Down and Dirty

Chicken dust bath and hoophouse 004

All nine hens flap holes into the dry, talcum-fine dirt in the lower pasture.  I’m on the other side of the fence, digging in the equally dry soil of the neglected garden, and the Bearded One screws in step boards on the new deck thirty feet away.

Two steps in deck 001

“You’re really getting after it,” he says to me.

“It feels so good,” I say.  I’m trying to feel normal again after the big wedding week, which was great fun and a huge success, but I don’t feel like myself yet.

Garfield stretches out on the deck, enjoying the sunshine and the company.  I was gone for three days, and I stayed indoors and clean just about the whole time.

The soil in these gardens needs more humus, I think.  Water penetrates just an eighth of an inch and then rolls off.  But this dirt feels surprisingly smooth and good on my skin.  It even smells good.   Wild weed scents — pepper, onion, mint.

Chicken dust bath and hoophouse 003

The snap peas and sweet peas are far enough gone now, too, that I pull them to let the seeds dry out in the hoophouse.


I clean weeds out from under a cabbage I’m going to cut for the goats, who have come down the hill, rubbing hard against the fence.  Lala paws the dirt, then plops down into his comfy spa hole.

Goats dust baths 004

Pearl’s white Pygora cashmere fleece is about two inches long now, and she kneels in the dirt, then rolls on her side and the dust puffs out around her in a cloud.

Goats dust baths 011

Sage spits out a plum pit, sinks into the dirt, and extends his right hoof just like Pearl has, as if to dry a manicure.


With my bare hands, I claw a dust bowl around a three-foot tall clump of prairie grass and yank it out in a small explosion of dirt.  Then I brush my cheek with the tan dust as I swat a wild hair that has come loose.  And then, making them match, I brush the other cheek.  Now my nose is starting to itch…

*   *   *

I am the oldest person in the downtown Seattle salon where the entire bridal gang is “done”.  I am also the Mother of the Bride (MOB), so they make a fuss and work extra hard.


Neesha — the make-up artist — blots talcum-fine brown liquid around my eyes and then down each cheek. It feels cool and thick and it dries fast.  She is to work for a natural-with-polish look, my daughters say to her.  Light lipstick, light eyeshadow, and eyeliner to make my eyes “pop”.   Chantelle — the hair stylist — uses just five bobby pins to knot my hair in what I used to call a half-pony.  She teases the top into a feathery nest, then smooths it over to match my sweeping bangs.


“I look beautiful!” I tell Garfield when I get home from the wedding late Saturday night.  He doesn’t recognize me, and runs for his life.

*   *   *

Sage stomps and kicks up a dust tornado that floats slowly into the forest.  He clacks his horns with Pearl.

Sweet Tart dirt-splashes the side-stroke, literally propped up on one wing.  She sifts the dust through and between her feathers, which especially because of the Diatomaceous Earth (organic fossil flour) we add to this area, is very clean and healthy.

Chicken dust bath and hoophouse 008

“Goats and chickens both really need dust baths,” says the Bearded One.

I sift the dust through my own fingers, admiring my black fingernails, and relax into my bone-dry garden. “Me too.”

16 responses to “Down and Dirty

  1. Only people who love the earth understand the connection. I can no longer ‘get down’, but I love the smell and feel of the dirt as I work it. You paint word pictures so vividly I am almost there. I love Wednesdays!

  2. Hi, Christie! It took me 3 days to get all the makeup off after Erin’s wedding! Like with a sand scrapper- You were beautiful- are beautiful, and I was brought to tears with your simple quote.
    Can you send that to me? The pull…..
    🙂 Maria

    • Hi Maria! I used Vaseline and got it off in two sessions. But it was fun to wear, and something I would never do otherwise. I appreciate the compliment, but I felt like apologizing…”I’m so sorry you have to see me like this.” lol The quote is from Rumi: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” I kept substituting “strong” for “strange” when I practiced it. It’s STRANGE, and that makes it really work. Love you, Christi

  3. Congratulations, Christi-g-Lover – MOB! I’ll bet it was a beauuutiful wedding and everyone loved their jam and the looks of you and the Bearded One (hat? no-hat?) Here’s to good dirt. Forever. – Pierr

  4. I just want to lie in the dust like Sweet Tart! I love watching chickens have dust baths. I love the way they revel in getting all that dirt fluffed through to the skin 😀 . I also loved that mossy old tree stump next to your fence. I can imagine sitting next to it and looking for fairies with Garfield. I haven’t worn makeup for so long. I guess I’ll be wearing it too as MOB when my turn comes 😀 xox

    • I love your comments, Cathy. 🙂 Isn’t it just hilarious how chickens get into that dirt? I didn’t know that until I lived with them. Wearing makeup made me feel truly dressed up and festive. I’d do it again…in another year or so, maybe.

      • I often see the native birds,especially magpies, having dust baths in the sun and some of them do it on top of ants nests. I imagine they do it so the ants can get any parasites. I never new how to put on makeup properly so always feel self concious when I wear it. I think i’ll follow your lead and have it done professionally for any big occasions. 😀

  5. There is a season for all things–beautiful wedding and beautiful to be home.

  6. Christine Widman

    “I look beautiful!” I tell Garfield when I get home from the wedding late Saturday night. He doesn’t recognize me, and runs for his life.”
    You did look beautiful.
    I opted out of the makeup part of our youngest daughter’s wedding. She so dearly & sweetly & laughingly said, “Oh momma, I love you just the way you are.”
    Our oldest daughter is a born in 1970 hippy from the womb. At her wedding I wore a dress made in India and espadrilles. lol
    I love the uniqueness of all of our children.
    And the uniqueness and celebration of their weddings.
    The embrace of life.

    • A million cheers to the uniqueness of all of us! and I’m so glad you were at the wedding, Christine. And the truth is, of course, that I WANTED to get the makeup! Seasons for everything, and now that I’m back and seeing the pictures, the eyeliner worked great. I’m glad eyeliner season has come and gone. 🙂

  7. The smell of the dirt around here is peppered by the smell of what the chooks leave behind to give it a bit of substance after the soft stuff washed away and out to sea. Maybe it is on it’s way to Olalla to visit with the Glovers? If so, could you tell it to come home please Christi, we miss it! 😉

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