Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | July 1, 2013

We Are Soil

The granddaughter of a farmer, I apparently inherited my interest in the soil through my Maile family bloodline. I have long been interested in growing things and my deep desire to garden is one of the top five reasons for moving to our current home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI believe that healthy soil is alive and is critical to the preservation of human life. Without soil there is no food, and without food, life as we know it ends. Scientists tell us that the human body is made of the same components as the soil is made of. I find this fact just amazing!


When we move to the Small House in 2001 we found sandy, gray and dead looking soil. Our property was carved out of a former Oak Savanah forest that had grown trees for many centuries.

I’ve never before seen soil with so little “life” in it – no organisms, no organic matter, no mineral particulates, no worms, no color, no loam and no moving critters of any kind. But I knew from forty some years of gardening that with hard work, and patience we could turn this situation around.

With a goal of creating increasingly fertile soil each year we shovel and haul home truck load after truck load of bark chips from a large mound of them in nearby South Haven, MI. With the importance of this living soil and its importance to the earth and our food supply, we feel blessed to have access to these bark chips. Everything we do here is organic and pesticide free.


It’s been a lot of physical labor to shovel, fill buckets and carry compost and bark chips. But after 12 years of this consistent process we now have wonderful, worm-and- organism filled loamy soil to garden in. These bark chips act as a moisture retaining barrier and a weed suppressing layer that actually breaks down and amends the soil. Then each fall I top dress my perennials with our homemade compost and the mix of compost and mulch creates beautiful new soil here.

Each spring I add a 5-gallon bucket of organic fish emulsion to my perennials to give them a quick boost of energy. This combo; mulch, homemade compost and fish emulsion helps to create the healthy plants with colorful blooms of summer that we are blessed to enjoy here.

If you are not familiar with compost, it is decomposed organic material that is rich, dark, crumbly, and earthy smelling. It has a soil-like texture and contains many valuable plant nutrients. Compost can be mixed with soil that has been depleted of organic material. Compost improves soil texture, allows for easier root growth, helps retain water, contributes plant nutrients and can aid in pest and disease management. These benefits of composted soil is why it is often referred to as “black gold.”

imagesCARHOOUGThis graph gives you an idea of the ideal soil formation.

Many gardeners spend a lot of money every year buying topsoil, peat moss, fertilizers for their lawns and gardens when the basics can be had for nearly free.

In the spring I see red worms by the hundreds in my soil this fills my heart with joy. Worms wiggling, tunneling, aerating and casting fertilizer in my soil is a joy to behold!


I urge you to watch the documentary, Dirt, to gain the larger view of the importance of dirt. If we as a culture don’t see the value of taking care of the soil our future as healthy living humans is in danger.


I am against GMO seeds and any corporation that want to control our food source.

Dirt is alive just as we are and we are made up of many of the same micronutrients that soil is made up of. This is fascinating stuff!

If you’de like know more, I recommend that you read, Secrets of the Soil by Peter Thompkins and Christopher Bird (authors of the Secret Life of Plants).

Small House / Big Sky Donna


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