Tilling the Ground

By Amanda Painter

We’re in a week marked by movement and an impulse toward something new: on Tuesday, we had the Taurus New Moon, and Uranus entered Taurus; yesterday Mars entered Aquarius, and formed a square to Uranus. Between the adjustment phase that comes with planets in new signs and the fact that we’re going to get an echo of this energy later in the year, these recent movements are worth a closer look.

Post-pussywillows; photo by Amanda Painter.

Post-pussywillows; photo by Amanda Painter.

First, think for a moment about the idea of tilling the ground when gardening. “Tilling” does not refer to harvesting the fruits of your labors; it’s not tending the plants during the growing season; and it’s not the actual seed planting that seems to start things off, either.

Tilling is what comes before all of that. It’s the preparation of the ground: preparation in the form of disrupting what had become settled, compacted, and dormant. Whether you use a horse-drawn plow, a small rototiller, an industrial-size agricultural tiller, or just a shovel and rake, this step is crucial for the planting and growth to come. Space must be made in the soil for best results in the months to come — the stabilizing roots can then reach further and draw more nutrients, allowing the rest of the plant to flourish.

Seasons of change work the same for human beings, though the process is often less ritualized and can happen any time of year. We fall into habits and routines; we get comfortable and stale; we allow limits to restrict us and lose sight that we can challenge them and push back. As a result, we often need to go through a conscious phase of disruption to make the space in which our next phase of growth can emerge and develop. You can think of it less as chaos and more like introducing a little room to reach your roots further, allowing you to branch out into the unknown.

We happen to have entered one of these phases while the Sun is in Taurus, so the timing feels particularly apt. But this phase will last much longer than the Sun’s time in this sign, and much longer than just one season.

This is because of a couple of specific planetary retrogrades. The first is Uranus, newly in Taurus, which will move back into Aries and then forward again into Taurus over the next year. Then it will stay in that sign for several years.

Personally and culturally, you can expect to witness and come up with new ideas about things like money and resources, reforms to business and the economy, and perhaps a reevaluation of values. You might find it either challenging or exhilarating to find the sweet spot between your attachment to material facets of life staying as you’ve known them, and impatience to change those conditions quickly (sometimes perhaps too quickly).

What’s fascinating is that we have Mars in Aquarius driving some similar themes and urges. It also will begin its own retrograde at the end of June. As the timing would have it, that means we’ll experience another square between Mars in Aquarius and Uranus in Taurus on Aug. 1, to mirror yesterday’s Mars-Uranus square.

You might want to take some notes this week about the things you change, what you feel you must change but can’t, and how you feel about it all. (Also note any changes or volatile events seemingly thrust upon you by others or external circumstances, which can indicate frustrated or repressed energies; the more aware of those energies you become, the better you can work with them.)

Mars-Uranus squares tend to be restless and impulsive, and raise the question of whether you can really be yourself as your life is currently structured. If it feels like it’s time (now, toward the end of July, or anytime in between) to refresh your life, can you see the possibilities behind the disruption? New challenges ask us to come up with new methods and solutions to address them.

Mars in Aquarius wants the freedom to do things a little differently. Yet, it can be destructive to ditch old ways if there’s nothing better on hand to replace it. We see this culturally sometimes: wide-scale revamping of a governmental or technological system before all the bugs have been worked out and without thinking through all the consequences. In both your personal life and in social or political spheres, does the established order need to be overthrown? Or can it be regenerated or improved?

The answer will not be the same in all instances. But Mars in Aquarius offers yet another insight: more can be accomplished through teamwork. Figuring out how to work harmoniously with friends and in groups can mean the difference between constructive reform and destructive demolition.

We tend to think of Pluto when we think of “demolition,” and for good reason. With Uranus in Taurus, you may notice your desire for safety and comfort pushing back against revolutionary ideas. Can you find comfort in being your own instigator of change?

Mars in Aquarius brings the reminder that when we’re truly motivated by the wellbeing of all (in addition to our own), there’s a greater chance that we’ll all be sustained come harvest time. Turning over the earth is just part of the process.


The Sacred Space of Self, the brand new 2018 Spring Reading, is now available for pre-order. This set of 12 video presentations will cover Chiron’s transition into Aries, and Mars retrograde in Aquarius over the summer. Pre-order soon for best value. You may read more about what Eric will be covering in your Spring Reading here.

8 thoughts on “Tilling the Ground

  1. Bette

    Ah, yes – it is literally tilling-the-ground time where I live, but my garden awaits my being able to prepare & plant. I’m still recovering from a back injury, necessitating a down-sized garden, plus I’ve just had cataract surgery (no lifting etc. for a while. So it’s a different sort of spring.

    If I apply the adage “If you can’t work outward, work inward”, this period connects well with your post. Taurus is intercepted in my 11th, & it’s a sign I find difficult to connect with other than in the Earth-mother sense. I do know that Taurus does not readily embrace change.

    I have ample time to ponder change, make notes as you suggested, & cultivate patience about the things I cannot at present change. I guess I’m doing what I can – & practicing good self-care as I mend. I’ll be sharing some plants with others, which I always enjoy.

    Enjoy your springtime.

  2. karliecole

    In the spirit of renewal and observing how nature creates fertile places, it should worth noting that A teaspoon of good garden soil, as measured by microbial geneticists, contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of invisible fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa and a few dozen nematodes.”

