The situation in Japan and the MENA countries has the distinct feel of a world imploding, and I can’t help but think that things are likely to deteriorate further over the next few years as global warming, peak oil and economic meltdown get a grip on us. Consequently, I want to turn my attention to something much more trivial, but important in the overall scheme of things. Adults seem beyond redemption ( did you read about US Republican Rush Limbaugh having a laugh about the Japanese earthquake hitting the area where ‘green’ cars are manufactured http://climateprogress.org/2011/03/17/video-limbaugh-laughs-at-japan-disaster-gaia/) but one has to pray that our kids can make a better job of being human than my generation has done. As the looming food crisis is one of the most fundamental areas that needs to be addressed, I really want my daughters, aged 7 and 9, to learn about and enjoy growing food. Unfortunately, they’ve really shown very little interest, and I don’t want to force them to help me ‘down the allotment’ like my dad made me do, much against my will. I figured there must be a way that I could trick them into enjoying a bit of gardening, and it eventually occurred to me that a couple of the trees near my allotment are easy to climb, and my girls like climbing trees. So, I suggested we do a bit of gardening together, and I’d give them time to play in the trees. They agreed to this, and it wasn’t long before they were pretty bored with weeding and planting seeds, so, before letting them go to the trees, I got them to help me cut down some wildly overgrown areas that I was hoping to use as a small community garden if I could get a few people interested. This, much to my surprise, turned out to be a real hit. I fell over a couple of times and landed in the middle of the weed patch, which the girls thought was hilarious, and then they were taking it in turns to lie in the middle of it and have grass and weeds thrown over them. Great fun. Then they were keen to cut more weeds themselves with the rusty old, blunt sickles I’ve got (how to get good farm implements is a rant I want to indulge in one day) and they were bent on clearing a path to a small tree on my plot which is more or less overgrown with mile-a-minute. They were perfectly happy doing this until eventually they turned their attention to climbing some trees. A couple of elephant ear trees, which are easy to climb, were nearby, and they spent half an hour clambering about in them, and are looking forward to making them into their camps.
They enjoyed themselves so much that they asked to come back again this week. This was ideal for me, and I was wondering if things would be as successful second time around. Well, there was a bit of weed clearing, and a bit of tree climbing, but my youngest daughter discovered she was fascinated by worms, and my eldest found she wanted to plant seeds. Even better, this interest continued once we went back to the house, where they continued to help me in the garden. Amelia was happy digging up weeds so she could look for worms to hold, because she liked the feel of them wriggling in her hand, and Lucy wanted to dig up weeds, partly to look for worms, but also to clear areas for planting flowers because she wanted some colour in the garden. Everybody was happy. They’ve discovered a fun activity with a lot of scope for development – a wormery beckons – and I’ve suddenly got two helpers who get quite a lot done themselves but give a real boost to my own enthusiasm for getting things up to scratch. Quite unexpectedly I feel as if things have turned a corner and the garden and allotment are going to improve enormously in the coming months. I guess what did it was having faith in the fact that anyone would enjoy gardening if they just had the opportunity to see what a world of delight waits for them in a patch of dirt. It beats TV hands down. It’s giving me a great deal of pleasure to see them discovering the joys of gardening at a time when it wouldn’t be difficult to give in to a sense of despair about impending doom! This is one rare occasion where I know I’ve got something right.