I grew up in the 70’s, we had the beginnings of technology which like everyone else I embraced but we also had the old ways/ Electric type writers had just begun to be sold in my teens but most people had manual ones which took a lot more energy to type, not to mention the pain if you were not too aware of where the buttons were and got fingers such between them.
I didn’t do gardening but I loved the smell of earth and the feel of plants, the smell of each plant different from each other, the feel of leaves cold with frost when cut in winter, feel of warm fruit and leaves cut in summer, smell of fresh earth and watching insects and worms flee. As a little girl I spent hours with Dad watching him and helping. We made those magic plant pots for seedlings which came as brown flat discs and were watered to make pots, they expanded into pots. I don’t know if they still exist but they were magic. We then potted up into newspaper plant pots made around a wooden mould.
Dad spent hours each year growing annuals by the hundred. In the seventies public parks were decorated with annuals planted into patterns and colour schemes. The garden was measured out each year with string and posts and plants put in shapes and patterns In a variety of colours. For the Jubilee the theme was red, blue and silver, I have vague memories of a silver crown somewhere but don’t know if Dad did it or if it was in a park. At the end of each season plants had cuttings taken which were grown on during the winter in a variety of pots and then put out in cold frames in stages, then sheltered areas before being planted out. I’m exhausted just remembering it, no wonder I was more interested in the food.
I recently saw one of the moulds for newspaper plant pots in a magazine, it brought back lots of memories. It also made me think of the old ways. Dad brought me up to use what we had before we considered buying new. Today a lot of the time it appears we are driven by the new often buying the outfit and the tools before we even know how to do the activity, most of us have items of sporting equipment unused in our cupboards.
Some of the tools Dad used have been handed down over the decades from family and friends. Often items have names- Mick Davy’s spade, Aunty Emily’s clippers, and Gran’s trowel. They are all dull and rusty with wooden or metal handles, some were once painted but have long since lost some of this. They are well kept, they smell of oil and are warm to touch from decades of use, with smooth grips.
I have begun buying new tools to add to Dad’s collection. I say new, I mean new to me, they would probably be called used or antique. I find it calming thinking of who used the items in the past, the lives they led, the memories impregnated in the metal and wood.
gI love the hard work of doing things by hand such as scything, it causes very little noise pollution, I can hear the sound of nature around when working, birds close by looking for food. I remember several generations of Robins befriending Dad to steal worms in spring and summer and coming to the door in winter to titbits. Several were bold enough to come to the window to let us know they were there and come into the kitchen to collect the choicest items for winter snacking.
Gardening in all it’s different ways has helped me manage my grief at Dad’s death. I find it calming it teaches me to be accepting. It’s difficult to be angry in fresh air with life going on around, unaffected by anything you do and allowing you to see the world as such as beautiful varied place, forever changing, nothing remains the same for long. As I garden I don’t want to hurt anything, don’t want disruption, I realise acceptance is key, gratitude for what you have, as nature can also be cruel, I can also be cruel, destroying trees and plants unwanted where they have self seeded, I do my worst, nature will amend it, sometimes putting back what I don’t want, sometimes improving on what I have done, always slightly different to what I planned, always a challenge, often a pleasure.