Can you dig it?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about dirt and has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about dirt.

In her post Charli says that,

writing is like gardening - Charli Mills

and talks about sowing compassion to make our world a “worthier place to live”.

These are wonderful ways of thinking about dirt and good reminders of the importance of the earth beneath our feet, which is often taken for granted, even ignored, unless one is a farmer, a gardener, perhaps a miner, or possibly a child.

Children are often admonished about playing in the dirt, as if washing off a little soil  was the greatest difficulty. In our towns and cities we cover the soil with concrete and leave few patches of bare earth where children have an opportunity to dig.

Soil, though an essential resource of our Earth, is often overlooked. Ask a young child what living things need and they may say “water, air, food, sunshine and shelter”. Soil won’t rate a mention. But without it we wouldn’t have a thing to stand on! Nor would we have our other essentials: air, food and shelter – all dependent on the soil for their production.  The importance of soil and of conserving becomes even more evident with the realisation of how little of the Earth’s surface is available for producing food.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin If Earth was an apple . . .

Another great gift from the soil is knowledge. Much of what we know of Earth’s history and human history has been revealed by the soil as successive layers have been exposed or excavated; uncovering secrets of the past and enabling a much richer understanding of earlier times.

dinosaurs at museum Jan 91

© Norah Colvin

Our knowledge of dinosaurs has all been revealed from the earth with the first discoveries and identifications made only a few hundred years ago.  And there is still much more to be discovered. My children and grandchildren, along with many other children and adults, are fascinated by dinosaurs. How exciting it would be to make a new dinosaur discovery, find hidden treasures or unlock secrets of the past!

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

It is possible that many more dinosaur, and other, discoveries are yet to be made. The world’s only known evidence of a dinosaur stampede was found in Australia just a little over fifty years ago.  Even more recently a gardener in the UK found a dinosaur bone in his backyard! In the US, if you find a dinosaur fossil in your backyard it’s yours to keep!

According to this video, finding dinosaur fossils is quite easy:

The excitement of making new discoveries  and finding answers to questions is motivation for many.

In his book Good Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher Michael Rosen relates a story told by David Attenborough. He says that, as a child, David took an interest in bones and if he was out walking and found some he would take them home and ask his father (a GP so would probably know) about them.

But his father didn’t just tell him. Wanting his son to be curious and interested in finding things out for himself, he responded, for example: “I wonder if we can work it out . . .” They would then look through books about zoology and anatomy and try to identify the bone’s origin.

Knowing that it is through the comparison of found bones with bones of familiar creatures that scientists have been able to work out much of what we now know about dinosaurs and other extinct creatures makes such an activity even more exciting and inspirational.

Rosen goes on to share an experience from his own school days. When a teacher confessed to students that he didn’t understand Comus by Milton, which had been set for study, the class and teacher spent the year together figuring out its meaning. Rosen compares the effectiveness of this approach to many others, stating that study techniques, “didn’t teach me how to find things that I really wanted to learn about. It didn’t take me down interesting side-alleys where I would find things that I didn’t know I would be interested in until I found them.” But he says what he learned from exploring Comus was “something that’s more to do with feeling than knowledge or learning: it was a confidence that I could investigate and discover things for myself. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that I got that feeling from someone who quite genuinely didn’t understand something?

A sense of wonder and curiosity, and a desire and willingness to find out for oneself answers to one’s own questions is fundamental to learning. Digging in the dirt occasionally can’t do that much harm. You never know what new discovery you may make!

Moini, A treasure chest with lots of twinkling gold coins,

Moini, A treasure chest with lots of twinkling gold coins,

The thought of just such a discovery is what inspired my response to Charli’s challenge:

Digging for gold

Her spade crunched against the obstinate soil. Then tap, tap, tap, another thin layer loosened. She scooped up the soil and tossed it onto the pile growing steadily beside the excavation site. With expectant eyes and gentle fingertips she scanned each new surface. Then again: tap, tap, tap — toss; tap, tap, tap —toss!

She pushed back her hat to wipe her sweaty brow, leaving a smudge of dirt as evidence. She glanced skyward. The sun was high. She’d been digging for hours. She must find something soon. What would it be? Pirate’s treasure or dinosaur bones . . .?


Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.





15 thoughts on “Can you dig it?

  1. macjam47

    Norah, I grew up playing in the dirt, then planting flowers and vegetables in my mother’s garden, and now my own. My children were always permitted to dig and explore what “lies beneath”. Adults tend to look at dirt as dirt. Kids see possibilities. They learn to explore where that root leads, what that colony of termites looks like, not all holes are snake holes, and most importantly, that there are different kinds of dirt. They learned that dark, humus-y dirt is great in the garden, while the clay filled dirt isn’t good for much of anything, including digging. Sandy dirt doesn’t hold water. If you want to find worm look in the dark dirt rather than the sandy. When young, one of my sons pronounced that the best rocks are found in the dirt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your elaboration on the benefits of playing in the dirt! I love what your children have learned from their explorations. How cute, and perceptive, it was of your son to pronounce that the best rocks are found in the dirt. When we give them opportunities to share their knowledge, they can surprise us! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Digging Up Dirt « Carrot Ranch Communications

  3. MENTALLY ME (@stuckinscared)

    What an interesting read, Nora. I’ve never thought as much about soil as you do above (That’s the teacher in you 🙂 ) but I’ve always loved soil… I love the way it feels, the way it smells, the way it looks when freshly turned.

    I remember my second Son, who had ADHD (special needs) loved nothing more than being given a bucket of mud and water (and permission to get dirty) – he’d sit for hours playing with it, then there were the times when (without permission, dressed in his best waiting to go out) he would be found in the garden (up to his neck in muck, digging for worms, or other treasures… or just dig dig digging – happy as a pig in muck 🙂

    I love that David Attenboroughs Dad encouraged him to look for answers himself, rather than just being given answers… I think children are more likely to retain information if they go through the discovery process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for you comment Kimmie. I didn’t think about the smell of soil when I wrote the post, but the smell when it just begins to rain, especially if it hasn’t rained for a while, is amazing! And of course a freshly turned garden bed.
      There are times when it’s easy to be patient with a child finding the mud, and times when not. And when they are dressed in their best ready for an outing is one of those times when not! The picture in my mind’s eye is amusing now, but it probably wasn’t too amusing at the time! 🙂
      And I agree with you about the importance of the discovery process. It’s generally the most effective way. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Charli Mills

    Discovery is so important to learning, and yes, our soil is full of wonders to discover. I’m ever hopeful of turning up something exciting in my garden. Who knows? I’ve found a tax token and a cigar token, maybe there’s a gold coin or t-rex bone awaiting!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bec

    Great post, the FF is very intriguing. Moving dirt and a mysterious ending makes me think of Picnic at Hanging Rock! I agree, soil is of great significance to society and the non-human environment. A shame it doesn’t share the same day-to-day valuing as do other natural resources such as water and air.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec. Picnic at Hanging Rock was sinister. I didn’t intend my flash to be!
      Maybe we should start a soil appreciation society. I love that it helps all the amazing plants to grow, but it is just the one that does all the hard work behind the scenes while the beautiful showy plants get all the attention! 🙂



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