Friday 7 September 2012

Gardening as beyond Call of Duty

There is torture and then there is…gardening.  I know, I know, what I’m going to say will be anathema to so many of you. Saying you don't like gardening is like saying you don't like babies or kittens or cupcakes (ummm, on second thoughts, let's not go there - I want to keep a few readers). But honesty compels me to admit the unadmittable.  I bloody HATE gardening.  I am sitting here, right now, at my desk, with sweat pouring down my forehead, dripping steadily onto the keyboard. I have just plucked fifteen – count ‘em – thorns the size of arrows out of my arms, neck, nose and there are a few more that will require surgical removal with tweezers (when I can find the tweezers).

See, in my garden, nature hasn’t just flexed its muscles, it’s gone steroid-induced body builder on me. The brambles are the size of not so small children’s arms; the bindweed grows taller than the house; the ground elder (introduced by the Romans – so, yeah, what have the Romans done for us, huh???) marches inexorably over everything. It’s my own fault of course. After three years of spending every god-given spare hour out there, weeding and digging and cutting back, I gave up. Two years ago I said, ‘Sod it! Have it your own way.’ And the weeds went, yeah, thanks, we will.  And I justify it by thinking, hey, it’s a wildlife haven. And it is…there are slow worms and even a beautiful grass snake. There are butterflies and bugs and gawd knows what.

But every so often I just look at it and feel like I should make some kind of effort. Usually when I can no longer see the hill beyond because the undergrowth has come up from underneath and got on top. So I gird my loins and I gear up.  Forgot those nice images you see in the Sunday supps.  I don’t wear vintage florals and a big floppy straw hat; I don’t wander round with my hand-made trug and fiddle artfully with tasteful twine.  I go in looking like something from Call of Duty (probably Black Ops) with loppers, cutters, chainsaw, hacksaw, axe. Super-strength gauntlets (which are crap, by the way – there ARE no seriously effective wearable gloves on the market, not any more - sorry but there just aren't).  And then, ka-bam - I launch in with a surprise attack, in a brutal flurry of cutting and slashing. And keep going for as long as I can until I collapse with exhaustion or get a mean sonofabitch bramble in the eye.

Hmm, it’s not really gardening, is it? It’s war.  I’m not so much a Demeter as a Kali (to mix my mythologies).  For years I told myself I liked gardening.  I was lying. I realized that I like gardens. I like looking at gardens; I like sitting in them; I love lying on a nicely mowed lawn in them. I quite enjoy pottering around and dead-heading the roses. I don’t even mind flexing the secateurs and doing a bit of trimming (see, it’s that destructive thing again). But the actual gardening bit, all the rest of it – the digging and planting and tending and nurturing? Nah. That’s where I want someone else to take over.  It’s all just so…time-consuming.  And so thankless. It’s like cooking and cleaning (two of my other domestic no-nos) – you do it and yet no matter how well you do it, you have to do it all over again. It’s not progressive; you don’t get anywhere.  It’s just…tiring. And boring. There, I’ve said it.

I know it sounds ungrateful. I know a lot of people would love, nay adore, to have a great big garden like this one.  And that got me to thinking.  Maybe we should have some kind of garden adoption scheme. People who love gardening but don’t have gardens could tend and nurture the gardens of those who have but who don’t like the gardening act (and who don’t have the dosh to pay people to do the dirty work for them). Brilliant, huh?  So. What you reckon?  Anyone game?  

And, while we're here - anyone else wanna fess up to other things they hate that they're supposed to love?  :-)


Isobel Morrell said...

Honesty always pays - hope you feel better, and have managed to extract the thorns! I don't garden any more, but felt the outcome (fresh soft fruit, veggies of choice) were worth the effort. Now I have the luxury of watching someone else doing it all - without the necessity of even picking the fruit!

My confession? Absolutely loathe the cleaning!

Anita-Clare Field said...

Oh Jane this made me laugh and laugh. We have a very large garden at HQ and I didn't realise I had latent desires towards gardening until after my father died 12 years ago and it was necessary for me to pitch in. There is now a gardener as my one-armed attempts at pruning are frankly scary. OK things I loathe? Cake, Jam, lipstick, nightclubs. Right enough sitting around reading wonderful blogs, I must away and water the geraniums.

Anne said...

I have a friend who is part of a group of homeowners all of whom have an arrangement with a gardener who farms their back yard.
The gardener plants tomatoes in one yard, squash in another, etc., and every Monday you can go pick up your selection of everything from the gardener. The gardener even does crop rotation from one year to the next. People without back yards can pay a monthly fee and get fresh vegetables.
So your outsourcing idea just might have real possibilities.

Zoë said...

There is a thing called Landshare, originally kicked of by the River Cottage mob ... if you could face having strangers out there, someone might love a chunk of your garden as an allotment.

I enjoy gardening, I love getting down and dirty with the soil. I find it healing and restorative.

We're all different though.

Me - what do I hate? Cleaning baths , showers and toilets after other people have used them. *shudders*

I often hate cooking dinner too. I like making nice things, jams, wines, cakes, and so on, but routine cooking just annoys me, because by the time dinner is ready I am sick of the sight of it and really struggle to eat.

Dont think I hate much else though.

Oh and eat the ground elder.

Anonymous said...

Polish onion for sale. Only PLN 0.80/kg EXW central Poland.

Frances said...

Jane, I do like Zoe's suggestion. I wish that there were some garden-hating folks, with gardens, living closer to me.

