Getting down and dirty

Posted November 7th, 2013 by Penny Wise

Being both mum AND dad in our house is proving to be pretty hard work! Don't get me wrong, the boys already have a perfectly good dad - but in my own place, the buck now stops totally with me. For the first time in my life I'm responsible for EVERYTHING and that means taking care of a lot of the blokey stuff Noel used to do because if there's one thing I've learned, it sure doesn't get done by itself. It's only now that I really appreciate and value all the things he used to do to keep our place looking nice. I'll be honest, it never really interested me before. I could never understand why he spent so much time faffing around outside on weekends, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, spraying edges and so on when there were a million other much more fun things he could be doing, especially when you live at the beach!

But now I know why he did it. Because it's important. Who doesn't want to live in a nice place? I love my little house to bits and the inside has always been my domain. It's so teeny and cosy that it doesn't take much to keep it looking nice and clean - but the outside is a different story. The outside is BIG and after three months it was really starting to get away on me. The young family who owned the place before me were fanatical gardeners and kept the place pristine. I loved trotting down to the vegie patch and picking things for dinner but somehow I always found something else to do instead of weeding or spraying. And as it turns out, weeds have a rather inconvenient habit of growing and multiplying and before I knew it, the nice, orderly vegie patch which had greeted me in July was now looking like this:

Not surprisingly I wasn't feeling good about it. I was embarrassed - how could I have let it get to that stage? But it wasn't just the vegie garden that was bothering me. My large expanse of gravel driveway was also covered in weeds, a big tree had blown down in recent storms and was lying prone down one side of the house and the lawn was growing a stunning crop of daisies and dandelions. Every time I went outside it got me down. Aghh, why did I buy such a big place? This yard was going to keep me busy and drain my finances forever!

I know what you're thinking, you've got two big strapping lads, why weren't they helping? By all means they were willing but unfortunately they are two big strapping and very sporty lads who have literally no time after school or on weekends due to sports and other commitments - and thanks to the time it takes to get them there and back, neither do I. With all the holiday homes in Whangamata, lawn mowing and garden care is a roaring trade and on several occasions I really did consider getting someone in to tidy the place up. But for one thing I didn't have the money to pay anyone and for another, my pride stood in the way. Other people managed to do it themselves, I should be able to do it too! I didn't know the first thing about gardening but I was darn well going to find out.

At last an opportunity arose - an entire long weekend without cricket! It was time to take action. First to go was the fallen tree. It wasn't huge wood-wise but it was VERY leafy. So I trotted off to Bunnings and bought myself a Penny-sized pruning saw. My first blokey purchase, I was so excited! As soon as the boys saw me outside sawing away they couldn't wait to help (all good manly stuff you see). We kept the bigger bits for firewood, loaded up the boot of Liam's car with branches and two trips to the dump and $1.50 later the tree was done and dusted. I wonder how much it would have cost had I paid someone to do the same thing!

Next I dug out my trusty weed spraying backpack from our farming days. Years ago I used to spend half my life scouring paddocks for weeds but over the years I had forgotten how to mix up spray and so on. Still, I found a bottle in the shed with just enough spray to take care of the weeds in the driveway and had a great old time blasting the pesky blighters. To my amazement I went out the next morning and found they were already curling up! I never imagined it would have been so quick and easy, I wish I had zapped them ages ago!

With those jobs out of the way I could put off tackling the vegie garden no longer. My vegie patch is huge; more than twice the size of the one at our previous house, maybe even three times and there I was sitting in amongst the dirt, plastered in sweat as the sun beat down. It felt great! I found all sorts of treasures as I went too - a bush loaded with currants, two potato plants (I was so excited to see those I just about threw a party!) and the mother of all cauliflowers hiding in what I had mistakenly thought was a cabbage! It took me almost two full days of pulling weeds and digging earth over but I had a ball and eventually it ended up looking like this:

It's not perfect but it's a start! I planted some tomatoes, chives and basil too - and you see those blue things down at the end?

They're the boys' old bunk bed frames, perfect for growing beans up! Ali helped me put them in and together we hunted for things which would do as stakes and he wielded the sledgehammer to knock them into the ground while I nervously tried to hold them still. My first bean seed had come up just two days later and my mum has given me heaps more plants and seeds which I can't wait to get growing.

I'm no Rob Bob and don't think I ever will reach that stage (although I would so love to grow my own fish, amazing!) but I never dreamed gardening could be such fun or so rewarding. I'm so grateful to the people who owned the house previously for leaving me with so many different fruit and vegetables, it has been an absolute lifesaver these past few months. Ali is currently snacking on strawberries every day:

And you could have knocked me sideways when I got up one morning and found these!

I don't think I'm going to have to buy bananas for a very long time! It's great to look out of the window each morning and see the results of your hard work. Every day I excitedly trot down to the vegie patch at least once to see how things are progressing. I know that growing my own food is going to save us so much money and it's nice to feel capable and that I'm being a good provider for me and my boys but it's more than that. I guess you could say it's helping to fill a bit of a gap in my life. My self esteem hasn't exactly been sky-high and gardening is such a wholesome, earthy thing to do (no pun intended, really!) that you just can't help but feel good about yourself and what you're doing. Not only that, aching muscles aside, since I've been getting out in the garden I've been sleeping like a log!

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