Ditch Dirt

Literally.

No, by “ditch”, I don’t mean give up on dirt and begin planting your gardens in aluminum foil or Styrofoam or something else ridiculous.

I do mean Dirt from the Ditch.

Here’s what I’m referring to:  If you’ve ever crossed 31st Street at Fontanero or simply driven on 31st Street through the Pleasant Valley neighborhood (aaahhhhh, what a peaceful name for a neighborhood), you’ve noticed the always cement lined and often plant and dirt and lately – ash - lined culvert.

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The Ditch.

It is the drainage for the usually slowly (or even barely) running Camp Creek that comes out of Queen’s Canyon.  And for us locals, The Ditch has become a focus of concern of late.  Due to the Waldo Canyon Fire last year, significant flooding is predicted due to the lack of ability of the land above and in Queen’s Canyon to absorb rain, especially heavy rains.  As recently happened in Manitou Springs (a nearby town affected by the same fire-caused flood risk), The Ditch may flood and send mud, debris, ash and water into houses in the floodplain that surrounds it.  (According to The Westside Pioneer, The Gazette, The Colorado Springs Independent and the United Western Engineers).

But, WOW!  It has been incredible to watch what has happened in The Ditch since last year, as non-flooding rain runoffs have filled it with ash, new soil and new seeds from high in the hills above Queen’s Canyon.  That mixture of “debris and mud” (in the words of a  futurely mentioned but nameless city worker who is, most likely, a representative of, what I will call, the “non-gardening sect of our society”) has produced THE MOST BEAUTIFUL botanical grassland The Ditch has ever hosted.

I wish I had a picture.  But, close your eyes and imagine it as I explain it here:

**Side Note:  Wait.  Don’t close your eyes yet, or you won’t be able to read.

Close your eyes after you read the description of the oasis that was The Ditch:

The portion of The Ditch south of Fontanero, in my 4 years living here, has been mostly cement with a weed sneaking through a crack here and there.  This summer, however, an abundance of the most beautiful and diverse dark green, healthy grasses abounded.
Some were tall, green stalks that looked like gigantic onion greens.  Others were full, thick bunches of thin, wispy stalks topped by fragile feather-like seed pods.  There were lush ground covers, and more vibrant plant life than even the most well watered garden.

And we are in the midst of one of our worst droughts in history.

Yet, we had the 31st Street Botanical Grasslands growing in the cement lined Ditch.

In a drought.

Have I mentioned it was beautiful?

Over dinner last week, the night of the rainstorm that flooded part of Manitou, I asked The Animal Whisperer if he had noticed how amazing The Ditch was looking!  No, he hadn’t, he’d look the next day.

But, the next day by 8 am, ALL OF THE GRASS WAS GONE!  The city had mowed it all.  My heart crashed to the floor of my car as I drove by.  I knew, in my mind, that it was mowed in the best interest of the all of our neighbors in the flood plain.  And I also knew that, like a bad haircut, the grass would grow back.  We’d experience the beauty again.

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Until….the skid loader arrived.  How it got into The Ditch, I haven’t figured out, but that kind city employee’s job was to scrape out ALL of the dirt from The Ditch.

The 31st Street Botanical Grasslands were officially closed.

But, if you choose to see it, there is a silver lining to every cloud. 

P.S.   (Neighbors in the flood plain, please understand that although I will miss the grasses, I am thankful that you and your homes will be safer because they are gone.)

So, being me, I marched right up to the skid loader driver and asked if he could deliver all that dirt to my house.  He kindly told me to come back at lunch time, when the boss would be there.

40 minutes later, I met the boss, the man I referred to earlier as a representative of the non-gardening sect of our society.  I have nothing against non-gardeners, however, they do not see the potential of dirt in the same way I do.  This man saw waste.  I saw potential.  Our conversation went as follows:

Me:  Hi!  I hear you’re the boss!

Him:  Yep.

Me:  I want all that dirt!

Him:  You sure?

Me:  Yes!  It’s awesome dirt!

Him:  You SURE?  It’s just a bunch of mud.

Me:  Oh, no that’s great dirt!

Him:  You S U R E? 

Me:  Yes!  When are you starting to dump it?  (They were going to dump it 15 minutes away, I’d save the city time and gas money by having them dump at our place.)

