I have a confession to make. I love dirt… and I love cows. Read on and you’ll find out what they have in common in my mind.
I love the smell of it, the feel of it in the springtime as it ‘smushes’ between my fingers while I’m digging in my flower beds – I love everything about it. Even when my fur-babies track some of it into the house from playing in the backyard, it doesn’t bother me.
For the first 18 years of my life I lived on a working farm near the ocean. While a lot of my friends loved winter, I detested it from a very young age. I’d wait impatiently for warmer weather to arrive and with it the promise of spring.
Things would slowly start to thaw, including the huge manure pile outside the barn door. Melting mounds of snow would create little rivers cutting through the thawing ground on their way to lower elevations. Everyone seemed to be happier, livelier in some way, as if we humans had been in semi-hibernation along with the bears and wildlife that lived back in the woods at the edge of our property.
Living on the farm, I’d know exactly when that wonderful day that I called spring would arrive. It never ceased to surprise me when that special occasion suddenly snuck up on me, but I was always overjoyed when I ‘smelled’ it.
That special day happened anywhere between the middle and end of April, depending on how much snow and cold weather we’d had that winter. I usually arrived home from school between 3:45 pm and 4:00 pm. The bus driver let my younger brother and me off the bus at the lower part of our circular driveway and we’d dash up the coal-ash covered lane to the front door of our farmhouse.
Yet on ‘spring’ day, I’d linger on that walk, savouring the announcement of my favorite season – the smell of rotten cow shit permeating through the air. You see, once the ground had dried up enough so that the tractor wouldn’t make ruts in the pasture ground, my Dad would start cleaning out the cow pens that were 3’ to 4’ high in manure, and spread it as fertilizer on our land.
Man, it stunk! Nowadays most people living next to a farm probably file complaints about air pollution when a farmer spreads manure on his property. I don’t even know how they dispose of a full winter’s worth of cow dung these days as I’ve lived in the city for most of the past 30+ years after leaving my family home and am out of touch with today’s farming protocol.
But I still miss that smell.
The only thing that comes close to it is when I’m out cleaning out my flower beds after a hard winter spell. When my nose is close to the earth and that pungent aroma of half-thawed dirt mixed in with last years decayed leaves reaches my nose, I am one happy camper. Those first little tender green shoots of leaves and flowers to come and that amazing one-of-a-kind smell serves as a wonderful reminder that even after a period of harshness, a reprieve of happiness follows.
I love dirt… and I love cows. I think I need to make a visit to a farm in the country to welcome in spring properly.