The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Examine your tools carefully before you proceed

Photo: Lilies by the pond

Photo: Lilies by the pond

Years ago Seraphina and I visited Hampton Court. A day trip – as we were living in London at the time. We decided to hire a traditional rowing boat and swish up and down the river. Being a wooden toymaker at the time I had the strongest arms so was assigned to the rowing.

We climbed gingerly into the boat and I took the oars. It was incredibly hard work. We got a lot of strange looks which we struggled to understand. It was only when I was turning the boat at the debarkation point – doing a sort of nautical three point turn – that I realised the reason for the goggle eyed stares. Suddenly the boat shot forward. I had been rowing back to front, with the straight end rather than the pointy end of the boat, pushing through the water.

How could I have been so stupid? Easy. I just didn’t take the time to think it through.

Yesterday I was removing a lot of old, unwanted forsythia stumps from the new border in the front garden. A job that I’d been putting off for weeks. A pick axe is a marvellous tool for accomplishing this task – once you have got to grips with getting the correct and confident swing.

After a while I noticed that the pick axe was not performing consistently well and put it down to the inconsistency of my ‘girly’ swing. Then tottering indoors for a break I propped the pick axe against the fence and noticed that it had a stubby end and a sharp end.

Progress was much quicker from that point.

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  1. I’ve done stuff like that so often that I can’t think of any of them to relate right now, but your story reminded me of the time when I was preparing a garden in our clay soil out back when I was in junior high school. I guess I was thirteen or so, and had been using my dad’s pick axe to break up the sod. At one point, I missed the ground and hit myself squarely in the shin with the pointy end of the axe, and the bone stopped the axe. It hurt like hell, but left only a nick- in fact, it looked just like a shaving nick. When I told my girlfriend about it the next day at school, she said, “You shave with a pick axe?!?”

  2. Lol – I think if we’re honest we’ve all had those moments. Bless you for being honest about them and putting a smile on my face. 😀 rx

  3. Thank you so much for that, you just encapsulate the real humour of life so well and I’m still laughing.

  4. Toffeeapple

    ‘Progress was much quicker from that point.’

    Love it!

  5. Oh Fiona your blog does make me laugh sometimes! Talking about using tools to their best advantage, I recently obtained an Andrew after reading your blog, and I’m loving it … except when it comes to get the food out of it! We tend to cook quite a lot directly on the rack (fish, chicken, ribs), rather than wrapped in foil, but even something happily cooking on a metal plate seems to be really tricky to lift out, particularly since everything’s so flipping hot! … do you and Danny have any hints and tips?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Sarah

      We have the same problem using the trays that came with Andrew – they require very dainty handling. We have a flat bottomed glass dish that we use to cook in Andrew a lot as it gives a good inch of space in between the dish and Andrew’s sides so is much easier to lift out. A decent pair of tongs are essential when cooking with Andrew too.

  6. Lol that sounds like me with the tractor. After lugging hay around in the heat with a pitchfork, hubby suggested I might like a turn in the air-conditioned tractor but I had then to learn how to use the thing. Well I was going quite well thinking I had a handle on it all when hubby stopped me and said “are you using the gas pedal?”, “what gas pedal?” says I. I had been using the tractor in tick over mode and so it was no wonder that I was going rather slowly and hubby had a lot of spare time on his hands to wonder what I was doing.

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