Friday, May 05, 2017

Doodlebugs - Circles in the Soil

As children, my brothers and cousins and I spun sticks in the soil, drawing tiny revolutions in the earth, chanting a silly song and urging the “doodlebug” to rise.  We never saw one that I can remember, although we chased plenty of fireflies and dodged a thousand dragonflies in the meadows.  As an adult, I learned that “doodlebug” is one name for an antlion, an interesting burrowing insect, and I did get to see one once with my children at a local nature center, a childhood dream realized. 

As gardeners, we draw larger circles in the soil, as we circle through the seasons.  However, our circles are not literal, but rather conceptual, for gardening is not a simple story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Rather it is a circle, the “wheel of the year,” an idea often associated with Pagan beliefs, but very practical and present in any agricultural society.  In fact, in awareness of the seasons, the Farmer’s Almanac still includes a guide for “planting by the moon.”

Each season has its focus, but there is great deal of overlap as one season merges into the next. In a nutshell,  winter is for dreaming, for seed orders and for planning.  However, it is also a time to plant seeds indoors to get an early start, especially for those of us in a geographic location with a relatively short growing season.

Spring, then, is for preparation, for tilling and amending the soil, and for planting.  However, it is also a time to begin to harvest the first crops: to pluck tender young sorrel on frosty mornings, to harvest chives, and asparagus, and the red/green stalks of rhubarb.  Rather than calling up the doodlebug by spinning a stick in the soil, we are giving to the earthworm, and to the other subsoil species.  We are nourishing the “biology” of the soil through composts and cover crops gently rolled into the earth, with the slow motion “low till” method that we use on our farm.

Summer is for nurturing, for tending and weeding, for side dressing and pest management, for watching and watering.  It is a busy season, full of wide-brimmed hats and basil lemon-aid.  But, it is also a time for  harvesting, nibbling as you go, for preserving summer bounty in pickles and jams, that you will pop in your mouth in mid-winter, a visceral reminder of warmer days.  And, summer is a time for planting successive crops to replace things already harvested, or cover crops to nourish the soil and to prevent a rampant takeover by weedy invaders.

Autumn, the bountiful season, is for harvesting by the wheel-barrow full, for preserving, for storing in the cellar.  It is the time for a post-harvest pampering, spa days for the soil, as cover crops are planted and composts applied.  However, it is also a time to plant next summer’s garlic and one last crop of salad greens or kale, which may re-emerge, tender and ready for the table, in April.

Day follows night. The moon waxes and wanes.  Colored leaves pour like nutrient-rich rain upon the earth, until the snows come and the garden sleeps.  Winter again.  And winter is a time for dreaming.

Wherever you are, whatever the weather, I wish you a beautiful season.

A note: The contents of this essay are the basis for one of the talks I am doing locally, along with a book signing.  I hope to post the "lesson" content of the class during the next week.  Stay tuned!  :)


Out on the prairie said...

A good time to plant, I have one more flat of succulents and flowers to go. I am sure I will find more today if I get out.the buckeyes are starting to bloom, their blooms look like candelabras. Do you have them there? I had some baby squirrels come out near my home yesterday, a bit shy of humans , but like the corn and peanuts I put around their tree.

Jan said...

Wonderful post Marcie! I, too, have read about The "wheel of the year"...I read a lot of books that have to do with Wicca and Hedge Witches. I find them great reads with so much that one can learn about nature.
"Doodlebug" is such a cute name :) Drawing circles and trying to find one must have been fun as children!
Once again...great post and lovely photos~

Marcie said...

Steve, We are too far north for the natural range of buckeyes. I'll bet their blooms are pretty. I have been enjoying the maple and poplar blooms instead! The baby squirrels must have been cute!

Marcie said...

Jan, I like the name "Hedge Witch" and I agree that we can learn much about nature from those old traditions!

Pom Pom said...

Oh, I bet you are WONDERFUL at speaking to groups. You are so poetic.

Laurie said...

Lovely post, Marcie. I remember doing the same doodlebug song as a child. Thanks for a nice memory.

Lowcarb team member said...

'Each season has its focus' ... yes it does!
I always enjoy your words, I'm sure your talk to the groups will be so well received.

All the best Jan

Cat Lover said...

What a lovely post Marcie! Such a wonderful explanation of the seasons.
Thanks for sharing.

Crafty Green Poet said...

lovely post! I've never heard antlions referred to as doodlebugs before, I'll need to remember that!

My Journey To Mindfulness said...

Enjoyed reading this
wonderful words,
you make me smile
like I am
your mother.
Remember reading your posts for years
and also your mother's.,

Magic Love Crow said...

What an interesting, beautiful post Marcie! Really enjoyed it! Big Hugs!