We have garden tools - lots and lots of garden tools. We have more garden tools than two women could possibly need, partly because we seem to have a natural talent for accumulating things and partly because the couple we bought the house from left many of their tools behind when they moved.
We have many tools for digging. Round shovels. Square shovels. Short handled spades. Long handled spades. Trowels. An edger. A mattock. A pitchfork. We have just as many tools for cutting things: hand pruners, a pole pruner, shears, loppers, saws, an axe. We have a lawnmower, a string trimmer and a chainsaw. Sometimes I am embarrassed by how many tools we have, but almost all of them seem essential, for one job or another.
I am starting to discover that people have interesting relationships with their tools. For example, many gardeners have strong opinions about which kind of hoe is the best kind of hoe. (This sounds like the start of a really bad joke, but it's not. Really.) One fellow whose garden I toured was vehement that a Dutch hoe (what most people picture in their minds when someone says "garden hoe") is the only kind of hoe worth using. I am just as vehement that my stirrup hoe (which looks like a stirrup on the end of a long handle, and is drawn towards you just under the soil, efficiently uprooting the weeds) is the best hoe ever made. Go figure. That doesn't even take into account diamond hoes, collinear hoes, or fancy Japanese hoes.
One of my favourite tools is the wheelbarrow. When we started this adventure I thought of a wheelbarrow as something you would only use to move a pile of dirt from one place to another. For some reason it didn't occur to me until relatively recently that you can use a wheelbarrow to carry pretty much anything you don't feel like lugging yourself. (I'm not normally such a slow learner. Really.) For example, when garbage day came around I used to lug the full, heavy garbage can out to the road for pickup. Then one day my eye fell on the wheelbarrow and I put the can in the barrow and wheeled it out to the road, easy as pie. Now I use a wheelbarrow to carry shop vacs and chop saws and trees and tomato plants and bales of straw and bags of groceries, as well as piles of dirt and mulch and compost and brush. Whenever I use a wheelbarrow to schlep something, it feels like a friend doing me an unexpected favour.
Another of my favourite tools is the rake you can see in the picture. We brought two rakes with us, useless plastic things that break and bend and were a waste of money. But the one in the picture was left behind for us, and it's the best rake ever. It looks like nothing, and has one broken tine, but it's sturdy and reliable and the only rake I'll use now. There's something really satisfying about a secondhand, not-quite-whole, pretty darn battered rake beating out the shiny new ones.
When you own tools you have to know how to use them and how to take care of them. I am terrible at taking care of the tools I use. At the bare minimum, you should at least clean your tools when you finish using them, but I am usually so tired when I finally stop that the muddy pruners get tossed in the bucket along with the muddy fishtail weeder (a long metal stick with a fork at the end for digging out the roots of weeds). No wonder I go through a couple of pairs of pruners every year. Fortunately they're the $8 ones, since Kim knows me better than to buy the $40 ones.
One of my 2010 resolutions is to take better care of my tools. I think that if I was the kind of person who took better care of my tools, I would be the kind of person who would take better care of myself, too. That's a good thing to strive for, for my tools and myself.
[For the sharp-eyed among you, yes that is a snow shovel in the picture, and no we don't have to use it very often. But if we got rid of it you could be sure it would snow 2 feet the next day.]