I have a bit of a side kick that shadows me wherever I go. Most days it is barely noticeable, well not to me, because I’ve learnt to put the nuances it brings to one side and not give it the attention it demands. Other times it is so demanding of my attention it is impossible to ignore and I have to stop what I’m doing and give into it so, giving it the time it needs to stop bothering me. This could easily describe Jasper the Dog with his helpful hole digging in the middle of my paths or dropping tennis balls at my feet begging me to throw them for him or racing at full speed around the garden beds like a maniac just let loose from bondage, or just lying there in the shade of the artichoke slumbering quietly in the heat of the day.
Alas no, if only that was so simple. Managing a dog in the garden makes things interesting but not unmanageable. The side kick I take everywhere with me is MS – Multiple Sclerosis. It isn’t a secret that I’ve kept hidden, it is common knowledge I’m not afraid to tell people about. While it is something I have and effects decisions I may make, it doesn’t have me, and I have chosen not to let it control me or limit me. It is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience.
But at the same time, it is my biggest blessing and I am thankful for it. I first found something was wrong while I was pregnant with the Joeyosaurus. Of course, the first thoughts are … ‘oh no… the baby…’ So, I got it checked out instead of trying and failing to remember to get things checked out next time I was at the Doctor. It is so worth getting the most minor worry looked at by your doctor. Too bad if you think they think you are a hypochondriac – you’re the one paying for their time!
The final confirmed diagnosis of MS prompted us to move from our city lives into the country and that was where I first put a spade into soil and instantly fell in love with gardening. My health flourished with the exercise and outdoor activity. Soaking in the sun’s rays enriched my absorption of Vitamin D, something MS people aren’t that good at processing. The fresh food and healthy diet that came as a result of my efforts in the garden allowed my health to flourish. I was more myself than I’ve ever been.
For most keen vegie gardeners I’ve ever met, it can become addictive and quite the obsession and it had me hook, line and sinker. I was a gardener through and through. When people asked me how I was I’d reply, ‘not good, I’ve got blight’ then have to add ‘in my tomatoes’. But my meagre four bed garden that first hosted the crops I grew in the first season somehow became the 36 I have now. I think by anyone’s standards 36 is a lot. Managing 36 beds isn’t easy for most people but throw MS into the mix and it becomes even more challenging.
But I have found a way to not only manage my garden but allow it, and me, to thrive. The first philosophy is little and often. Don’t over do things. It is tempting when in a serious gardening session, weeding, digging or some other arduous task to push through to the end to get it done. This isn’t necessary. Most gardening tasks are not time dependant. And if they are the window is weeks or even months. It is certainly never a day or a weekend. So, tackling a bite size chunk at a time with loads of breaks of hours or even days in between. Or mix it up so the day is made of different tasks – some easy, some a little more challenging.
Provide yourself with plenty of nice places to sit and rest and admire all you have achieved. And use them often. I have chairs in the shade at the front of my office shed which I expect will get more use once summer arrives. And then there is my wonderful swing seat which is tall enough that your feet don’t touch the ground, so you are reverted back to childhood as you swing your feet freely. Once seated I’m reluctant to get back up, it is so relaxing, which is the whole point. It is easy to stop – gulp a cuppa tea and carry on. On the swing seat is seductive and you linger there much longer.
Staying on top of the garden all year long is also a great benefit so there is no need for intensive boom and bust weeding sessions. I have divided my garden into 5 groups and on the Monday, I only take care of group 1 with weeding, feeding, watering, pruning, deadheading and tying in etc. Then on Tuesday it is group 2, although I have to say group 5 on a Friday often gets the short end of the stick. Harvesting across the whole garden is done when it is needed, that is one thing that doesn’t wait. But even in winter, when nothing is growing a quick check for weeds or problems keeps everything manageable.
Asking for help is another essential tool. I’m terrible at it because I’m a control freak in the garden and prefer things done my way. I am so pleased Hubby the Un-Gardener has no interest in gardening – I’m sure there would be a territorial struggle of wills that would turn the garden into a battlefield. But no, his role that he has willingly accepted from those first days in the garden was to do heaving lifting and dig on demand. I may have put the first spade in – but he did the rest – digging is hard work!
The last thing is listen to your body and if it is telling you to stop then it is in your best interests to stop. Sort of like when the oil light comes on in the car. It is better to have a short rest than do some long term damage that can keep you out of the garden for days.
It is around about now, 14 years ago my life changed irreversibly, but to be honest I firmly believe it changed for the better and introduced me to the 2nd love of my life (after family) gardening and I couldn’t be happier to be inconvenienced by this strange little side kick.
Come again soon – the weather is rubbish again; normal gardening will resume shortly.
Sarah the Gardener : o)