Calling a Spade a Spade

Guess which one is mine?

Have I ever told you about the Garage At the Bottom of the Garden?  Sitting comfortably? It may take a while…

I helped plant this (but I didn’t dig the hole)

As we all know, a garage is a sacred space to at least half of humanity. Our GABG is a reliquary. It houses no less than six ladders, one entirely made of wood that spans the width of the garage and is completely inaccessible but inviolable and a dog agility seesaw, almost as long, which I have decreed must go as the dogs have dodgy kneecaps and aren’t allowed to use it anymore. There used to be two lawnmowers too.  The grass has been cut once already and is growing like mad. The daisies are in full flower, ecstatic in the warmth that we have been blessed with the last two days.  Everything is growing again;  a promise kept by the garden.

Enchanted by a vist from the Grey Wagtail who lives in the woods! Photo by Brian

But back to the GABG – What else is lurking there? Pots of every size, shape and material, faded black plastic, garden green, terracotta, crumbling wall pots, some glazed and painted, plant feet, copper tape to deter snails, slug traps to be filled with beer, bird feeders that have seen better days: nest boxes waiting to be cleaned and replaced in the ivy on the back wall: tubs of bird feed with holes nibbled by winter mice, who take the seed away, grain by precious grain, and secrete their dusty treasure in the lawn mower, only to lose it all when we discover what they’ve done.

There are ancient shelves with organic sprays for the garden, plant tags, old ashtrays filled with dibbers, broken trowels, pieces of hose, garden chairs, bags of stones, and gravel, plant trays, cardboard boxes full of damp granular matter, now set like concrete,  parasols, plant supports, a mysterious pair of oars balanced on the rafters, left by Mr J the previous owner, a radiator, some double glazed wooden panels, more tubes, and then there is the wood collection – planks and sticks, blocks and trellis, piles of trugs and groundsheets, buckets, balls of string, wire, and netting, lots and lots of stuff, all covered with a gentle patina of garage dust.

But in pride of place is the tool rack. The rakes, the spades, the forks, the brooms are all there.

But none of them are mine.

Last week a historic moment occured as for the umpteenth time I failed to dig a proper hole in the garden. I said, glaring at the rack,  ‘Your spades are too big for me, get me a smaller spade and I will dig holes, I will learn to do it.’  I said.

No one has ever bought me a spade before!

For the first time in my life I have my very own spade. Isn’t it shiny and lovely? I washed it this evening after I had dug some very elegant holes and planted a few herbs, I dug up the Corsican mint that had wandered too far; I was unstoppable.

I could mix some serious dough with these…

Guess what?  I’ve got a matching fork too. And…. I can dig holes all by myself. I have the tools now you see and I’ve had remedial training as well.

What? You want to know about the spade on the right, that’s B’s Dad’s spade, what’s left of it, worn down with years of use but still  dearly loved.  B comes from a long line of men who dig holes and I feel honoured that I am sharing in their knowledge and skills. He of course can’t stand gardening, though he is very good at it. I love the idea of gardening and slowly I am finally figuring out with his help how to do more than choose plants and dead-head daisies and as of this week I can dig a proper hole with square sides!

26 thoughts on “Calling a Spade a Spade

  1. Abby

    I’m so impressed! I’m one of those people who always has to beg to have her garden holes dug for her. I had to laugh with your description of your garage…sounds kind of like ours, down to the two lawnmowers (actually two snow blowers, too). And keep posting the pictures of spring…you give me hope!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I think I might still need help – but at least I have more options now. There are so many wonderful women who of course dig holes without batting an eyelid, working away on their land or where they work. A lot of it is technique, and getting a feel for what you are doing as well as having upper body strength. Like the bread making, I do believe you need to be shown how and have someone watch and guide you as you go. Hang on in there, the Spring will arrive and keep its promise soon :D

  2. drfugawe

    Being a shovel user myself, my first thought upon seeing that noble tool is, ‘how many generations of gardeners did it take to wear that baby down that much?’ Kinda reminds me of the first time I looked down on the Grand Canyon.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      hey Doc, Brian wants me to tell you the story of the spade, we might call it the Grand Canyon from now on!

      “That is what is left of my Dad’s second main working spade, dates from about 1965. He dug a small holding with it, where he grew strawberries and vegetables for market in Cheddar. He also wore out three forks in five years. When he wasn’t at his job, he was in the garden.”

