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

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

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!)

Sort­ing ses­sions

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!

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