Of Woman’s Work.

Spring has gone berserk in the garden.

Storm comin’.

Apparently. So I’ve picked all the herbs for our dinner, (parsley, thyme, oregano), and I’ve battened down the proverbials.

We’re halfway through the school hols. Last week we flitted off to a beautiful place, where there was the ocean, and bush, and morning mists. And a boat I refused to set foot upon. Because I’m not fond of boats, (despite coming from generations – and I mean hundreds of years worth of hardcore Scottish and Danish seafarers). I let the side down there. But boredom, as well as the threat of seasickness (truly, I’m hopeless), swung in the favour of landlubbers everywhere.

However, it was a delightful change of scene. It was good to go, but even better to return. Because my dear old home. I’d rather be here than anywhere at all, if truth be known. In this here cottage, on the side of this mountain.

I’m taking a little more time away from my work, so that I can hang out with the Moon-girl. We’ll wander, see a film. She’s here at the table with me, painting for a school project, (why do they give them soooo much homework over the holidays??).

Anyway. Yesterday I chopped down a dead tree. Yup. A whole tree. I did get the husband to hold it a bit so it didn’t fall in the wrong direction. Or on me. Or on him for that matter. I’d be thoroughly incriminated in such a scenario, standing there with a saw in my hand, with his legs sticking out from under a large trunk. I can just see the headline: ‘Wicked Witch of the East Mountains Has Wicked Way With First Husband’, (my second husband will be a cheese-maker, my third a wine-maker).

Anyway, said tree was the skeletal ruins of a birch, (I think), that was doubtless dead and gone years before we took up residence. It was up in the wildish forest-y bit of the garden, where I want to cultivate a fairy grove. The poor old thing was not only impeding a large tree growing above it, (as well as blocking a surprising amount of light), it was also essentially a great, big bunch of kindling. And as we’re entering fire season soon enough, (always too soon), it had to go.*

Evidence of my morning’s efforts.

So that was yesterday. Today, I spent the morning cutting up a good deal of it, with my trusty little handsaw – we don’t have a chainsaw, and let it be known, that that is a Very Good Thing. Once it’s all cut, it will make for a decent pile of seasoned firewood and kindling for next Winter. I felt all productive, and pioneering. And smugly self-sufficient. Even though that’s every bit as deluded as Marie Antoinette in her rustic cottage,flitting about in her silks with her goats and calling it farming.**

But..it does feel good to do the work yourself and to not waste anything.

A bit earlier, I was chatting to someone, and mentioned my Garden Doings in passing, (it’s difficult to have a conversation with me without me banging on about garden stuff); and they were quite shocked. Said person (a woman) couldn’t quite comprehend that I had attempted such a thing, even with the Bloke holding up the odd branch. Because apparently, that’s what men are for. And for a few moments, there was a stunned silence. On both sides.

Because why not?

It was hardly a job that required an arborist, (to which I would defer on the majority of tree-felling occasions). Nor did it require uncanny strength, (I do know my limits, and uncanny strength is beyond me, and I would think many people). And, sure, it was hard on the arms, but I do think we limit ourselves often by thinking we’re not capable of certain things. And when needs must, and all that. I look at the marvellous work of Colette O’Neil of Bealtaine Cottage, and she’s one woman alone, cultivating three acres. Coppicing and managing all manner of land matters. If I ever doubt my ability to do things, or need a bit of inspiration, I look to women such as Colette.

Perhaps some women just don’t know of what they’re capable? Or perhaps they do, and they’re just cleverer than me, using the fact of their femininity as an excuse to avoid the hard, icky jobs? I don’t see it as a particularly appealing quality in a woman, all that fluttering and flirting, and asking other people to do stuff for you. I tend to blush (for them) at the manipulative transparency of it all.

I grew up around widows, who had been widowed many years, and remained alone. Out of necessity they just went and did things that needed doing, rather than wait for a man to show up, (they would’ve been waiting a good while, I tell you).

So I don’t go in for that waiting for a man to show up and rescue you, bullshit.

Here’s some borage to distract from the sweary bits.

Perhaps as a result of this, I’m not good at asking for help. Even after many years married, it just often doesn’t occur to me to ask for help. Not just from the Bloke, but from anyone at all.

