Learning about nature: $23 is too much for a bag of dirt

Over the Top May 2, 2014 0 Comments

by Mike Todd

There comes a point when you decide you’re not going to get ripped off purchasing organic produce anymore and that you’d prefer to get ripped off even worse growing your own.

“I had no idea dirt was so expensive,” I said, throwing one more $10 bag into the cart. Apparently, if you call it soil instead of dirt, it’s much more valuable, like when Jaguar used to put its hood ornaments on Fords.

“It’s an investment. We can use it for several years,” my wife Kara replied.

We’ve been organic farmers for about three days now, and in order for us to break even on our investments so far, the little seedlings that Kara just planted would need to grow tall enough that when you climbed to the top of the plant and your head poked through the clouds, you could hear someone yelling “Fee fi fo fum” at you.

Of course, we’re not really doing this to save money. Our four-year-old son Evan is very interested in caring for plants, so we’re using this opportunity to teach him about natural cycles, especially the cycle that removes your money and cycles it to other people.

Kara and Evan have been planning their new little garden for months. It was a coping mechanism to survive the terrible winter from which we’ve just unburied ourselves. “Ooooh, what about strawberries, or carrots?” Kara would say, flipping through her gardening book to show Evan the pictures while the sub-zero wind whipped tiny spears of ice against the windows.

“Strawberries!” Evan would reply, his voice nearly drowned out by the salt trucks rumbling down our street.

Back then, the only things that could be grown outdoors were icicles and a bitter resentment of our geographic station in life. We had to work harder to earn this spring than any other that I can remember, and now that it’s finally here, Kara and Evan are determined to grow some fruit, herbs and vegetables, the latter primarily serving as a vehicle for distribution of ranch dressing.

After I’d pushed the cart full of dirt from Home Depot out to our car, Kara scanned the barcode on the bags with her phone to read Amazon user reviews.

“Ooh, wait, this dirt only got three stars,” she said.

“People probably gave it bad reviews after they realized they’d paid 10 bucks for a bag of dirt,” I suggested.

“I’m so sorry, would you mind returning these? We’ll just get whatever they recommend at the nursery down the street,” she said.

Turns out, at the nursery down the street, they recommended $23 bags of dirt. Excuse me, soil. Yes, that makes it go down easier.

I’m finally beginning to understand why organic produce costs so much more than the regular stuff. I’d always thought that organic produce should be cheaper, since organic farmers don’t need to waste money on pesticides with which to drench their crops. They just need to yell “Shoo!” at the fruit every so often. But now I see how difficult and expensive it is to grow your own food, especially when a four-year-old is helping you.

“It’s snowing!” Evan yelled, throwing a fistful of soil into the air.

“Hey, if you’re going to throw dirt, go throw some of the free stuff out in the yard, where the grass is supposed to be,” I said.

Despite the challenges, though, Kara (and Evan, sort of) did successfully plant three boxes with six seedlings each. In just a few short months, we’ll be well on our way to having enough food to tide us over for a few more minutes until the pizza gets here.

I hope I don’t sound unenthusiastic about this project. I’m actually excited about it, and it’s great that for the first time, we actually have green thumbs in our family. I think it’s from the ink on all the dollar bills we’ve been forking over.

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