    It’s what’s called “living soil.” Each cubic foot of living, healthy soil is also home to about 50 earthworms, which shred organic materials and deposit their nutrient-dense castings. This living web of interconnected organisms is destroyed when soil is tilled. Salt-based synthetic fertilizers such as those with three numbers — like 13-13-13 — Miracle Gro and others also kill off portions of it.

    “If you are spraying pesticides and using fertilizers like Miracle Gro, you are dissuading the fungi,” Mr. Cosby said. Mr. Lowenfels and Mr. Lewis write: “Rototilling breaks up fungal hyphae (filaments), decimates worms and rips and crushes arthropods. It destroys soil structure and eventually saps soil of necessary air.”


  3. Sue Edwards

    I had to roll my eyes, Bette, when you mentioned your requirements from cataract surgery. I just found out today that I’m going to have one in my near future. It will sure make things interesting for me, since I need to be packing up my house to move out of it. Hmm.

    Take things slow and easy. Your back is very precious and the plants will wait for you. Transformation takes its time in order to be Graceful.

    In living with change as a constant, the path I found that worked for me, was the one taken on the inside. I call it my cosmic cosmetic case. Whatever feeling I think I am lacking in at the time, I ask for it. Simply saying “I am asking for (fill in the blank)”.

    Patience is the ability to wait in Trust. So try to Trust that all the changes, though painful and exasperating, will come out to be the your greatest benefit.

    Amanda, wonderful as always! In response to one of the questions you posed,
    “In both your personal life and in social or political spheres, does the established order need to be overthrown? Or can it be regenerated or improved?”

    How about the perspective of not throwing out the baby with the bath water? And that I can renovate a house and bring it up to date, keeping what is sound, rather than demolish it and build everything anew.

    I’ve found for me that Pluto is only destructive if I resist transformation. My experience has been that resistance is futile but I’m welcome to try it, to my own demise.

    karliecole, I really enjoyed reading the article for the link you shared. Thank You. It was kind of my silver lining in a dark cloud when it came to living in what others call a “swamp”, was that I enjoyed some of the most organically rich soil there could be. Things grow all over the place in abundance.

    1. Bette

      Thank-you for your encouraging words, Sue. My vision improves daily as I heal, & I’m so grateful for clearer light & colours in my world. Second eye gets done in 3 wks, by which time any planting should be (slowly) done. They tell me no lifting over 5 lbs. until 5-10 days after surgery.

      I love the concept of the cosmic cosmetic case. Yes, it’s the inside path. Even when I can’t create order in my physical world, I can look within.

      I hope your cataract surgery will go well. Just try to do any heavy lifting for your move beforehand.

  4. Sue Edwards

    Thank you Bette, for all the info you shared. I simply went to the doctor to get new glasses and walked out looking at surgery, after being told it would only take 10 minutes. You explained a lot that I needed to know. I’d rather have my double vision being caused by a cataract than something related to my strokes. I found out my by-passes are occluded, too, just a couple of weeks before. So I’m going to be scheduled for what I call a “roto-router” routine in the coming weeks, too. (sarcastically ‘Oh yeah!’)

    It’s making me look forward to a time when I’ll be all fixed up!

    Just yesterday our bid was accepted. So now I have the relief of knowing I’m going to have a home to move into with plenty of time to work on it. A call is going out to my nieces and nephews for help, grateful for the opportunity. My son won’t let anyone get by without accepting some sort of payment for their services and all of them could use the extra money.

    My planting this year is going to be limited to planting ME in a new environment. That’s going to be a big enough job all on its own. The new house has an apple orchard and a concord grape arbor but needs flower beds, which leaves plenty of room for what I love to do.

    In the meantime I’m creating SPACE. S = sort, P = purge, A = allocate, C = containerize & E = empty.

  5. Bette

    I am so glad, Sue, that my sketch of my experience was helpful. Surely my apprehension was worse than the reality, but my friend (who kindly drives me to appts) had been through it before & that helped.

    I had known I had the beginnings, probably of a cataract, but I too was shocked to get a prompt referral from my optometrist. I don’t like needing “repairs”, but am thankful that they are possible. I wish you all the best in your other procedure also.

    It’s wonderful that your new home is secured, & I hope many hands will assist you. Thank-you for the S-P-A-C-E – I’ve a pile of stuff to deal with before repairs can proceed in my old house, but injury etc. have delayed that.

    May we both make happy progress in the coming weeks. I’m arranging help with my little bit of planting – have to have tomatoes, salads & flowers. With the cloud gone from just the first eye, the world is so much brighter & more beautiful – something to look forward to.

  6. Amanda Painter Post author

    Bette, Sue, Karliecole, Steve — always grateful to know something worthwhile was found in these words. I’ve been out of the country with limited internet since May 12 (I wrote this before I left), engaged in a voice technique class (for theater) in Orkney, Scotland. Good to see the conversation continuing on its own. 😉

    And, re: roto-tilling: yes, I have read also that it’s not the best way to break up the soil, though some aeration at the beginning of the growing season is necessary. It can be done in smaller gardens by hand fairly easily; I can only imagine that the old horse/oxen-and-plow method is probably less damaging than the current mechanical means.

Leave a Reply