The Bloke often asks me, “why didn’t you wait until I got home? I could’ve helped with that”.

“Because…I wanted to do it right then. If I’d waited, I might not be in the mood later…” And to be honest, it just seems a bit lazy not to it myself.

There are exceptions. Ahem. I confess that I don’t relish going under the house (into a confined space – *shudder* – claustrophobia), in the middle of the night, amongst all the cobwebs and filth to kick switch on the water pump that’s decided to chuck a tanty. That one I really don’t like at all, if truth be told. That one I try to avoid, (even though there’s a part of me that enjoys scaring myself). But stick me up high on a ladder, or on a roof, and I’m quite cheerful.

Well, I never saw where that conversation was going. But here we are.

I shall head off now and move about the rooms of this house, lighting candles. Because we’re deep in the gloaming and night is creeping down the mountain. And I’m going to sketch out a plan for a moonlight garden. Full of white and silver plants to enjoy by the light of Her Above.

Warmest wishes to you.xxx




*…unlike other dead trees, such as the giant gums around here, this tree wasn’t providing any crucial habitat for wee beasties such as owls and pillaging marsupials (‘possums).

**I would’ve done exactly the same as her. Versailles was horrid and stinky, and full of greedy rats, (as well as rodents). If you have bucolic inclinations, it would’ve been even more hellish. Poor old Queen Maz-Ant.

13 thoughts on “Of Woman’s Work.

  1. I can’t stand being dependent on waiting for somebody to get home!

    And sailing is the most tedious thing in the world, even more so than ironing. Not to mention windy and moist in the most unpleasant of manners.


  2. i do like your projected husband progression…cheesemaker next, then winemaker. eminently sensible!
    i joke that my next husband will be a woman. perhaps my bisexual best friend. although i’m sadly straight as it comes, we’d get on so well, and be able to have our little entertainments on the sides.i’m not at all sure that this mightn’t be a better way all around. not enough is said about the kind of partnerships that are truly loving and supportive, yet non-sexual (at least with each other)…i could easily see us growing grey and old together like two non-maiden aunts.

    and happily, my friend is very good at wiring and tree chopping and assembling things. i’ve done my share of “manly” outdoor tasks through the years, including coppicing, digging (small) drainage ditches, lugging stones about, and yes, removing dead/fallen trees with handsaws. as you say, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that one can do a thing oneself. not enough for me to want to do it again, however; but i am lazier than you. i sure as hell would not be going under a crawlspace to do anything with a water pump. nonononono.

    i had a moonlight garden once! at my former house. hull of fragrant night-blooming things, and white blooms. not that one can really sit out and enjoy such a thing here—mosquitoes will carry you away—but from the windows it looked and smelled utterly delightful. i remember carefully digging up some of the datura that grew wild along our driveway and transplanting them there. locally, they are called ‘jimsonweed’, and rather maligned as a thorny-podded nuisance that needed to be removed from cattle paddocks (because poisonous) and a thing that silly young gits would smoke for the high and occasionally require medical attention. but datura loves the moon. all but sings to it in the night…

    i feel you about the seasickness…despite growing up with boats (it’s all water down here in southern maryland!), i’ve never been good on the chop. i can barely ride a carousel, and anything that goes up and down or back and forth is moste unpleasante to my tum. water is very lovely indeed—-over there. *perhaps* lapping about my ankles. the deepest water i really enjoy being in/on is my bath, despite my own viking and probably other seafaring ancestors…

    your borage is lovely. such a joyful color. do let us know what plants you decide upon for your moon garden…


    1. There’s a lot to be said for having a wife, methinks. Australia is still lagging behind (shamefully, woefully) on the same-sex marriage laws. Because we do backwater so well here. But anyway, I do think when it inevitably goes through there may be all sorts of variations on same-sex unions.

      I can see a time when, due to the cost of living, and affordable (habitable) accommodation increasingly difficult to find, good friends who aren’t sexual partners, but are perhaps single parents, will live together as wife and wife (or husband and husband) and enjoy the legal, social and economic rights that other family units enjoy. Because there’s a lot of hardship, and struggle amongst single parents. Family is what you make, hey? There are so many ways we could transform, and evolve our ways of living and loving. The system should serve and support its citizens better.

