Cuttings

The Fragance of Manure

Illustration by JOSEP CAPEK

Yes, improve the soil. A cartload of manure is most beautiful when it is brought on a frosty day, so that it steams like a sacrificial altar. When its fragrance reaches heaven, He who understands all things sniffs and says: “Um, that’s some nice manure.”—Here, of course, we have an opportunity to talk of the mysterious cycle of life; a horse chews oats, and then he sends them on to the carnations or roses, which next year will praise God for the gift with such a sweet perfume that is beyond description. This sweet perfume the gardener notices already in the reeking and strawy heap of manure; and he sniffs approvingly, and he carefully spreads this gift of God over the whole garden as if he were spreading marmalade on his child’s bread. Here you go, little chum, may you enjoy it! To you, Mrs. Herriot, I shall give a whole pile, because you flowered so finely and richly; you, feverfew, will get this cake to keep you quiet; and with this brown straw I will make a bed for you, you jealous phlox.

Good people, why do you screw up your face? Don’t you like my smell?

—By Karel Capek, from my all-time favorite garden book, The Gardener’s Year. Did I mention that this absolutely beautiful, charming, and uttterly irresistible read (and terrific holiday gift) is available from us?


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