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Panning for dirt

September 3, 2018

Happy Labour Day. Before I go any further, there is a question I need to ask. How the hell can it be September? What the hell happened to the summer and all the projects I had planned. Never mind the jobs half done – what about the jobs never started? How did this happen?

Anyway, anyway… I hope all the workers out there had a relaxing day today. I did not – at least not what was left of the day after I woke up at 1pm. (Jeez.) I didn’t feel the least entitled to a relaxing day given all the days over the summer when I clearly was doing sweet fuck all. Instead I laboured on a small piece of a larger project (which I swear to god I will write about at some length another day.

If you’ve been following my misadventures for a while, you’ll know that there are three types of “soil” on Gabriola: boulder, rock and stone. Of course, holding all these together is a bit of dirt. Today I decided that in one particular place, I was going to remove the rocks and stones and pebbles by “panning” for said dirt.

09-03 dirt

It may not be obvious from this photo, but, after three hours of panning, this small area by the side of the house is now nothing but dirt to a depth of four inches. (Yes, yes, okay, there are still a few pebbles. Don’t be so bloody picky.) And if you think these two buckets represent the sum total of rocks, stones and pebbles removed, let me correct you: they are the seventh and eighth load.

Of course this “dirt” is bone dry and apt to blow away in a stiff breeze. There is also the strong likelihood that Stella, stumbling across this, will consider it a new outdoor litter box. So, before I do anything else I need to fill a watering can and get my dirt wet.

This operation attracts the attention of Roxie, fine-tuned as she is to water going on the ground anywhere. And of course nothing will do but lapping up some of the muddy water – despite the bowl full of clean water that is placed out for her on the kitchen floor.

09-03 Roxie

Do not let this photo deceive you. There is no green algae in this water, nor is Roxie tinged a bit green. Trick of the light.

Clearly I can’t be wasting well water regularly on my bit of dirt, so to mark my territory against litter box intrusions, I stick a big plant protector in the middle.

09-03 chicken wire

And what exactly do I plan to do with my little dirt plot, you ask. Clearly this is Dust Bowl era dirt, unable to sustain life. No kidding.

But I do have a big old bag of soil supplement. I figure at a ratio of nine parts supplement to one part dirt, this little spot on my property could sustain… Oh, I don’t know what. Something deer won’t eat, which does limit my choices. Another rhododendron? Another ceanothus?  Is it too late to be planting something? Probably not, but, let’s face it: it’s all a bit academic, given that I’m too broke at the moment to buy any shrub or tree.

I could probably afford some daffodil and/or crocus bulbs and that would be kinda nice in the spring, wouldn’t it?


Oh, and FYI, I figure, on the basis of a back of the envelope calculation, that at the rate of three hours for this small area, I could clear out all the rocks, stones and pebbles in the parts of my property where I might like to plant something in approximately 14,000 years.

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