      Also, I do often think of the Sister Aunts in Practical Magic – it’s a fairytale model, but in my mind, a perfectly feasible one : )

      I LOVE the sound of your moonlight garden! And the datura – I have a large tree – a brugmansia/datura relative, overhanging the spot where I’m planning my own moon garden. It’s partially the inspiration behind the idea : )

      It’s funny, my aversion to be on the sea. Because I’m more at home by the ocean than I am anywhere. It’s truly a calling home to my very bones. I’m the first generation on my maternal side to not live by the sea. It holds so much memory and soul-knowings for me. But being in it or on it – quite a different thing. Although, I have nearly drowned twice in my life, I don’t have a phobia about it. Just an aversion. xx


  3. Antoinette,

    Your garden is swoon-worthy, you plantswoman, you. And I’ve found the work labor required in maintaining land to be invigorating, healing, and well-filling. I’ve also had a degree’s worth of metal smith training so many of my previous sexist ideas on craft and hammers and fire and woodwork and drilling and sledgehammers and anvils were demolished in that experience, and I’ve found I’ve a lot more patience for it than many of the fellas around me anyway. I think many women would find it empowering if they gave it a shot.


    1. Oh it’s so lovely to “see” you Raquel!

      I’d love to have your skills with metal and using tools in general. I’m a willing body, but know always a knowledgeable one. And you’re right about women finding it empowering when we give it a go. It’s a shame we don’t grow up with being shown how to do stuff in sheds in the way our brothers often are.

      Having said that, I’m going to learn how to build myself a pergola – outside my back door. I’m going to get some help from someone who knows what to do, but I’m hoping to pick up some skills so I can do more in the future. xx


  4. The moths will love you if you provide them a silvery-white garden. Silvery-white flowers smell at night for exactly that reason, you know? To attract the mothy folk. I’m with you on girl power, except when it comes to spider-removal :o)


  5. Oh yes! Of course! You’ve reminded me of the moths, CT : ) I’d love some moth fairies about my place. The more little pollinators the better – especially if they’re working at all hours of the night : )

    As for spider removal. Um. Hmmm. I never used to have an aversion to them, but when I lived in a house that had a literal plague of giant huntsman spiders, I lost my nerve. Mostly it’s the Bloke who is happy to remove them, (and frankly tall enough to reach them). I tackle the odd one, but usually from the far end of a broomstick, (to take them outside, I never kill them). xx


  6. I’m not really very handy myself and usually have to hire someone to do things that I need done (like that tree, or fixing things around the house). Although I have been trying to be more self-reliant these days. You are quite inspiring to me. 🙂


    1. Oh Laura, I promise you I’m not very handy at all. And I don’t live in a handy household. We frequently have to pay people to do very straight-forward things. But I’m willing to learn – more and more these days I’m telling myself that I can do it, (I figure if I try to build confidence, it will come ; ). I think a lot of what I tackle is just born of my incurable impatience! Blessings to you also. xx


  7. I would think the wine-maker first, then the cheesemaker. Lay down some good reds, so they’ll be nice and mellow and ready to have with the cheese! I should be more handy and ‘proactive’ with the outdoor stuff, but the hubby is vastly bigger and stronger than I am, and teased me so much when I did some brick paving at our other house (precisely because I DIDN’T want to wait years for the perfect job…imperfect NOW is better than perfect at some distant point in the future, I figure!) that I usually leave it up to him. And trying to find ANY tool in the mess that is his shed (I thought I was disorganised!), means I usually have to ask where the drill, or the hammer, or whatever is, then he wants to know why I want it and what I’m going to do with it! Mind you, the imperfect paving did the job for almost 10 years (and I thought looked quite nice, rustic, you know!), before he decided to buy the brickies’ sand, get out the level, buy the matching pavers and do it PROPERLY…just before we sold the house and moved!


    1. Ha! Christina – I chuckled at that – a fine (and far more logical) plan to have the second husband as a wine maker, and the third a cheesemaker! Of course! ; )

      I certainly relate to having a husband that’s much bigger and stronger, (mine is a whole foot taller than me and twice as heavy). But neither of us is “handy”. Like you, I just get impatient when I want something done and have a bit of a go at it…it often ends up looking a bit half-arsed. I can well understand you wanting to pave yourself, rather than wait. xx


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