Him:  First we have to finish the north side (of The Ditch).  But you don’t want THAT stuff, it’s just bunch of debris and leaves.  It’s not DIRT.

(I walked to the see the north side, it’s been supporting just as much life as the south side.)

Me:  Yep, I want it!  Just bring it on up!  (I live 2 minutes from The Ditch.)

Him:  YOU SURE????  It’s just a bunch of sticks and leaves, it’s not dirt!

Me:  It’s COMPOST!

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My interpretation of the conversation:  He thinks I’m a crazy woman asking for the equivalent of a ditch full of trash to be delivered at my house.  I think I am brilliant for getting DARK BLACK landscaping dirt of THE HIGHEST QUALITY for FREE by the DUMP TRUCK LOADS delivered to our FUTURE APPLE ORCHARD.

My second Ditch related conversation of the day happened a couple of hours later, a sort of three way phone call between our Neighbors #1 and #2  and me (different houses and both possible members of the non-gardening sect):

Neighbor #1:  Lindsey?  Neighbor #2 called me to see what’s going on over there? 

Me:  We’re have dirt delivered!

Neighbor #1:  Oh!   I can’t see what’s going on over there, but I keep hearing a lot of noise! 

Me:  Yes, we’re working on some landscaping.  (I am, with this comment, fully aware that most sound minded people don’t landscape with 10 dump truck loads of Ditch dirt.)

Neighbor #1:  Oh, that explains it!  Now I understand!  He thought you were having the dirt from The Ditch delivered to your house!  (Her emphasis on how confused poor Neighbor #2 must have been with his mistaken suggestion.)

Me:  We Are!!!

Neighbor #1:  WHAT??? 

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Me:  Yes, it’s awesome dirt!

We gardeners are the few who see future food in a stray sprouted seedling in the compost pile.  We see mulch in the leaves that people rake up and send to the dump every fall.  We see worm food in the kitchen scraps we bury in the garden.  We see an apple orchard in The Ditch dirt.

Or, maybe that’s just me.

I am definitely NOT a member of the non-gardening sect of society.

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

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About The Goat Cheese Lady

I am Lindsey. I am an urban farmgirl attempting to balance city and farm life. I make cheese. I milk goats. I am married to the Animal Whisperer, man of exceptional knowledge and patience, I have two boys who are louder than my sister and I ever were, two big dogs, a few milking goats, some egg laying chickens and rabbits. Coyotes, rattlesnakes, deer, bear, and bobcats are frequent visitors. Just around the corner is the city. The pool. Yoga. The neighborhood friends. But we...and our farm...are hidden...by the rocks.
This entry was posted in Farm Life, gardening, Waldo Canyon Fire and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Ditch Dirt

  1. I assure you – it’s not just you! Those of us who think that way are way ahead of those who don’t! I’m right there with you! I would have done the same thing if I were there! SCORE!!!!

  2. I am a member of the gardening group and did notice the quality of this runoff earlier. I would love to know if anyone is interested in organizing to save the ditch dirt or the “future” life supporting ditch design? They are getting funds to redo this ditch and probably get rid of the grass and spring forever unfortunately. This dirt should be moved somewhere special so it can be accessed by gardeners everywhere or even local farms. So glad you had a great low place to put it. After all this is the way nature renews its valleys but we have asphalt parking and concrete lined roadways where our lush valley’s should be. Please write back if you would be a part of a group to support an effort to access a stockpile of this stuff!

  3. Jody B. says:

    I was through there on Wednesday when the heavy equipment was cleaning out the ditch and thought “what great compost that would be!” I love your go-getter attitude!

  4. Donna says:

    That is great soil and if you were to have soil like that delivered to you…well it would cost an arm and leg. You got the goodies!!!!!!

  5. Lucky you, with that big dirt score!

    Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2013 18:31:59 +0000 To: sandra@greenwomanmagazine.com

  6. Tony says:

    I LOVE your thinking here! I was a garbage man for 3 years, in the Powers, Research neighborhoods and it broke my heart to see perfectly good bags of grass clippings, leaves and limbs left out as TRASH!

  7. Ann Cott says:

    I LOVE your ditch dirt story and I would be right there with you. . . Cousin Ann

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