Seed Swaps

What gardeners look like

14 Aug 2008
Overcast 23°C / 74°F

This journal mentions breasts, so if that offends you, move on.

I’ve been thinking about how I grew up around gardens and how important it is to impart that to the next generation.

I was remembering how I used to poke fun at the women I saw in their gardens when I was growing up. Their husbands would make themselves quick snacks before daybreak, and would head out to the barns to milk the cows and do whatever was needed before a big breakfast around 8:30 a.m. Their wives would tend to the children and around 7 a.m. would walk out into the garden to pick vegetables and fruit to serve for breakfast.

I’d see them when I was on my way to early-morning sports practices (my family was from the city, and didn’t do anything but sports or go to a grocery store early in the morning). They would bring a baby strapped to them sometimes, they’d have baskets or aprons bulging with tomatoes or apples. They’d be wearing their husbands’ old button-down shirts wrapped around them like kimonos, with aprons or even old ties tying them together. Some would be wearing their husbands’ old barn boots with the steel toe, as protection from the copperheads in the area. Sometimes you’d see them with salt shakers chasing slugs after a rainstorm, and almost always someone would be more worried about the food or a baby than her own appearance, and while leaning over beans or tarragon or peppers, a long, weathered boob would swing out of the kimono-shirt. It was quite the sight for me to snicker at when I was 8.

Fast forward to yesterday morning, where we finally came home to our own garden. It had rained for days straight, apparently, and in some spots the weeds were up to my thighs. The four-year-old followed me around, both of us in our pajamas, while I filled cornmeal slug traps and chased down the slugs in the pumpkins and the peppers with a box of salt. We kept walking around to the front of the house, where we saw a crowd had gathered. A family of turkeys that we’ve spotted in our yard had come back, and were trying to cross the road. I picked up my son and I walked to the street, and held up cars while the turkeys passed by.

I saw a little girl point at me, not the turkeys, from her living room window. And then I realized, I looked just like the ladies in the kimono shirts … bright green rubber clogs to protect my feet from the garden snakes, dressed in pajamas, holding a little boy and a box of salt and standing in a too-thin T-shirt where you could see exactly what my weathered boobs were up to.

I waved, and glanced at her family’s garden. It’s a city garden, just shrubs and a few self-sustaining flowering plants on an expanse of lawn. She’ll point to me as an example of a gardener more worried about the peppers and pumpkins than her own appearance someday.

Or maybe she’s traumatized by the crazy half-naked lady walking around with a box of salt and bright-green clown shoes. Either is plausible.



Love this post – as I come in from my garden in scruffy elderly tee shirt and pyjama-like trousers with leaves and worse lodged in my hair. I remember how scornful I was as a teenager of my parents pleasure in the garden and the care they gave to it. I never appreciated the home grown veg and the strawberries for breakfast. But it was an education and it told in the end.

Posted on 15 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

love loved this! so well put. i’m on the track of the crazy gardening lady, a track i never thought i would be on. i grew up with field bordering most of my house, but they weren’t ours. i hated getting my hands dirty. worms and bugs of any kind made me scream and run. i hardly even liked walking around barefoot in my own yard. well, now i’m on my way (some would say i’m there) to being a plant/insect nut job. i feel like i’ve turned a corner and became a new person with respect to gardening and being outdoors and i absolutely love it!
and i love hearing other people talk about this and embracing it! keep up the eccentricities!

Posted on 15 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

Sometimes thoughts just get into the ether. We focus a lot on the plants, and forget the gardeners, even here. I was thinking that there are never pictures of the crazy gardening ladies (and gents and babes), and then that probably no one really needs to see me in my gardening jeans that never quite make it into the washer because I keep pulling them out of the laundry basket for “one more wear” and my pink gardening clogs and my lord-knows-what hanging out. Thanks for populating the garden, with turkeys, and ladies and kids!

(Man, gotta go to work now— wonder if I can sneak a peak at Folia on the Box Office computer during the show)

Posted on 15 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

Nax, as I was reading, I was thinking the same… we really should see each other…. or should we?

KatPowers, thanks for this post.

My husband shutters at what I go out to the garden in… we live smack in the middle of town, something or someone bordering us on all sizes. Even an apartment building where numerous people can peer out at me, all stacked on top of each other. Oh well. Does my back side look any more attractive in a pair of day shorts than it does in my holey, rag-tag, cut off jammies? Probably not. Let them look. And better yet… let their children as questions about the crazy garden lady with the coffee stains on her t-shirt.