I would gladly take on some of their turf, and enjoy all the gardening aches, pains, joys and meditation possibilities.


Rob-bear said...

I share your "love" of gardening. Which is why we live in an apartment building.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Grade 4 + (max. diameter 7-9cm), in 15kg bags, up to 5 trucks a day.

Anne Wareham said...

I'll vote gardening out any day - see


JOHN SHORTLAND, Cotswold Hills, England. said...

Well, of course, I love gardening. But you are on the first step to loving your garden too just by admitting you hate doing it. Yes, honest, that's the first hurdle!

If you want to know more you will have to wait until next spring: I am writing a book about this very topic which won't be on the shelves until then. Perhaps I should send you a copy to review (I need to finish it first :-) ).

Confession time. My pet hate is literally a pet hate. I love riding my horse but I don't especially want to spend every spare hour brushing it and feeding it carrots. I don't normally admit this as most horse owners spend every waking moment messing about with them.

Wow! Feel a lot better now that you have made me 'come out'. Thanks!


Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh, hooray!!! Loathe the bloody thing as well (as in ACT of gardening, not the GARDEN) Love drifting around in gardens admiring the delphiniums, but loathe and detest having to make mine look nice. Staff. That's what I say. Staff to mow and dig and pull and scrape and be scratched by nasty brambles that get INTO your shoes. But we don't have Staff. And so at weekends, you will see me and Husband yanking up some bastard brambles (on my mind a lot as there are SO many of them and my hands are ripped to pieces) and then mowing the lawn on Speed 5 because I want to get it done quickly before I can sit down and admire what I have done. (hardly any)
And so, my lovely friend, I am THRILLED that you feel the same. Lets hope we get so rich that we can have full time gardeners and cooks. Then we can ponce about doing things like picking roses and arranging them. Actually, no. Lets ponce about to the pub.
Game on?
hugs. xxx

Anonymous said...

"Everything czyli wszystko said...
Polish onion for sale. Only PLN 0.80/kg EXW central Poland."

Polish my arse!

I didn't know stuff had started growing again in

Anonymous said...

I love gardening. I've just cut down a 30ft conifer with a hatchet and a bow saw. Who needs chain saws?

6 more to go and like it says on Andy Murray's Tshirt, "Sweat is your body getting rid of weakness"

Remember: "Man who chop down giant redwood tree with dessert spoon learn much" (Jobo Pooks)

Tattieweasle said...

Do you know what now you've said it we can ALL come outy and say yep we too hate gardening...!!!Hooray!!!

Anonymous said...

@ Jobo: I beg your fu king pardon? Fu king perv.

Jackie Buxton said...

Ok, here goes, ahem, I'm not a fan of gardening, either. But, please don't hate me too much for saying this, I'm lucky because my OH loves it (well, as long as it includes building a wall) so I'm quite happy to be a gardening widow and bring out the odd cup of tea now and then.
What do I hate? SIMPLE - cleaning. Yuk, yuk, yuk. I hate it all, every form: dusting, cleaning the loo, changing beds. Hoovering's vaguely bearable because you at least get to move around. Otherwise, what's to like? You run around like an idiot, lamenting all the enjoyable or paid things you could be doing and as soon as everyone gets home, the steep descent into having to do it all again starts again.
Good, feel better now. Thanks for that :)

F said...

I thought your garden was lovely and wild. (I was also admiring what I thought was a lovely garden in Bath, and my sister said, "Uh, those are weeds," so...)

Em said if it wasn't such a hellish commute, he'd be happy to take care of your garden. His idea of gardening is "level everything and plant apple trees, cherry hedges, and currant bushes." If he can't eat it, he doesn't see the point in growing it.

Exmoorjane said...

@Isobel - still got one thorn embedded in arm...bastard won't come out so will have to leave it to its own devices.
Cleaning? Bah!

@ACF - Sigh. I had a gardener once - it was wonderful. I can do the whole pointing thing - you know - put it there... How's the arm?

@Anne - That sounds like a fine plan... I need more research. :)

@Zoe - ah, there's the rub. See, I'd be well cool about someone taking over the garden but Adrian? Not so much. :( Don't get me started on the bath thingy. BIG source of dissent in this house.

Exmoorjane said...

@ET - Just the one? No cabbages? :)

@Frances - how I wish you lived near. If you tended it, my garden would be heaven. :)

@Rob - I like a bit of 'outside' as long as I'm not responsible. In fact, a small garden would be fine. Hmm, then again, I had a small garden in London and that was no thing of beauty. :)

@ET - You were saying? :)

@ET - five trucks a day? I love onions but... <3 or what???

@Anne - :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Johnson - hmm. This first step has been lasting twenty years now. :) Your book sounds good - yup, finish it and then send me a copy (or vice versa). Re the horse thingy, when I was young I would have happily spent all day just hanging out with a I'm with you...riding is fun but the rest is...hard work.

Exmoorjane said...

@LWM - Hey!!! Long time no... How the hell are you? GAME ON! Big time. Staff (but only invisible day staff - wouldn't want people living sirree)..

@Jobo - aha! Small minds... :)

@Jobo - A bow saw? Bow wow saw? Sounds like hard work. Good on ya. Sweat is fat crying. :)

@Tattie - out and proud. :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Jax - mine is hopeless. At gardening. :( Glad to have been of service. :)

@Frankie - wild is the word. :) Ah, sigh, how I wish Em could caretake...cheery bushes sound wonderful to me. btw, I wanna hear bout your trip.

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