Gardening is a pursuit I had little
interest in until we bought our first house. This is often the case.
Beyond the confines of the bricks and mortar, through the window,
thereís a garden that canít be ignored because it grows and you have to
do something about it. So when the grass had reached knee height, even
longer in some places, it was time for action. I found a rusty scythe in
the garden shed, sharpened it and set about cutting grass with relish.
The neighbours watched from a distance with a degree of reserved
amusement, clearly unsure whether they should offer me the loan of a
lawnmower or whether using a scythe was my unique way of expressing a
lifestyle preference, back to nature or something like that.
Some hours later, finished, rested and
re-hydrated, I assessed my scything skills. Not very good. No, not very
good at all. Most of the grass remained long and straggly, much of it of
varying heights, and - even worse - some areas were actually bald where
I'd ripped the soil with the blade! Two weeks later - and with another
cut looming - we opted for a second-hand lawnmower and confined the
scythe to the back of the shed from whence it had come.
The next job was to construct a fence
to keep the dogs off the road as they had a tendency to wander. One dog
in particular had been hit twice, you see, once by a motorbike, once by
a car, and still survived to tell the tale. Both drivers had been
remarkable understanding at the time, of course, but there's a limit to
how many accidents of this kind can be sustained before somebody gets
seriously hurt. So a visit to the local sawmill was arranged to buy
fencing materials, a trip to the hardware shop for nails and then
With most things practical, Iíve
found, it's not possible to become an over-night expert until you've had
a few failures first, a few botched attempts, and for a first attempt
the results were largely predictable. It did the job alright, no doubt
about that, and actually looked quite respectable from a distance, but I
told the neighbours not to lean on it as it had a tendency to keel over
under pressure. It took a week to complete, two months of 'fine-tuning'
to sustain the weight of a small neighbour and then a further month
before it acquired the stability and strength to contain the random
weight of a casual passer-by who might be stopping for a chat, a rest or
a nosy peer through the window into our front room. But it was a
learning process, a useful process, and Iím now aware that satisfactory
fencing requires big nails, big wood, cement, a spirit level and holes
dug deeper than twelve inches to put the posts in.
The next project was a plot for
vegetables, a patch of ground where we spent many pleasant afternoons
weeding, hoeing and cultivating as a family. And when I think back to
those formative vegetable growing years one particular moment comes to
mind, a piece of advice crudely administered by the owner of a small
Garden Centre when we went to buy bamboo canes to stake our fine crop of
"Don't be stupid, man," he barked,
which isnít the sort of comment you expect from your local horticultural
supplier, is it? "Get your sticks from the woods."
So we duly thanked him for being so
insulting - as you do - and returned home empty-handed. I think we must
have caught him on a bad day, you see, though strangely enough it didn't
put us off from returning on other occasions, and occasions when he was
always most helpful. Not for bamboo canes though, no, no, most certainly
not, but for other gardening items.
Yes, gardening is a pursuit I had
little interest in until we bought our first house, as is often the
case, but from then onwards it acquired increasing significance in our
lives. Weíve had a few gardens since then, and our horticultural and DIY
skills have improved beyond recognition, but what remains fundamental to
the whole process is the rich and humourous fund of horticultural
mishaps, disasters and misdemeanours that would fill a book if only I
had the time to write one.
Now the moral of the tale - if there
is one - goes something like this (I like a good moral, you know):
If at first you donít succeed, then
have a good chuckle and try again.
Or alternatively, if your peas need
staking, head for the woods!
(Copyright 2004 Patrick Vickery)