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October 11, 2011

One of the best times for me barefooting is in the garden.

The last couple weeks I’ve been transplanting and splitting out things – like hostas – and getting the flowerbeds ready for winter.

It takes a lot to dig with a shovel barefooted. It’s not for the new barefooter, but it can done very well. I’ve gardened barefoot for years – for many years before I gave up shoes, I usually went out into the dirt barefoot. When I decided to give up the shoes, I thought it had to be all or none, including in the garden.

How to shovel without shoes? Well, first, as I said, it’s not for new barefooters. But it doesn’t take long to build up a good toughness of sole. The second thing is to use the shovel correctly (let it do the work). A lot of wasted energy is used by people with shoes. Barefoot, you can alternate between the ball of the foot and the heel, according to the need. In harder soil that needs more pressure, the heel is good. When finessing around roots, the ball allows digging without breaking roots.

My shovel has a rounded edge at the top (where you step) and my spade has a flat top. I’ve seen shovels without those kinds of tops. It seems to me that not only would they be difficult for digging, but they would also make for a weak shovel.

Without sounding all “new age,” I believe there is a connection to the earth when you’re digging around in it, transplanting flowers or trimming back over-growth. I think God meant for us to be this way.

The other day I was transplanting some lilies that were being drowned by a wave of coneflowers. (Coneflowers are great for filling a lot of space, but they don’t have good boundaries.) As I was placing them at the front of the flowerbed, I felt like Adam – I thought, “This is a much better place for you, lily. More sun, more contact with the birds. More water when I get out the hose next year.” Adam gave the names to all the animals and plants, so I guess he probably put them where they needed to go, to.

In the fall, barefoot gardening is sensory in a different way because many things are dead or dying. Sticks that may be pliable in Spring are ready to break. It feels cool to step on a stick and break it, to be honest.  Dry leaves are great fun to walk in. My flowers that have died off and dried out, like cone flowers and bee balm, still have the aromatic qualities of the plants. They’re a little prickly to step on and around, but it’s a real pleasure to carry the scent around with you in the garden.

Aside from digging out some nasty saw grass that won’t go away, and giving the flowerbed a final good cutting with the hedge rimmers, all I need to do is plant my Spring bulbs. That doesn’t take feet, but as the cool air of Autumn brings sunsets earlier and earlier, the cool air on my feet will be preparing them for the cold winter ahead.

Planting bulbs is one of the most hopeful things a gardener does. You get the bulbs and they look nothing like the spectacular flowers on the packages. You plant them at what you hope is the right time and pray that the winter is hard enough for them to get a good freeze, but not so hard as to freeze them to death.

And as you look out in the snow and watch the birds and cats and kids, you think in the back of your mind, “It won’t be long until those daffodils and lily of the valley, those tulips and hyacinths, all those hopeful bulbs are popping out again.”

I love to garden 🙂


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  1. Bob Neinast permalink

    And then there is the ToolStep (originally called the absolutely awful “Trenchfoot”!).

    I have one (given to me by Greg) and it works fairly well at letting you apply a bit more pressure than just bare feet.

    Occasionally I’ll put on a pair of sandals if I really need to jump on the shovel to cut through something.

    And yes, working barefoot in the garden adds a new dimension of delight.

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