Illustration by Pippa Fay
Some months ago, in a second-hand shop, I found a steel CD rack in the shape of a rocket, about 1.5m high. I knew it would be perfect as the centrepiece of the children's edible garden. $5. I carried it home. One good thing about city life is that no one thinks it remarkable to see a woman striding along with a rocket under her arm. Tane and I anchored the fins into the soil with steel hooks my brother had made, then we planted peas.
Today, in full summer, peas hang from each of the steel circles. I've planted fiery red and yellow nasturtiums underneath so it looks as though it's lifting off. Tane is constantly disappointed that he can't fly. He sees the rocket as needing a pilot but no one as full of peas as Tane could ever suddenly lift off into the sky.
So that is the upside of grandchildren in the garden. The downside is that last week he filled my gardening gloves with snails from an empty flowerpot. And today the gloves were floating in the little pond, full of grossly inflated, drowned snails. Am I going to put on such gloves? No. I will garden today without gloves and my fingernails will be impossible to clean.
So that brings me to gloves and where to store them. I guess country houses have a wet room for boots and raincoats and maybe even a sink to wash your hands in. I have French windows, so there�s no transition zone between outside and inside. Consequently, I never know what to do with mud-caked garden gloves. And Tane finds it too easy to push a plastic dump truck loaded with soil into the kitchen. How I long for a covered-in porch with a seat to sit down on when removing boots and gloves. Somewhere to have that after-garden sigh. Do you have such a room in your new house?
Down on the farm we need more than a sheltered porch with a rustic seat to sit on and sigh quietly. Sometimes I think we could do with a sluice room. There are days in the winter when I could happily wash down Harry and Basil (the dog) with a high-pressure hose. When I am in a sluicing mood and complaining about 'people' dropping dollops of mud on the back path, Basil cowers and curls his tail between his legs. Harry denies he�s muddy. How I wish he was as compliant as Basil, who submits to being dropped into the laundry tub and hosed down.
Our old house had a cavernous back porch with a slate floor, boot shelves and a row of coat hooks. In winter the wet coats dripped water all over the floor and mud from the boots clogged the cracks in the slate. I was forever sweeping, mopping and complaining. One year the whole sorry mess froze into an ice rink. I devised rules to keep the mud from the door; the rules were impossible to enforce and the muddy boots crept back. I vowed that, if I ever built a new house, I'd conquer the back porch problem by not having one.
If you open our new back door you'll find yourself in a vestibule with a laundry on one side and a bathroom on the other. Clean people are welcome to walk straight in, dirty people are sent down a short covered walkway to the garage, where they can divest themselves of their muddy clothes and boots. When they return through the door they must turn either right or left to wash hands or paws. Only then are they permitted to proceed to the carpeted area.
These rules have yet to be tested; there is not much mud in midsummer, but the day the first winter rain falls they will be as non-negotiable as a pre-flight security check. The rules do not apply to lady farmers and gardeners.