Garden Itch

There Is No Cure For The Itch To Be In The Garden

“Some of you get the itch as early as February,” Ed my old neighbor from Saskatchewan said with contempt. The garden itch is something Ed will never scratch. “Gardens are for fanatics and fatalists who plant, weed and water to reap vegies that they force on unwilling meat eaters, like me,” Ed proclaims each spring and summer. As far as Ed is concerned, the only vegetable worth mentioning is a potato.

Ed’s negative attitude towards gardening steams from his forced labor as a child on his family farm when hoeing a large garden was a part of his life. I told Ed I thought of his resentment toward garden hoeing when reading the words of John Muir. In 1857 John’s father bought a section of land to be cleared. The property had no spring, creek, or lake. A well had to be dug, and the first ten feet were fine-grained dust easily dug, but at ten feet they hit solid rock. His father tried blasting the rock but made little progress. When that failed, John’s father gave him the job of digging the well with mason’s chisels.

John described his job this way, “I had to sit cramped in a space about three feet in diameter, and wearily chip, with heavy hammer and chisels from early morning until dark, day after day, for weeks and months.”

Then at 80 feet deep John Muir almost died because of carbonic acid gas that was present on the bottom of the well where John was to work. He almost passed out there but fortunately was pulled out of the well gasping for breath.

On the advice of a stone mason and miner, water was thrown down the well shaft to absorb the gas and bundles of brush or hay on a rope were dropped down and up the shaft to carry down pure air and stir up the poison. After a day or two John was lowered down in the well with a candle to test the air, and the hammer-and-chisel continued to 90 feet deep when water was reached.

John Muir wrote of his well digging, “Father never spent an hour in that well. He trusted me to sink it straight and plumb, and I did.” His lack of any resentment to his hard work of his well-digging task is impressive.

Ed wanted to know why I was reading about John Muir as he had never heard of him. John Muir was a famous and influential naturalist and conservationist in the U.S.A.  Muir is well known for his writing that praised the natural world and wrote articles pushing for the establishment of Yosemite as a National Park which was established as such in 1890. His legacy lives on not only in the establishment of national parks and environmental activism but also in his articles and his books. He wanted mountain wilderness areas and their forests preserved and maintained in their God-given state.

The book of Genesis tells us that, “The Lord God took the man (Adam) and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” In every generation, God gives individuals who see God’s handiwork in nature and seek to preserve it as it was given.

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