Friday, 4 April 2008

A Spade Is For Life.

When I was on my dinner break today I popped on over to see what Woody has been up too, although I was a bit concerned when I read ‘I've also banged three Bishops in’, I was just wondering what on earth Woody had against bishops when he revealed that he was referring to the Dahlia by the name of “Bishop of Llandaff” Anyway he’s gone and discovered part of an old greenhouse plus a grapevine, he also goes on to ask the question. “How old can a spade be and still be in use?” I think this was a good question, especially as he goes on to ask which would wear out first, the handle or the blade. I’m thinking that it might depend on how often you use it and how well you look after it. If you just left it out in the weather for ages on end I reckon the shaft would probably rot but if looked after and used properly then perhaps the blade would eventually become worn so as to not be long enough to dig to a decent depth. You might think it’s a pain cleaning your tools at the end of each use, especially if you think you maybe using it again tomorrow but really it only takes ten minutes and who knows what will happen to stop you using them tomorrow. As you will see if you look at my calendar I set aside 15 minutes at the end of every day to clean and put away my tools and that’s because a clean shiny tool is much easier to use than a dull old rusty thing. Anyway here is a picture of my digging spade, this spade only ever gets used for working the soil and never as a crowbar, axe, hammer or anything else that spades tend to get used for. I keep another spade for abuse like that. I have to confess that the spade you see is a bit of a ‘My Grandfathers Axe’ job in that the shaft is not the original. I like a spade with a longer shaft, I don’t know if its obvious by looking at the picture but the spade stands a few inches taller than your average spade and that’s because when I got it I took out the original shaft and put in a longer one. In the second picture you might be able to tell that the blade is wearing, especially on one side more than the other and that’s because I can only work one way with it so one side of the spade gets worked more than the other so I reckon in time the blade would wear down but I think this spade will last me out. Another interesting thing worth a mention is that a spade gets better with use, I hate using a new spade because it’s twice as hard work which is why you should look after your digging spade.

Another thing that Woody brought up was about taking on a new allotment. This is something I’ve often thought about because I’ve known several people take on allotments, usually they are overgrown and they spend all winter breaking their backs digging out couch grass and nettles etc. but you know how that one goes, come the spring and all the bits you’ve missed start coming through and its easy to get disheartened by what seems like a losing battle. I know to the purists amongst you this might be akin to swearing but the way I see it I think it would be better to just wait and let the weeds start to grow that first year and then spray the whole lot with ‘Roundup’ or similar, the only thing it hurts are the weeds, it doesn’t stay in the soil or hurt animals and then at least you have a clean sheet to start with, you don’t need to spend back breaking hours picking out roots, stripping the sitting room of its carpet or anything like that and once dead the weeds can be dug in. I don’t like using sprays myself but if it meant the difference between heart break or happiness then I would do it just once that first year. Its commendable to be truly organic but not at the expense of failure. I think it would be better to have a plot full of non organic veg than one full of organic weeds.


Anonymous said...


Jim said...

My dad used to file the edges of his spades and shovels to get them sharper. I don't do that but do wash off all the dirt when finished.

We will be in Irelend, west and south of Dublin, arriving in Dublin on the 15th and leaving the 21st.
We will do the usual tourist thing, daughter Karen (33) likes gardens and castles. She is an accountant so I'm betting she has a list of them for us to see. I liked the Blarney Castle and Gardens and she wants to kiss the stone.
Two hotels and four B&Bs, three nights at the one we stayed in before in Kilarney.
The last night will be a stay at Powers Court. That is where I fell and broke my kneecap last spring. A Leprichaun pushed me down some stairs.

No England for us this year though. We would be picking your brain real good for if we were.

Woody Wilbury said...

Hi Bob

I confess I like a long-handled spade too and I agree that the digger and the spade wear together. Over time a spade definitely accomodates to you and you to it. A brand new spade can be a horror to use until you've got used to each other. Like you I'm very 'handed'. I'm strongly right-handed - when I dig I work left to right and when I get to the end of the row I walk back to the beginning and start left to right again, rather than digging my way back along right to left.

And I did precisely what you described when I took my plot over. Pretty much a scrorched earth policy really. Strimmed it down, waited for fresh new regrowth, sprayed the lot, waited for it to die and dry off then burnt it all off.