Gardening is hard work-there’s no denying it. I sometimes think I must be mad to try to control an acre of ground. If I turn my back for five minutes the brambles are suddenly head high and thistles and stinging nettles look as if I’ve grown them on purpose.
It’s not a sensible hobby for someone who has no muscles to speak of. I am five foot tall and weigh 8 stone. Then in addition, I have dodgy knees and a bad back. I really ought to take up sewing or knitting or…well, anything not requiring strength and stamina.
But then, I have always been contrary. I never give up on a difficult task. I have only to delve into my family photo album to see where I get my streak of quiet determination.
The oldest photos in the album show my great-great grandmother Charlotte Foxford, leading a shire horse down to the plough. There are pictures of her working the stony ground at the farm where she lived with her husband James in Oakford, Devon.
And yet, later in the album, I see them smartly dressed. Great-great grandfather James wears a suit and a jaunty hat. And I’m delighted to see them standing in the farmhouse doorway, with beautifully pruned roses around the porch. She had time to plant a garden- with all the cares she must have had to keep hearth and home together. And there are photos of them standing proudly next to the gleaming, well-groomed shire horses. Phew!They cared for their animals too. Such a reassurance and a welcome sight. And they are holding hands. They loved each other. A lesson in life in just 10 photos.
There’s one picture that makes me happiest of all. It is the one where Charlotte sits holding a baby- my grandfather, Ted Foulds- and is surrounded by her family. She is smiling. Her happiness and contentment shines out from the page. A great relief to me.
I just wish I could tell her- we have all copied her example. We’ve continued the tradition. There’s a long line of tenacious and determined women in the family- and we have all thrived on hard work. We are good at finding solutions.
So I may be a physical weakling- but I never give up. And I never wait around for someone else to do a job, if I can do it myself.
My latest solution to the problem of coping with an unruly garden is the discovery of the new Stihl compact cordless range of power tools.
We already have petrol machines- but they are too heavy for me, I nearly wrench my arm out starting them up. Plus they are so loud they frighten me, and the cat, and the cows in the neighbouring field.
I was relieved and delighted to find four battery powered machines that I could actually manage- all by myself. Lightweight and easy to use.
I used the chainsaw to tackle the hazel coppice. Usually I use a handsaw and loppers. But the Stihl chainsaw cut through them in minutes. I’ll use the hazel rods to make an A-frame support for sweet peas in the cut flower garden.
I’m going to tackle the apple trees next. Apple and pear logs are a special treat for Christmas. A gentle flame and no sparks from fruit wood- plus the whole house is scented with a most glorious, exotic perfume. No candles or chemicals can match it.
The chainsaw lasted about 45 minutes before the battery ran flat. I was ready for a cup of tea and a piece of cake by then, so I put it back on charge. It took about an hour or so to charge up again. I was busy tidying the logs, so I didn’t mind waiting.
The brochure says the chainsaw is ideal for garden maintenance, cutting firewood, shrubs and branches.
1. Weighs 2.5kg without battery. Lithium-Ion battery weighs 1.2kg
2. Sound Level 94.0 dB A. Amazingly quiet. No ear defenders are needed. This is a good because you can be more aware of what’s going on around you while you are working, if you can hear.
3. Battery Life : The brochure says up to 35 minutes. Mine lasted 45 mins.
4. Cutting Performance: Up to 100 cuts in 10cm x10cm square timber.
5. Bar Length: 30cm
6.Chain Speed: 13.2 m/s (max)
7. Quick Chain Tensioning: Tensioning the chain without tools by turning the adjusting wheel. Even I could do it. The guide bar is automatically secured by tightening the sprocket cover.
8. Safety Feature: I liked the pop out battery, which meant you couldn’t accidentally switch the chainsaw on whilst carrying it around.
I chose Farol Ltd at Hinckley, Leicestershire, to commission the chainsaw. Special mention to Sarah Nottingham and Jacob Shellis who kitted us out with protective trousers, boots, gloves and glasses supplied by Stihl. They took such care to show me how to use the chainsaw, and the hedge trimmer, strimmer and leaf blower in the range. I was impressed by their knowledge and the time and care they took to explain everything in terms I understood. I feel as if I have a good back up team there. I can ring or go back and visit at any time if I have any problems or need advice.
Safety is a prime consideration. I did an assessment of the work I planned and double checked my capabilities before starting. I will still need a qualified tree surgeon for larger projects in the garden.
Chain saw and other machinery courses can be found at Brooksby Melton College in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
Have you found any solutions to your gardening problems ? I’d love to hear them.