  3. jan trounce

    Jealous I is, I is no good at digging holes – or garden edges come to that – they tend to look as if I have been at the organic fizzy stuff before I started. But, how lovely to have Brian’s Dad’s spade. Old tools handed down are quite precious. I have my Mother-in-law’s small, round-nosed spade (she also was small and round-nosed) and Peter has some of my Dad’s old wood work tools which are quite beautiful. I heard a song recently about a wooden spoon that had belonged to the singer’s mother and the things the wooden spoon had stirred and scraped and been used to make with love. I wish I had thought to ask for my Mum’s wooden spoon. What is that beautiful flower?

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      My neck aches this morning, Jan, apparently I have to relax my shoulders. Still Rome not built in day, nor garden dug! There is an ancient chest of drawers as well in the house garage full of wood working tools. You are so right, they are beautiful and functional, William Morris country…

      The flower is a bloom on our magnolia stellata, one of the smaller magnolias that you can get, though I suspect it will still outgrow its spot in time…

  4. Choclette

    Congratulations Joanna on your new found skills and tools. I was just wondering why you wanted to dig a hole with square sides? We’re just off to our plot to spend the day digging and hopefully planting our potatoes. My preferred tool is a Cornish shovel – it’s long handled and requires a lot less bending – rather large perhaps, but I wouldn’t be without it. Enjoy your digging :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Being inexpert in these things… Brian replies, ‘A Cornish shovel is wonderful for digging but in confined spaces between established shrubs and plants, it’s a bit difficult to use precisely because the handle is so long’ and on the subject of square holes, he says ‘they are easier to dig than a round hole and the sides don’t fall in ‘ I don’t know what else to say! Have a wonderful day on your plot. We’re going to a food fest down at Temple Meads Station this weekend! I’ll keep my eye out for interesting chocolates :D

  5. miskmask

    I don’t think my Corsican mint is going to see the light of a spring day. Looks like last winter was too much for it.

  6. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna your GABG sounds as big as our flat. Perhaps you could rent it out?
    It’s lovely that Brian has his dad’s spade, and so worn down. Is it still the original handle?
    Spring has sprung your side and the winds are blowing cooler here now. The novelty of having cold feet is actually quite nice. Happy digging!

      1. cityhippyfarmgirl

        Ohhh, I like the sounds of that! Wheelbarrow and spade for mixing dough, work benches now dough benches…
        The famous “GABG Breads” get it while it’s hot. The poodles can entertain the customers while bread and money is being exchanged. I think you should Joanna.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      It’s a bit like borrowing someone’s fountain pen isn’t it? The tool is imbued with their chi or something like that. We’ve been talking about B’s Dad today, he would have been ninety five this year had he lived. The garden tools are very important.

  7. Paul

    Your description pretty much fit what we had in the shed at the old house, right down to the mice stealing the bird seed. Alas, we had to get rid of or leave most of it when we moved. And as we’re renting now, gardening will be vastly limited to pots and planters on the deck.

    I like how you quietly slipped in mention of the micro-bakery. Could you actually do that, and would you build a wood fired oven or put in electric? I could so live vicariously if you did…

  8. heidi

    Jealous and hopeful- that is how I feel about your very green grass.
    We are playing at Spring here- still snow in the forecast and the birds are pretending that they may find worms somewhere soon!
    Your garden shed sounds like many of the sheds I’ve had the privilege of storing old pots in over the years. Most of my father’s garden implements were short- we had a family business in a greenhouse- so they were sized to fit into benches. Our nursery shovels all went west to Oregon with my brother who had a landscaping business for many years.
    I CAN dig holes , but I’d rather not. So I offer good meals and homemade breads in lieu of garden holes.
    I enjoyed this entire post AND comments. Let us know if your microbakery ever gets built!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I knew you could dig Heidi! I know lots of people can and think nothing of it. You are like Brian, maybe, growing up in the business of growing – it must seem extraordinary that anyone has to learn how to use a spade ;) I’m glad you enjoyed this post though!

      edit: he’s taught me how to mow the lawn as well, told me I was getting better at it too! Yay!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      It’s a 3/4 spade and fork set. I’m glad you like them! The only thing I bought myself in the power tool department once upon a time was an electric drill and it was useless as it was battery pack powered and too small. The tools have to fit the person and at least the spade and fork aren’t right handed like so many tools are. We will get along famously :)

  9. spiceandmore

    Ooh…that is a shiny new toy! Congratulations on having your very own spade. I totally understand the problems of trying to use one that is the wrong size and never getting anywhere fast with it. I do love the old spade too though…so much history in that handle and worn blade.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I’d like a new back now too! It got really warm here yesterday, and I was trying to put in a few plants to replace some that didn’t make it through the winter. I am a very weedy gardener. Mind willing, flesh weak ;)

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