A couple of years ago I thought I may have to give up gardening. An old back injury was giving me constant grief and people were saying things like “Well, at your age, maybe you should stop doing…” The list included almost everything I enjoy doing except sleeping.
I remembered times when my garden had, due to where I was living or what I was doing, consisted of a few plants in pots – and they hadn’t been my best times. I thought about my large block of land and what I would do with it if I couldn’t garden. I thought about what I would do with myself if I couldn’t garden. I thought that it didn’t bear thinking about.
I kept up with the physio, discovered Feldenkrais, hired a young local lad to help with the big jobs and thought about downsizing. Even when I had sorted out my back and the local lad had sorted out the big jobs, I still thought about it. And of course I wasn’t getting any younger (something else people were keen to remind me of). I started reshaping my block of land in my head – subdivide and sell the back bit; subdivide and build on the back bit then sell it; subdivide, build on the back bit, sell the old house, live on the back bit; subdivide, sell both bits and get the hell out of Dodge City.
Subdividing costs. Neighbours drive me nuts. And every scenario I came up with still appeared in my head surrounded by a lush and productive garden that SOMEONE had to look after.
I was working full-time throughout all this in an office job that I had somehow ended up in. Office work is not something I would ever choose. I was starting to loathe it. I hated being trapped inside all day, hated leaving my home every morning, hated having to cram all the house and garden work into my weekends. I was frustrated by all the work that wasn’t getting done because I just didn’t have time to do it. I had discovered that if I took my time I could take care of the garden without hurting myself.
It seemed that the job had to go, the garden had to stay, I had to find some other way of making money (preferably from my land) and I needed time to do things slowly.
I kept these thoughts in my mind.
Then my long-service leave became due, I reached the age where I could draw down a lump sum from my superannuation and suddenly all that thinking produced fruit. I took the leave and organised the conversion of the large room at the back of my house into a self-contained studio apartment. My local lad and I re-landscaped the garden to create a second entrance for guests, constructing a large pond and planting out all the new areas with native shrubs. Half the garden, which had previously been mostly neglected, was now looking lovely and required minimal upkeep.
The studio had been only open for two months to guests (and booked out for the next two) when I was made redundant. Wham! I had everything I had wanted. I could stay home all day, I had an income from my property as I didn’t have to pay someone to do the cleaning now, I had a manageable garden and – best of all – I had TIME to garden.
I know there will come a time when I have to stop doing what I love – but I’m glad it isn’t JUST yet!
Editor’s note (March 2021): Peta’s business was called No.12 Margaret River. It was a commercial and lifestyle success. Peta is now leading an environmental movement in south-west WA: Nannas for Native Forests. Get involved.