Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Gardening Tools - Surprising Objects of Desire

Objects of Desire

When I was at Art College (centuries ago), I read a book entitled 'Objects of Desire - Design and Society since 1750' by Adrian Forty. I'd be lying if I said I remember it word for word, and could quote from it at the drop of a hat, but I do remember it changing how I felt about 'things'.

There is no getting away from the fact that as consumers we live in a 'throwaway society'. Businesses, economies, even world powers NEED us to consume, dispose and buy again. Stasis is no good, they need us to make them grow. Material and production costs are forced down as low as possible, advertisers tell us our lives will be revolutionised by this new 'thing', or we'll obsolete ourselves if we don't have it in our lives! As demand grows the end price drops, increasing demand again. Quality and longevity are expendable, and so we become surrounded by 'stuff'', consumables that we use briefly but can't bring ourselves to throw or give away, until our homes, minds, oceans and landfills reach a kind of critical mass, and something has to give!

Looking down on these landfill corpses are the design classics, the beautifully engineered pieces, built from exquisite quality materials, designed and manufactured to last, and give us as much joy from the day we first see them, to the day we die - because trust me, you're never going to throw these hardworking beauties away. Think of the Dualit toaster in all its chrome gorgeousness, heavy, solid, dependable. Built to make toast, and my goodness it does it well, with a reassuring tick, tick, tick as the knob rotates back to zero. Mine was a birthday present 20 years ago and it's as perfect as the day we got it., the chrome has aged a little, but that adds to it's looks and doesn't stop it working. Yes, it was a considered purchase in 1997, but spread over time it's cost less than 2p per day!

Now back to gardening...

Gardening Tools - Objects of Desire

I attended the Wealden Times Midwinter Fair in November 2016, held at the Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent (UK). My friend Alisa and I had been scouring the stalls for Christmas gifts for our loved ones. Shortly after lunch, Alisa began chatting to a stall holder, and my eyes wandered round the hoards of people and brightly coloured goods for sale...

Then my breath caught in my throat...

I began walking trance-like through the throng...

And before I knew it, I was touching the most beautiful hand trowel I'd ever seen...

Gardening Objects Desire Modern Mint Mira Hand Trowel
The Mira Trowel from Modern Mint

The stall was Modern Mint, and this was the Mira Trowel at £33.00

Modern Mint

The company was started as a resource for gardeners who wanted to work with beautiful things, built to last, and that would really connect them with their gardens.

They have sourced tools made from bronze (copper alloyed with tin), which look far too precious to actually use, but the guy on the stall said they are tougher and sharper than most tools, and deserve to be used for the purpose which they were made. Just like the Dualit toaster, their full beauty can only be realised when you actually use them.

I explained that my sub-soil was a delightful mixture of clay, flint and chalk which has defeated hand tools and full size tools alike (I have four forks all with bent tines!), and that I would hate to ruin such a thing of beauty.

The guy said that was definitely challenging, but was confident that the worst thing that could happen would be a bit of patina on the bronze.

Who was I kidding, this gorgeous Object of Desire was going to be mine! Whip out the cash already!!

The photo shows the Mira trowel in mint condition (no pun intended). I've used it all year, from the lovely light soil of the square foot garden beds, to the evil 'concrete' soil in the woodland garden, and just as the man said, the only sign of use is a little surface patina, it's as straight and sharp as the day I bought it.

Do you have a favourite garden tool? Maybe it's one you felt an instant connection to, the way I did with the Mira, or one passed down to you from a family member. I'd love to hear your story.
PB xx

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Introducing My Family Part 8 - Maisie and Cherry

The Day 5 Guinea Pigs became 7

I feel like I should be at some sort of meeting, or intervention. "Hi I'm Pumpkin Becki and I have a problem..."

I'm not an animal hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, I do know when the cut off point is. If I'm on my own in that "certain" pet shop, I'll go and look at the baby Guinea Pigs and hamsters, coo over them for a few minutes, check the adoption section to see who's there...and then walk away. Often I'll get home and tell MrPB all about the new friends I made, but I won't actually buy or adopt anyone.
Now if MrPB comes with me, that's a whole lot more dangerous!

I'd told MrPB about a big male Guinea Pig called Bruce that I had seen. Knowing he was a boar made it even easier to walk away, he would have to be neutered and quarantined before he could go anywhere near the girls.

Monday 13th November 2017

We popped in to the pet store a couple of weeks later, and as expected, Bruce had gone to a new home - Yay! We stopped and looked at the baby girls, they had lots of young Guinea Pigs in, which always worries me before Christmas. We watched two little girls, a long haired Abyssinian and a smooth short coated tri-colour being nice to each other, sitting together, grooming each other and following each other round the enclosure.

We walked away.

We came back

We asked each other some important questions; which one would we have (I said we'd have to have both as they were so nice together) where we would put them, what would we need etc etc. and after answering all the staff member's questions, these little girls became ours.

The Journey Home

Oddly, the staff member put each guinea pig into it's own travel box. Admittedly the boxes were quite small, I've taken double-boxed hamsters home in one that size before, but that still seemed a really odd thing to do. If guinea pigs are bonded to any degree then it makes sense to keep them together during a stressful event like moving to a new home, taking them to the vets, and so on. I humoured the store until we were safely shut in our car, then I opened the boxes and popped them both in together. They settled quickly, and we drove home.


We set up the floor-time pen with food water and hay as soon as we got home, put the travel box in (carefully placing it on it's side to create a hidey), and left them to come out in their own time. Later on we put some Romaine lettuce in the run, plus a handful of ReadiGrass. The babies didn't brave the big wide world until night time, MrPB went downstairs to get a drink, and heard them scamper back into the box, and saw the lettuce and ReadiGrass had gone.

So lets meet them...


Miss Maisie is a very fluffy Abyssinian Guinea Pig. Her coat pattern is described as broken, but it's hard to describe her colour accurately, she has white and lemon patches, but her main colour is somewhere between slate and chocolate. It depends which photographic resources you look at online, and which screen you view them on. grrrr!

She is very sweet natured, shy and wary, always in the background, but she will take food from your hand and enjoys laptime, she has also quickly has formed friendships with Phoebe, Daisy, Tilly, Molly and Emmeline. I think it's because she is so subservient, she is no threat to the others or their pecking order,

Maisie Abyssinian Guinea Pig baby


Cherry by contrast is a little pickle, one moment she's sitting quietly...

Cherry smooth short coated Guinea Pig baby

The next she wants to know what's going on over there...

Cherry smooth short coated Guinea Pig baby

And over there!

Cherry smooth short coated Guinea Pig baby
You're my Ch Ch Ch Cherrybomb

She is a tri-colour, with chocolate Agouti on her rump, plus red and white. She is very very vocal, shouting louder than everyone else put together at teatime. She's confident, popcorns constantly, takes food from the others, grooms them, rumble-struts at them (which is hilarious! this little mouse of a guinea pig telling off Phoebe or Daisy who are three times her size - she's got pluck!)

What's the Plan?

We've already managed to integrate the babies in with Phoebe, Tilly and Daisy. We've also had all seven out for floor-time, which has worked really well. Maybe, just maybe we can connect all the hutches together and have a herd...I say that every time don't I! :D

Magnificent Seven Guinea Pigs Maisie Tilly Emmeline Daisy Phoebe Molly Cherry
The Magnificent Seven - Clockwise from top left: Maisie, Tilly, Emmeline, Daisy, Phoebe, Molly and Cherry