old snuff jar, a glass medicine bottle---and wash them and use them for starting plant cuttings in my sunny kitchen windowsill. 

I drug the squishy wood to the side, feeling appreciative that I suddenly had a deep trench in the tulip row and excited to to use it for building up this difficult, compacted soil.

Don't get me wrong. I'm beyond grateful to have this red clay beneath my feet. But you can't grow much of anything in this hard soil without a little amendments. For my grandfather it was that first generation of chemicals re-marketed from the battlefields of WWII. For us it's spongy wood, rabbit and donkey poop, sunflower stalks and the frass from our mealworms. 

There is immense privilege and massive genetic luck involved in being a third generation person living on land that has been passed down in your family. I can choose guilt (and I have, at times); I can choose entitlement, or I can choose a form of accountability that extends backwards in time to the family's of generations long before my family's own tenure on this land and extends into an unknown future for which I'm pretty certain we're going to need innovative protein sources and top quality growing soil. 

I want to avoid presenting the writings here as neat little packages. I'm writing most of this stuff just to find out the next steps to this land. So I'll end with this nice photo of the bulbs, many of them sitting in the indention left from the post. If all works out, they'll be beautiful blooms in early spring. 


  • Meredith, thanks so much for sharing! I loved reading this post. Could the post have been the edging for a garden?🪴

    anna luke
  • We are so deeply connected to the land whether we capable of acknowledging it or not. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.


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