Garden view Helen Billiald offers convincing excuses for avoiding housework in favour of gardening
Who doesn’t avoid housework to spend more time outdoors? Helen Billiald has some excuses
We’ve just got back from a week’s holiday. Around me lie half unpacked suitcases and several piles of clothes. I’m trying to ignore the extravagantly draped cobwebs by the window and the fireplace dust that’s thick enough to draw pictures in (I know this because someone already has). And all the time my conscience is muttering that I really ought to empty the fridge before a hungry child attempts some unsupervised foraging. Nonetheless, in the 24 hours since we’ve been home, the greenhouse has been watered, the tomato sideshoots snapped off, the sweet peas tied in and several bunches of cut f lowers picked. I’ve harvested, shelled and eaten the last of the peas, picked and frozen broad beans, plucked courgettes and French beans, cleared a couple of wigwams ready for replanting and deadheaded the roses. I’ve hauled away the yellow verbascums that had folded themselves across the path and pruned the whippy rose that was perilously close to eye level at the gate. When it comes to prioritising, the garden comes first. Before you think me a monster for not putting my children at the top of the list, let me cite the wonderful Earthed poem by Ursula Fanthorpe, where she speaks of ‘… gardens, loved more than children…’ which conjures the deep obsessive love we gardeners bestow on our plots. (Of course I adore my children too!)
I’m fortunate in that I have an order-loving and clutter-loathing husband. He regularly manages the lion’s share of the housework and I often find him in the middle of one of his sorting sessions (of course I make a point of surreptitiously going through the recycling bins afterwards). My housework-avoiding excuses don’t work on him. After 20 years he knows my shortcomings well enough, but that doesn’t stop me inventing excuses. Most often it’s that I will tackle the tidying/cleaning/ fixing/decorating once it’s dark – although of course in summer my day starts at an already light 5am and I’m crawling into bed while dusk still outlines the curtains. I also like to reassure myself that interior work is for winter, for those long dark evenings with nothing to do. Except then you remember that you can’t paint in December since it takes days to dry while the house reeks of the fumes. Better wait until next summer. No surprise then, that our decorating is a little behind schedule. Taking indoor jobs outside might work, but it’s not always feasible. Perhaps we should renovate the house with one of those sliding glazed walls so we can bring the outdoors in, instead? That sounds like an expensive way to solve housework blues. Ultimately, urgent chores win the day. The seeds must be sown or else it’s too late. The staking must be done before heavy rain. The crops must be picked before they spoil. Cobwebs, however, along with half-unpacked suitcases and reams of woodchip wallpaper, won’t be going anywhere at all. More’s the pity.
Helen Billiald is a garden writer with a PhD in Ecology and an MSc in Pest Management. She’s currently avoiding a pile of holiday ironing
“When it comes to prioritising, the garden comes first”
URGENT OR IMPORTANT? Garden chores take priority over DIY and housework
Admire the garden… and ignore the dust!