Monday, 23 September 2013

Childhood memories brought to life


Last weekend we made a bug hotel in our garden and watching the kids building it & enjoying it, it just reminded me of when I was a little girl....

I can't quite remember at what age it began but I was probably even younger than Sophie and the happy memories will last with me forever.  
My Dad & I would spend hours together in his greenhouse or working in the garden.  It was our quality time and to me - the best times, which I now treasure immensely.  Sometimes we would be busy sowing seeds, as my dad was a believer of doing everything from scratch, not only because it was cheaper, but because he could, and he liked to follow the whole cycle from start to finish.  We would spend hours pricking out from the seed trays  to pots when they got big enough, and then obviously from pots to planting out in the garden.  Sometimes though we would just sit in the greenhouse, out of the wind or rain, and watch the plants & garden grow and enjoy it. 

We had quite a large garden that dad split into 2 so that we had a vegetable patch at the top and then an amazingly manicured lawn area with borders close to the house.  Dad was very proud of his lawn in particular, but also of all his gardening, and he used to get so many comments about it.  There were a couple of  years where he opened the garden up to something like the open gardens scheme and everyone that came loved it.  He was very particular and a perfectionist in the garden, like he was in his work.  I remember he used to have an electric mower which had a heavy roller in the back so that when you mowed it you got the definite stripes up and down (just like the football pitches) and they had to be straight!  It did look nice when he had done it, I have to say, but he didn't like anyone ruining his lawn.  He used to stop any women walking on it in high heels and mysteriously my swingball ended up broken after a couple of times being used - mmmm??? It did always look beautiful through the summer though, full of colour and immaculate.  Although I'm not quite as dedicated as him I do still aspire to be like him and have a garden as beautiful as his, even though I prefer a looser style.

Because we had the veggie patch we always had something from the garden to eat and I remember vividly eating the peas straight from the pod and the tomatoes straight off the vine and how good they tasted, it's something you really can't beat and I believe that all kids should experience this.  Dad's homemade pickled onions were always amazing too and we both used to enjoy a bit of the vinegar from the pickle jar poured on melted cheese on toast - yummm!  Eventually though as he got older he gave up the veggie patch and turned that into more manicured lawn with ornamental beds cut into it - another project that we did together.

Another large part of my memories of gardening with Dad was the amount of butterflies that we used to have in our garden and although I used to catch them in my net (unfortunately not realising that I was adding to their decline) I used to love seeing them and running round the garden after them.  Looking back too I remember so many bees, caterpillars and all sorts of bugs in general and it's because of these memories that I have now made a conscious effort to do what ever I can to help nature and all the wonderful natural things I took for granted when I was little. 

For a huge part of my life the one thing we both shared was our love of gardening, even when I was a difficult teenager, which I'm sure I was.  I would still find some time to help him, and still enjoy it, it was never a chore.  I am thankful that we shared this passion and that what he taught me has stayed with me, so that now I'm passing it on to my kids. I have always included my children in my gardening as I want them to grow up with the same memories that I have and I think it's important for them to appreciate how things grow, where our food comes from and how important insects & bugs are in the whole process.   

This year in particular the kids have helped sow, plant and also harvest all our fruits and vegetables from our veggie patch and it's been great seeing them enjoy picking them and trying them the same as I used to with Dad, even if they don't like them in the end.  It's like seeing my memories played back again through my children now and it's really, really lovely.  We have eaten our fruits & veg raw & cooked, we've made jam, we've frozen some for the winter, we've made Ratatouille for the first time, I plan to make chutney and also kept some as seeds for next year, ready to do it all again. 

 I must admit that I'm not such a perfectionist when it comes to gardening but I think that isn't such a bad thing as gardens can be too tidy.  Since we have lived in this house I have been planting wild meadow flowers to encourage the bees & butterflies and also leaving weeds that flower, where as Dad never had weeds!   I've made a decision that if the bees and butterflies like it, it can stay, what ever it is.  
Just the other day "we" as a whole family built a bug hotel in the garden.  It was great fun and something that we've all done together to help nature - giving nature a home.  
It wasn't hard and hopefully it will make a small difference.  The kids think it's great, Isabelle has always been bug mad right from being able to walk, but Sophie's not so sure, hopefully this will encourage her to accept them and enjoy them for what they are.  
Watching the kids taking part and enjoying being in the garden, making things and growing things always takes me back to when I was little and for a few minutes I feel close to my Dad again, which always makes me happy.  Sadly my kids never knew their Grandad Binder as he passed away the year before I was pregnant with Isabelle, which does sadden me, but I'm sure if you can look down, he is up there watching over them and enjoying them loving nature just the same as I did, and saying "Melly, get rid of them bloody weeds!" 

I do miss my Dad a lot, but at least in a way I keep him alive in the things that my family & I are doing :)  Quality time with your kids is precious aswell so if you can find something special like this - make the most of it.

Mel