It’s found sculpture—it’s a 3-D Rorschach test—no, it’s soil blocks!

I had to look up (i.e., Google) how to spell Rorschach, of course, and amongst the results saw one claiming that most people have never actually seen a Rorschach inkblot. Well, I have. Not that I've taken the test myself; no, that might be dangerous. (Who know what might be revealed?) Instead, I bethought me of Dave Barry's caution regarding a potentially explosive procedure, which I will summarize** thusly: “Do not do this yourself. Instead, send one of your children.”* Yes, when our older son was just six years old, we let a young psych student who lived next door give him a complete Rorschach test. And that has made all the difference.

But truly, this is a post about soil blocks, and these (or those, by now) are indeed soil blocks being protected from cats.

So you have your weights: Soil block weights

your layer of newspaper: Soil block newspapers

your cooling racks: Soil block cooking racks

(it's amazing how many kitchen items find their way into my gardening projects)

and finally, your soil blocks.Soil blocks, fuzzy (This is such a fuzzy picture that I refuse to print it any larger.)

My soil blocks, actually, she says with modest pride.

In point of fact, it's all Daphne's fault, as I'd never heard of soil blocks until I read about them on her blog (the illustrious Daphne's Dandelions, for those of you who lead such a limited life that you don't already know that) a year ago or so, and I could not for the life of me figure out how a block of soil could possibly hold together without anything around it—no pot, not even a biodegradable one—I mean, come on. It would just crumble to bits, wouldn't it?

In my case, even the soil that does have pots around it generally crumbles when it comes time to transplant. I don't know how often I've dug a young plant out of a pot with a spoon and found myself holding a bare-rooted sprig. Desperation and despair have even forced me to follow recommended procedure: put your hand over the soil's surface with the plant's stem between two fingers, invert the pot, tap its bottom, and lift the pot up and away from the beautiful, firm, pot-shaped mound of earth in your hand.

That's the theory, at least. In reality (my reality), one of three things happens: 1) nothing (i.e., the plant and all the dirt around it stay just where they were, which necessitates reversion to the spoon method); 2) the plant comes out, but half to two-thirds of its soil doesn't; or 3) all the soil comes out and promptly falls all over the place, leaving the plant's roots waving in the wind.

No doubt some of this trouble can be ascribed to the extremely casual approach I have taken towards potting soil, seedlings, etc. I, however, prefer to blame the pots and to assume that once I've dispensed with them, all my troubles, Lord, will soon be over.

I've just realized that some of the blame can actually be laid at the feet of husband Steve, who sent me an e-mail about blocks a month or so back.

At any rate, I decided to try the things. Of course, it took me a while (a month or so?) even to look at the site, and more time (two weeks? three?) to make the decision, and a bit longer (three weeks? four?) to just do it. Then there's the Wait, increased in this case by a high volume of orders. (The blocks arrived promptly despite that—within a week, I think.) And then there was the business of collecting the ingredients for the soil mix.

At last, however, all that was accomplished, and tomorrow I shall describe how precisely those lovely little blocks got produced—and planted.


*The Taming of the Screw: How to Sidestep Several Million Homeowners' Problems (1983)

**i.e., it is eleven o'clock and I'm too tired or lazy or whatever to go upstairs and find the book and the exact quotation. So shoot me.

3 Responses to It’s found sculpture—it’s a 3-D Rorschach test—no, it’s soil blocks!

  1. It must be a good read if I didn’t understand a word but enjoyed it all the way through. I even tried the links, looking for illumination but they both said the pages don’t exist. Mysteriouser and mysteriouser.
    Maybe lightening will strike when we get to episode two . . . meanwhile, happy birthday.

  2. P.S. Well, I did understand about what happens when you turn a pot upside down. Certainly! I’ve got a fourth though – when the roots have mysteriously sucked the terracotta shards up from their place at the bottom and stored them in a kind of fibrous stomach and I spend a while waggling my finger through a hole up the middle trying to retrieve them because I need to put them in the next pot.

  3. Well, Esther, I’m glad you understood that part, because that’s the heart of the matter. And I love your finger-wiggling attempts to get hold of terracotta shards. Why do plants do these things?

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