Tuesday, 24 June 2008
I want this hoe
There is an old gardening saying, show me the shed and I will show you the man. Well, actually there isn't, but there ought to be, because I am convinced that most gardeners reveal the inner secrets of their personality through their shed. I am not sure what mine says about me, but suffice it to say it is small, cluttered, full of stuff I never use and littered throughout with the reminders of my botched attempts to mount various hooks, hanging rails and shelves and thereby create order out of chaos. Chaos wins every time, of course, which is why the other day I found myself girding myself up for the annual shed clear-out.
This is a moment of spiritual cleansing, akin to going on a retreat or perhaps meditating, when I tip everything out on to the allotment path, stare at it for a while, wonder what on earth that unlabelled pot of white powder is (fertiliser? sugar? deadly poisonous weedkiller?), and then put it all back again, except more tidily. A few things get thrown away - the thrifty gardener would keep that old bit of used fleece for next year, but really there are limits - and there are moments when I have an inner debate with myself about just how many bits of old string I need, but essentially it is an exercise in reorganisation rather than reduction.
I may, however, have to start getting tough with myself. The problem is my ever-expanding tool collection. Like most men, my hobbies are essentially just an excuse for the purchase of a never-ending array of consumer durables, in this case garden tools. My current obsession is with hoes: I already have a draw hoe, a Dutch hoe (also known as a push hoe) and an onion hoe, but am worried that my gardening needs will not be fully met unless I get my hands on that most splendid of tools, the Chillington hoe. Shaped like an adze (if you do not know what an adze looks like - well, you're probably not alone), with the blade at right angles to the shaft, this is used in a chopping rather than a scuffling motion, and is more to do with soil cultivation than weeding; clearly I will not be able to get my plot into good shape next winter unless I own one. It is also a product for the hardcore tool enthusiast only, because it comes without a handle, which you have to buy and attach yourself. I have started dropping little hints already, to be in time for Christmas. If I do get one, some other tool will have to be sacrificed to make room: that'll involve another clear-out, I suppose.
PS Got any tools which are too broken to use but too good to throw away? Tools Shed is a project run by the Conservation Foundation which gives new life to all those spades, forks, trowels and, yes, hoes which lie at the back of the shed waiting to be repaired. They collect them, get them repaired by prisoners at HMP Wandsworth, and then give them to London schools for their gardens. Tools Shed will be at the Hampton Court Flower Show next month, and is putting the call out to contractors with old tools to bring them along to the show.