Operation Garden Maintenance

Garden maintenance tool kit

Croft map

The sea is our boundary to the west and the boundary to the east and south is shown by the green line. A single track road runs through the croft to the cemetery which lies just beyond our southern boundary. It is about 250m from the new house to vegetable garden

My gardening arrangements are a little unusual particularly as I have 24 acres of land at my disposal. A stroll along the track to the garden is probably  no different from wandering off to an allotment every day. However, there is a twist in the tail. The vegetable and cottage garden and sit either side of the holiday cottage so they have to be invisibly maintained. In theory this is a simple case of nipping down to the garden, doing the weeding, grass cutting, planting, watering and everything else while the visitors are out exploring the delights of the island. Unfortunately the sun does not shine every day and some of the visitors enjoy the cottage and its garden so much that they stay put. So there are times when garden maintenance requires the meticulous planning and discipline of a military operation.
So pay attention and get ready to garden commando style.

  • Intelligence – check the weather forecast and post a look out to watch for the departure of visitors
  • Preparation – ensure that the tools are assembled – there is not time to search for the favourite trowel or hunt for the scissors
  • Planning – work out the list of priorities and the work rota – there is no time to ramble around aimlessly deciding what to do first
  • State of Readiness – be prepared to go as soon as the look out gives the signal – no time to look for the gardening fleece/sun hat/glasses/clean socks and remember exactly where you left your gloves/scarf or packets of seeds that Seamus the postie delivered yesterday.

The briefing notes may just contain the faintest hint that the theory is sound but the execution is more Hebridean than Sandhurst. It normally starts to go pyriform as soon as I leave the house when I get diverted to watch a bumblebee assaulting the clover or  admire a patch of wild carrot. By the time I get to the polytunnel to collect my tools, I will have discovered that I have forgotten something or that before I begin to hunt for my trowel that I must water the seedlings. Eventually when I get into the cottage garden I am so exhausted by all this thinking that I just have to sit on the garden bench and admire the view. Now to consult my list of jobs, which is of course in my other jacket/trousers. So a ramble around the garden to make sure the bees are busy, admire the butterflies, hunt for ladybirds and count the hoverflies becomes essential. After several trips to collect assorted tools, plants and essential miscellanea I am ready to start work.  Oh well, there is just enough time to remove the biggest weeds and water a few pots before lunch.
Hebridean style garden maintenance is so relaxed that it allows your mind to drift and meander in the most delightful and unstructured manner. Watching the bumblebees fumbling the clover on a very warm afternoon brought Henry Reed’s poem Naming of Parts to mind and so the seeds of this post were sown. As for the cottage garden, its slightly unkempt appearance is part of its charm, after all it is a place to dream and be seduced by the hum of the bees and the songs of seals.

Great Yellow Bumblebee

Great Yellow Bumblebee

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13 thoughts on “Operation Garden Maintenance

  1. Hmm, so now you are admitting to being owners of a grand estate of 24 acres – I am surprised you deign to pass the time of day with the likes of us peasants. Secondly, if we do come and spend some time in your delightful holiday cottage do we really want to feel we are being spied on every hour of the day, our movements monitored and our habits assessed and no doubt discussed over your porridge? ps great post though! And that is such a poignant poem – thank you for providing the opportunity to reread it

    • We’re only the live-in maintenance team and ever so ‘umble.
      Commenting on the strange antics of visitors is a local sport and on a small island everyone knows what you’re up to before you’ve even decided what to do. So if you’re you’re going to be so po-faced you might find that you will be unable to get a visa 😉

      • You are both very learned for a humble maintenance team, aren’t you? How about if I left the Golfer at home, him being a Sassenach and all (but then so are you…)?

      • Poor Golfer I’m sure he’d love to try golfing in a gale! No problem with being a Sassenach here. According to the local paper the Outer Isles are conspiring with Orkney and Shetland to gain independence from Scotland. We’ll probably end up as a Scandinavian colony or Icelandic protectorate!

  2. The idea of being so exhausted by the preparations that work is out of the question chimes with me. I remember well a job many years ago when the demolition of an internal wall involved hiring lots of Acrow props. By the time I had collected them from the hire shop and moved them into the house I was far too tired to do anything else that day.

    • “A poor life this if, full of care,
      We have no time to stand and stare”
      Sometimes the preparation is more demanding than the doing so there should always be time for a cup of tea and a “think”. I’m not sure if this is the wisdom of experience or just old age!

    • I could certainly do with some garden slaves. In view of my inability to organise myself, I think there would be more dreaming and chatting than doing. shall I sign you up?

  3. I loved this post and identify entirely with the many diversions which get in the way of the military style planning. I struggle with the way I go out to do one thing and end up in another part of the garden entirely, covered in nettle stings because I didn’t bring the leather gauntlets out. I would however say that when we visited your garden it looked, in a loose, gentle and entirely unmilitary way, very cared for and not at all unkempt.

    • I think it must be the Hebridean air. I always had a tendency to dream, but since we’ve been here it has got totally out-of-control, I am relaxed to the level of horizontal and any organisational and logistic planning has been totally defeated by the Hebridean concept of time. So if you can’t beat ’em…..

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