Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Book Report/Tottering in My Garden
Tottering in My Garden
A Gardener's Memoir
by Midge Ellis Keeble
nonfiction, 1989, 1994
Second reading in the Canadian Book Challenge
Have I read a gardening book I enjoyed more? I don't think so. I so admire Midge Ellis Keeble. She is funny, informative, and best of all, real. I just love her, and I cannot recommend her book highly enough. It is a book for all of us.
If you think gardening books are too erudite or threatening, read this one. She is a joy. She writes of the gardens in her life, from young years to older years. There is information here that will help everyone who loves to garden, whether a beginner, or someone who has gardened for 35 years as I have.
The author moved quite a few times and each new home presented a different gardening situation. She freely admits that if the first place hadn't been so perfect she might never have continued when she encountered less ideal conditions.
I had been working in a gardener's paradise. Apart from the deep compost, we were on top of a hill with superlative drainage, in full sun and facing south. The weather had alternated between misty rains and sunny days - a fool's paradise where one could do no wrong.
From there, she has gardens that are more like the "real world." And she names the chapters after each one such as "the clay garden, the sand garden, the shade garden, the tired garden." She talks honestly of her successes and failures, her trials and her joys. Every once in a while she offers, "notes for the novice" which I learned from even though I've had a garden for a long time. One of my favorites was near the end of the book, when she is an older woman:
A bench: You can weed and plant from a firm, non-tippable bench. Knees wide apart, toes turned out, bend forward from the big hinges where legs meet torso (you do not have a hinge below the small of your back). Let your chin drop and rest on your chest. When reaching for a tool beside you sit up and walk yourself around, still seated, then bend again keeping the back straight. Don't lift your chin when reaching - it's straining and twisting that get us into trouble. Try it. You'll be surprised to find out how much you can do and how much better you feel when you keep your weight off your feet and your knees.
I wish someone had told me that when I was 25!
She doesn't separate gardening from the rest of life, and spends a fair bit of time talking about the various houses, and particularly about the last country house they built. It is that dream we all have of building the exact place we want down to every detail; a joy, yes, but also a tremendous hassle. Her humor and fortitude in the situations that come up are inspirational.
Midge Ellis Keeble's introduction serves well as a description of the book, and also expresses how I feel about my own gardening life:
Every young gardener should know that gardening is an adventure, liberally laced with misadventure. ... We should know there will be time for other things. A garden is not the main theme of life. It weaves in and out, waits, disappears and reappears, providing a counterpoint to family, home and friends, giving colour and balance to life, challenges unending, and often a dash of the comic.