Saturday, April 21, 2012

Down in the Trenches by Grace C.


I was not sure what to expect when I was dropped off on a Saturday afternoon at the Habitat for Humanity work site.  Unlike the rest of the Winterims that stayed in Portland, we worked over the weekend. I had missed the first four hours due to the band rehearsal I had in the morning and when I arrived at the muddy construction site, I was surprised to see Sophie L. and James G. walk past me. I barely recognized them because they were completely covered in mud.  I even felt intrusive, coming into the work site with clean boots, pants and jacket...

Apparently my Winterim group had been digging out every single weed and root that covered 40 yards of land behind the Habitat for Humanity houses.  This duty required obliterating every bit of undesirable vegetation in this blackberry-infested landscape.  Fortunately, I had arrived as they were finishing up the clearing of the land and were starting to plant native plants appropriate for a wetland.  Having just come from band rehearsal and not having a speck of dirt on me, I was eager to volunteer for the first round of digging. In a matter of seconds, however, I realized that this was not going to be a fun ride.

Our instructor, an old man with a southern accent, was very particular about what he wanted. The holes (more like trenches) I had to dig had to be a foot deep, and 4 feet across. The soil was far from dirt. It was composed of clay and rocks, and everything one dug out had to be put back in crumbled form, rather than in clumps.  I almost passed out from weariness, and the rain wasn’t helping either. 

The craziest part was the plants we were planting, especially the Camas plants.  This species even has a town named after it (Camas, Washington).  All of us were dumbfounded when we found out we were planting little 4 inch sprouts, that looked like little green onions, in these massive trenches. They were so delicate that James snapped the first one he planted. This was the first of many beheadings. (shhh). 

Over the next three days, our group of eight faced the rain, cold and mud. We were out planting, digging, slipping, hoeing, and getting stuck in the mud for a total of 18 hours.  If you didn’t have mud in your hair, you weren’t working hard enough. If you fell on the sprout that you had just planted, you quickly got up and hoped no one noticed. It was an entertaining time to say the least.  In fact, here’s a clip of me being stuck in a foot of mud…

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