Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Dig, Lazarus, Dig

Perhaps it is because I am, as has been previously noted, Peculiar, but I enjoy digging.

No, really. I'm not making it up.

Ever since I was old enough to wield a spade without the threat of chopping off a toe* digging was something I loved to do. As a kid it was an excuse to get muddy without reprisals**, but as I got older, and had my own garden, it became a way of connecting with the soil I was working with. Getting my fingers in the dirt & learning the peculiarities of the land. This area is prone to frost pockets, careful what gets planted there, that area gets waterlogged & needs organic matter incorporating into it. Building a relationship with the soil, learning its needs & tending to them. Gardening has always been a spiritual pursuit for me (I heard a theory once that shepherding societies were prone to monotheism, of the belief of a solitary deity that wanders with them, whereas societies based on agriculture were more inclined towards polytheism, and a deity for everything), the contact with the earth grounding & centering, even in my vaguely Pagan crackpot view of the world.

Over the last few weeks when I haven't been involved in the making & selling of beer (which, rather surprisingly, involves a lot of digging), I've been digging. A lot of digging. new muscles have formed in my back & shoulders purely for the purpose of aching (the Random Twinge in the trapezius & the Dull Ache in the Latissimus dorsi are my personal favourites), what started out as a few blisters on the hands have become spectacular calluses. Having said that, if you're doing any digging proper posture & Not being An Idiot should keep any back pain to a minimum. To quote Alice Cooper - back straight, lift with your knees. If you're not accustomed to a spot of digging, take a break every ten minutes or so & do a few stretches, preferably while grumbling within earshot of loved ones.

Tiger balm is a pungent, dark red ointment made with camphor, clove & cinnamon oil in a petroleum jelly base available from Chinese supermarkets & some chemists. It is an excellent, soothing rub that relieves muscular aches & pains, and all the ills that come with overdoing it (there is a milder white version, if the red stuff is too pungent for you. A dab of it on the forehead or temples works wonder for hangovers & tension headaches). A hot bath with a few drops of lavender & tea tree essential oil will soothe aching muscles too.

There is still much more digging to be done, preferably (but not bleedin' likely) before winter sets in. I prefer to dig in the autumn, or early spring. Digging in the summer is a miserable experience. heat, small creatures that find me delicious, sweat & chafing. Ugh. But cold weather means heading out with your shovel & gloves in sixteen layers of clothing, knowing that pretty soon you'll be in your T-shirt and overusing the term 'Soft Southern Shandy' at passers by. Plus there's the occasional break for a cup of tea and quiet admiration (or loud, if there's other people to hear it)

Until next time, which will probably be about parsnips. Or beetroot. Or something.

*And other parental paranoia's experienced when seeing your barefooted, semi-feral youngest child arsing around in the mire

**Any other situation that got me that filthy; falling in the canal (which happened with distressing regularity), hiding in the coal store, attempting to dig a bomb shelter etc all got me called a little diddikai and sent to an early bath.

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