The Best Dirt

My nails are still grubby after digging in the community garden last week. It’s just as well, since I don’t know what Tim will have me doing today. All I know is that I’m meeting him at his house on York Street. And I know the house when I reach it: there’s a bike hanging on the fence.


Inside, the children, Mialana and Micah, eye me curiously.  Their mom, Tracy, leads me into the dining room, where Tim has some overturned milk crates set up around the onion harvest. “Come on in and play in our veggie paradise!” he says, pointing to my crate.

Serenity blankets the home, which is decorated simply with lots of wood and handmade items. Children’s playthings are scattered everywhere and a wood fire burns happily. Someone once described me as “a good hippy” and as I settle into my place with this family’s gentle vibe, I see that moniker is both deserved and welcome.

Behind me, Tim switches from the radio to a CD. A band of unidentified yet vaguely familiar voices begins in pleasant harmony. “Oh, good! Folk music,” I think, ruminatively.

Lume, lume (World, world: translated lyrics)
My mama told me she would give me
As dowry when I get married
A score of big pillows
All of them filled with mosquitoes
A score of small pillows
All of them filled with ants
A score of soft pillows
All of them filled with junk
A score of barrels
Without bottom, without staves
Two bow-legged ducks
These to be the milkcows

Micah drags his child-sized chair into position, beside me.

“Would you like to help, Micah?” Tim asks him. Micah takes a proffered onion and dumps it into one of the boxes. “Would you like to be our onion sorter?” When Micah nods, Tim gives him some brief directions. Tim hands Micah another onion, which the young boy dutifully drops into the correct box. There’s something almost bolshevic about the vibe.

A clarinet meanders around the melody, haunting me. Now I’m paying more attention because I realize this is klezmer music.

unul, doi, trei: hutt!

Light dawns just as Tim is opening his mouth. “This is the Lemon Bucket Orkestra!” we announce simultaneously.

“Oh, you know them?” Tim asks, surprised.

“Oh, yes,” I tell him. “I interviewed Michael Louis Johnson at the Communist’s Daughter.”

“Who?” Tim asks. “Where?” And then he backs up, realizing how well connected I am through bicycles.

The onions cleaned and sorted, I move my crate to the kitchen and begin washing the red sunchokes that we harvested two days ago.

HandsinDirt2 PinkChokesDirty

Mialana enters the kitchen and hesitates when she sees me elbow-deep in the murky water. “Why are you playing in the mud?” she asks me innocently.

“Because your dad told me to,” I say mischievously. She manoeuvres around me and begs her dad for some craft supplies. Mialana is making origami flowers with Theresa, another WWOOFer.

When Tim thinks I might find the red chokes tedious, he brings in the white sunchokes, which are bigger and more curiously shaped. Once they’re washed, I weigh and bag them—three pound bags, one for each CSA share.


la-la-la, la-uh-la-uh-ah, la-la-la, la-uh-la-uh-ah, la-la-la, la-uh-la-uh-ah, la-la-la! la-la-la! la! la!

Distracted, I look up at the dish drying rack and see yet another bike connection. They follow me everywhere.


Next, we turn to the napa cabbage. I tidy up the heads and then Tim quarters them: his customers have requested moderate-sized portions.


For a break, Tim suggests I move to the back porch and pick through the daikon, cutting frozen chunks off the fresh roots.


By the door is a philosophical sign.


The tempo of the music is picking up, which somehow translates into faster veggie task accomplishments. In the dining room, Theresa and Tim and Tracy are putting the shares together, drawing from many of the things my hands have touched today.


Loo! Loo-loo! Loo-loo! Loo-loo! Loo-loo! Loo-loo! Loo-loo! OS! KAR!

As the sun sets, Tim piles vegetables and fruit on the counter for me, grateful for my help yet again. I’m excited about making a bowl of soup for dinner, and about discovering the joys of napa cabbage in a kimchee recipe that Tracy has suggested.


Outside on the porch, I notice a hand-painted sign by the door.


“Tim & Tracy,” it reads. “Mialana & Micah & Co.” Co. = me, a contented hippy.

Hutt! Hutt! Hutt! Hutt!

My apologies to the best klezmer band on the planet.

by Christine, WWOOFer