Mr and Mrs Nextdoor are almost self-sufficient in respect of food. Various small feathered and furry creatures live in cages in their garden, and it’s best to call out loudly if you visit, so that you don’t come upon unpleasant scenes when something is being despatched. Their five lawnmowers produce lambs each spring, which are destined for the freezer. They no longer have the goat, so cheese and bread are their principal purchases.
Mr Nextdoor’s vegetable patch – his potager – adjoins our garden, and we are frequent recipients of his bounty – for he grows far more than they, or their family can use. In particular we benefit from leeks and tomatoes, both of which he produces in great quantity, and neither of which he will eat.
Mr Nextdoor has been growing veggies for most of his 77 years, and I don’t suppose there’s a great deal he doesn’t know about the art. On the other hand, I only started two years ago, and last year was a hit and miss affair because I’m not very focussed on weeding and watering, so it is truly the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest, except of course they don’t survive, because they are wrenched up and eaten. Now, with the food crisis looming, it seems financially foolish and morally wrong not to put the effort into using productively some of the land we are fortunate enough to own, not to mention the pleasure of eating food that is fresh and pesticide-free, even if is does harbour an abundance of slugs and small scurrying things.
In all the time we have lived here, I have never seen Mr Nextdoor plant or water anything. I once saw him earthing up his asparagus, though. What he does do, is hoe. Come wind, rain, hail, heatwave, flood or drought, he’s out there with his hoe, rhythmically chopping away at the weeds, smashing them, slicing them, mincing them, leaving their roots exposed to the elements to die in naked agony. It sometimes seems that there’s never a moment that the tchk, tchk, tchk of hoe on flint cannot be heard.
Being as it is all he ever seems to do to his veggies, I decided that hoeing is the secret to success. Mr Nextdoor has a long, manly hoe, but because I’m neither long, nor manly, and because our potager is but a fraction of the size of his, I use this dinky little tool, which is also wildly effective at hooking up weeds out of gravel. As it is only 40 cm. long, I have to squat to use it, which hopefully will have the secondary effect of exercising the buttock and inner thigh muscles.
Having just spent almost an hour hoeing meticulously, I know now why Mr Nextdoor is such a dedicated hoer – there is a sensual satisfaction in killing weedlings, especially infant stinging nettles. Can’t wait for the next session. 😉