Getting Dirty at Land's End
October 9, 2008

Something changed in me when we moved out to California. After a few years here, I noticed an odd craving. Something I couldn't do without on a daily basis. The outdoors. I need to go outside at least once a day for a sustained period of time. Sometimes it's a run, other times it's to roll in the dirt.

I don't have my own "bit of earth" -- not a garden plot nor window box to mess around in, which, technically, might be a good thing since I'm such an impatient gardener that three weeks after planting carrots in my mother's Minnesota garden when I was twelve, I dug them up. You know, just to see how they were doing -- but I do have all of Land's End. For 12 weeks now, I've been going out there to weed, plant, clear brush, mend fences (no, really!), and generally roll around in the mist-drifted mud.

I love Allemany Farm not only for the physical labor, but also because it's food with a purpose. Land's End is different. It's a sanctuary, a quiet place I have used for so many reasons over the past few years. I've been watching the impressive restoration and getting the volunteer emails for a few years now, so I finally decided that it was time to give back. It was time to help nurture the place that had given me so much pure joy.

Now, I'm actually part of the land restoration with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and even though I'm coming home with knees that cough gently at me, "Ahem, you're almost 35. What -- you didn't think you'd need Advil?" and dirt in my scalp (don't ask), I just love it so damn much.

One Thursday morning, I was beyond tired. Man, I hadn't been that exhausted in months, not even WITH my insomnia. However, when 12:30 rolled around, I stopped work, I stopped the coffee, and I pulled on my hiking shoes and layered up. I filled my water bottle and I headed out. I left the 75-degree sunshine of Alamo Square and beelined it for the 61-degree fog of Land's End. I had to.

A few hours in, all that surrounded me were gull and hawk creels, the grey swash of the waves, and the muted sound of all of us packing solid earth around native plants.

Another Thursday, it was the exact opposite situation. With temperatures predicted to reach 92 in the city, it already was stifling inside the apartment by 10 AM. With the recently-sealed asphalt radiating black heat, I knew that mulching the planters in the new parking lot would be sweaty, dehydrating work. But I still went.

Maybe it's become a compulsion or an addiction, but after spending three hours jamming down fertilizer pellets or hacking at hay with pickaxes to cut it into the soil for water retention, I just love the way I feel.

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  Copyright © 2002-2008 Stephanie Vander Weide