Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bare-Knuckle Gardening

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bare-Knuckle Gardening

Article excerpt

That's not like you, Red," Monty remarked. "Wearing gloves."

"Lime," explained Red.

His soil had been white-powdered like a freshly bathed baby. An annual lime-sprinkling (but not on your potato patch) is one of those rituals good plotters observe and I persistently forget. So Red is anti-glove. I hadn't noticed. But I am not surprised. Gloves are one of those attitudinal litmus tests by which gardeners measure one another's mettle. I myself sit on the fence, glovewise. My shed does display evidence of glove use (and abuse). Gloves of thin, soft material dangle along a string across one corner like washing. Heavier-duty waterproof gloves are scattered elsewhere. My evolved glove system is soft-glove inners, heavy-duty glove outers. I replace the inners when they sink to an unacceptable perspiration high. But I only wear gloves at all because otherwise the abrasive griminess of my hands and my nails in mourning prove distracting to patrons of well-bred restaurants. The Visiting Artist lent me an out-of-print 1940 book called "How to Grow Food," by Doreen Wallace. Its amusing little narrative, meant to initiate "townspeople" into the mysteries of vegeculture, presents a "Mrs. B," who has been evacuated from London into the country to escape "the fury of the Hun." Mrs. B rushes in, hungry for horticulture, and does everything wrong. Buys overweight tools. Purchases ungainly garments. Digs moving forward and so tramples her work. Invests in unfortunate "gloves with all the edges on the outside." Enter her gardening angel. This helpful character, described as a weather-beaten person of indeterminate gender, turns out to be a die-hard country woman marvelously willing to dispense pragmatic advice and brisk criticism. Mrs. B's gloves are almost the first casualty. "I see you wear gloves," the woman pronounces in tones identical, I fancy, to Margaret Rutherford's Miss Marple, "if you can call them gloves. …

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