Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It Smells Like Rain

You know the always reminds me of fresh dirt. That pleasant earthy smell is caused by the bacteria, Actinomycetes, which is found forest liter or compost. It grows as a filamentous white thread in soil. The bacteria produces spores in dry soil, which rain drops splash upward upon contact. These spores become airborne carrying the scent with them. This bacteria is found in soil all over the world which is why this is a universal phenomenon. The bacteria thrives in moist soil, but the spores are released when the soil dries out, which accounts for the fact that that "rain" smell is strongest after a dry spell.

Scientists have discovered that getting your hands in soil may help lift your mood. The bacterium Mycobaterium vaccae found in dirt may have antidepressant properties which activate serotonin in the brain.

Is a little dirt good for us? Is our general good health and well-being boosted by germs found in everyday dirt? Yes, is the resounding answer from scientists.

In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system. Several continuing studies suggest that worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry and resulted in autoimmune disorder, allergies and asthma.

As you might imagine, children who grow up on farms are frequently exposed to worms and other organisms from farm animals. But did you know that these children are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases than children raise on a steady diet of hand sanitizers and ultra cleanliness?

Dirt cakes and cupcakes decorated with sprinkles...mmmm.
Remember the fun of dirt cooking?

I think it might be time for me to get outside and get my hands in the dirt. What can it hurt? I might feel better and my flowers will appreciate the care.


  1. It makes total sense to me. All of the anti-bacterial products on the market are making us very vulnerable just as over-prescribing doctors do with antibiotics. I've always called that fresh rain smell (so prevalent here on this rainy day) as the smell of worms.

  2. I have read this lately. I believe it too. Your grands are darling. I bet you miss them terribly.

  3. My mother buys me new gardening gloves every year in the futile hope that I'll use them. But I simply cannot garden without my hands in the dirt!!

  4. The girls look like they are having fun. The cakes look good with the sprinkles on them.

  5. Thanks Stevie!! Another reason for me to get a green house! Love it!
    :) The Bach

  6. a little dirt never hurts ...

  7. I adore that scent of fresh moist dirt. It certainly lifts my mood to get my hands in it!

    WT and his sisters were discussing this very thing, when they were together for his mother's funeral. All six of them grew up on the farm, being exposed to all kinds of organisms. They are all extremely healthy and very rarely get sick.

    Super post.

  8. Love that smell when it first rains! Today is such a day. The first rain in at least a month. The mudcakes take me back. I have a very clear memory of a mud cake decorated with smarties.

  9. You know the other day I was driving down the road and I smelled fresh earth. I turned the bend and saw a tractor disking a field. I was glad from a very deep place that I knew what the earth smells like.

  10. I totally agree! I know a family that are germ freaks....their kids are always sick and they have terrible allergies!

    Love the smell of a fresh rain, too...great minds think alike! :)

  11. wow - i never knew that but, yes, i adore that scent. now i know.

    and yes, making dirt pies is the best.

  12. There is some bacteria that is good for us. Exposure to them helps to build our immunities... Hubby and I have never been big users of sanitizers. The only place I use them is when I enter a grocery store during flu season... I wipe down the handle of the cart.


  13. WONDERFUL post! Loved the sentiment and I love the feeling of soil on my hands.
    My dreams was always to marry a farmer and bring a bunch of kids among animals and fresh soil.;) Maybe in my next life.;)
    Have a great Thursday.;)

    PS: Enjoyed the science bit as well.;)

  14. The sprinkles are what make those dirt cakes a hit! Lurve it. Ya know, I've recently been thinking that a semi farming life is sure simpler than city life. Siiiiiigh

  15. The smell of rain is called petrichor. I love it!

    Mudpies were always fun to make accompanied by a salad made of weeds. :-)

  16. i wish i'd been there as it looks like so much fun!!


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