I found myself out in the garden again this morning. It often happens like that; I don’t intend on doing any gardening, but find myself amongst the lettuces early in the morning in my pyjamas, or dressed somewhat inappropriately for work. So this morning, I ended up weeding a whole lot of wheat out of the vegie garden, without shoes.
At first, I didn’t pay much attention to my lack of footwear, though as I continued to work, I realised just how awesome it actually is to garden barefooted. Without trying to sound too New Age here, there is something wonderful about being able to actually feel the earth beneath your feet, and connect with the soil which is very much alive, providing nourishment to the little seedlings, which in turn will nourish you. In Western culture, it is very rare that we exerience this physical connection to the earth, as unfortunately we as a society have deemed it unacceptable to walk around in public barefoot. (Such a shame.) It may just be me, but getting your feet dirty is also quite fun. It reminds me of playing in the mud in kindergarten, or the feeling of the sand between your toes at your first trip to the beach for the summer. Also WOMAdelaide.
There are actually some tangible benefits to barefoot gardening though. Earlier in the year, I completed my Permaculture Design Certificate at The Food Forest. Amongst an amazing line-up of tutors, I was lucky enough to be taught by David Holmgren; co-originator on the permaculture concept. Something he said during the course which I remember just now, is that walking around barefoot is actually a wonderful tool for observation. (For the uninitiated, observation is a key principle of permaculture design and practice.) Literally feeling the ground beneath us, allows for detection of subtle changes that we mightn’t otherwise notice. The change in soil moisture across different garden beds, and the temperature change in spring indicating that carrots can be planted, are just a couple of uses for bare feet.
Though of course, always keep safety in mind. I definitely wouldn’t recommend using tools around bare feet, and be mindful of small, biting critters who might feel threatened by your presence. But when feeling a little disconnected from nature or life, taking a stroll without shoes can only be a good thing.