Posted on 15 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

Yep, when I was wanting to make paintings of people working in gardens, I couldn’t find any pictures at all, not in shelves of gardening books nor the piles of gardening magazines. I guess it’s like interior decor, never photograph people actually residing in their house/ working in their garden with all the clutter that accumulates. Too bad really, however you have supplied a nice selection of word pictures which quickly translated into visuals.

Posted on 15 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

that’s me, all the way! I get up in the morning, pull on yesterdays shorts, a sleevless or cut off shirt, no bra and buckets in hand. My 4 year old in his underwear and boots up to his knees! When I see someone coming up the driveway, I start wondering how to ‘cover up’, but it’s too late. I figure those from the road can’t REALLY see me, so be it! I guess it’s an image we have to pass down to the next generation!

Posted on 16 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

Half the time I am out in the garden in my pajamas and slippers because the very first thing I must do every day is Check The Garden (what’s flowered? What needs pollinating? Ooh, what’s that interesting bug? Hmm, these look like they need a wee seasol-treatment…).

The other half the time I am out in the garden, shovel in hand, mud up to my elbows, wearing whatever pretty dress, fancy jacket, fishnet stockings, nice hat, dress-up going-out clothes I happened to be out in that day. Because I never, ever think that my five minute ‘garden check’ will turn into a three hour compost-turning, veggie-harvesting, weeding, transplanting epic, but it inevitably does.

I am often finding hand-prints of mud on my nice dresses, or splatters of compost on my fancy shoes, or twigs in my stockings. That’s OK with me, my garden is way more fun than looking impeccable anyway.

Posted on 17 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

Oh! I’m not alone!

@ Wenjomatic & Nax: There’s a reason I have a cartoon instead of a photo. This is what my son sees when I get home from work. Gardening, yes. Glamourous, no. But you should see my zinnias.

@ Rainymountain: See above. There’s no reason someone wants to paint that.

@ Glittertrash: I have actually gone to work with part of a dried squash blossom on the heel of my sandals, and my co-workers said they hoped it was dog doo, because at least they could understand how that got on my shoe. I’m happy to learn someone else wears the fancy stuff among the plants too.

Posted on 17 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)


Folia Helper


Haha, this is a great post! I almost always wear clothes entirely unsuited to public appearance or gardening ;) I manage to ruin good shoes and nice skirts, because I want to get straight into my garden and can’t find – or can’t be bothered to find – old clothes and shoes. And then other days it’s old, smelly, wrinkly stuff from the clothes hamper, combined with dirty old flipflops or boots (depending on the season).

Posted on 18 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

Kat, I loved this entry so much I had to blog about it!

Posted on 18 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

@ Wenjomatic: Where?

Posted on 18 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)
Posted on 18 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

It is so nice to know I am not alone, although I tend to run outside barefoot most of the time, I always think about shoes but can never find the ones I want or else my clogs are horribly muddy and it is dry out so why not barefoot, of coarse it is damp from dew or else my watering. A few days ago my 5 yr old and I dug up our potato patch and I thought breifly of having my husband snap a picture of us out their working, When I realised that I was in a ratty old shirt, with holes in it, stained cut off shorts and flip flops (gotta still wash those clogs) no make up, no bra, and covered in dirt as my daughter goes flinging dirt while she diggs for potatoes and squeals as she finds a big bunch. She of coarse was adorable in bare feet wearing mismatched clashing colors kneeling in the dirt and wiggling her fingers through the soil. I got no pictures until we were finished but it was sucha blast.

Posted on 18 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

@Kat Powers- oh your squash blossom makes me laugh! I’m guilty of reaching for my keys to get into my office and pulling out a handful of cherry tomatoes instead, picked on my way out of the house and forgotten about- or, even worse, a horrible ‘SQUISH’ one day when I sat down for a meeting with my boss and a cherry tomato popped in my back pocket! Hard to explain, that one…

Posted on 19 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)


Folia Helper

United Kingdom8b

Ah. I am so glad that I am not alone. I have made sure that my garden is secluded, not because I sunbather a lot, but to protect the sanity of my neighbours as I potter about in the sort of clothes that bag ladies would be embarrassed to wear.

Some of them started out that way, others became like that soon after I forgot I was wearing my good work clothes and decided to undertake a major project.

I’d smarten up with a Folia Tshirt, but I fear they don’t make them big enough in this corner of the world, the only way to keep everything in check is to go big and sack like. ;-)

Posted on 22 Aug 08 (over 9 years ago)

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