From the very first issue of The Essential Herbal (Jan/Feb '02), an article by Beth Bender Walters:
BROWN WITH ENVY
I shall confess from the beginning that I am obsessed with my garden. Smitten, enraptured, possessed. To dig, sweat, weed, compost, plant and replant appear to be my calling in life.
Those living within spying distance of my puttering are perpetually perplexed by my activities. To rescue those pungent pine needles, after my neighbor stuffs them into black plastic trash bags, quickens my pulse. I positively run down the street with my trusty wheelbarrow, ready to make a clean sweep of suburbia. I gleefully collect all of those grass trimmings which were bound for the dump.
In time, all of these fine ingredients I have accumulated shall be converted into the oh-so-precious and coveted black dirt. Pay dirt. Most people do not expend so much energy on the subject of dirt, unless it is in their house and it requires sweeping, mopping, or dusting. I, on the other hand, am enamored with terra firma. Not the indoor variety; house dirt is best ignored until a rainy day.
The good stuff is all out there in the garden somewhere...or rather, in somebody else's garden. I once read an article which boasted the title "Perfect Soil in 3 Easy Steps". "312 Backbreaking Steps" would be more accurate. The author claimed the ability to "plunge my arm into my borders up to my elbow in sweet, dark humus". Not to be outdone, I zipped outside to my cosseted, pampered soil and inserted my little finger clear up to the second joint. I suspect that the owners of these glossy picture perfect gardens are not gardeners at all, just sick individuals that enjoy making the rest of us howl in defeat and despair.
Even with my neighborhood foragings, the plot of land where I do my picking and scratching is composed primarily of clay, rock and thistle, where Canada Thistle grows in abundance and has a tap root that could encircle Cleveland within one growing season. This is my "lot (or plot) in life."
I covet other people's fertile soil in the same way that others drool over sports cars. My sister in law can produce the most delicate spires of lupines (that I attribute to her dark, fertile soil), whereas in my garden they languish, wither and perish. I am convinced that there is a secret recipe for her crumbly soil. Perhaps there is a secret recipe, handed down through generations, safeguarded like Grandma's pie crust recipe. As much as I beg, plead and threaten, she still refuses to admit that there is a formula that she follows. Ha! I've seen her shed where she keeps bags of peat moss, lime and dried manure. I know that her magical blend is floating somewhere in her head.
Its only a matter of time before I either pry the recipe from her or stumble upon it myself. In the meantime, I'll still gather my neighbor's clippings, I'll continue to pick the endless supply of shale out of my garden, and I'll continue to dream of the next season. After all, I am a gardener.