Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Making light of lavender
You may remember that a little while ago I picked sheaves of the lavender that I have growing in my garden, carefully bagged them and hung them up to dry here. They were all hanging in the covered area by the back door, but when the Head Chef started wielding a hose in a fit of enthusiasm for jetting out the gutters during the only rainstorm we have had for months, I decided that it was time to bring the lavender inside. Even with a slight dampening, and without any heat, they dried off nicely, and then I was faced with the task of removing the lavender heads from the stalks.
Although I had only picked half of the flowers so that I would leave plenty for the bees, I had bags and bags of lavender to process, and I was not making much progress on my own. The Head Chef and number one son, the Ploughboy, did very kindly watch me as I did one bag, and I then swapped a trip to the station for some volunteer labour, but still the mountain of lavender loomed.
And all of these store stump tasks are like that – the harvesting and the processing of mountains of produce in that short window of time between readiness and rot. Yet to be truly sustainable and self-sufficient, and to survive throughout the year on the fairly minimal monetary income that a smallholding will provide, means that these tasks are necessary. Although humans have lived in this way for most of history, and in many parts of the world still do, this is something that we lose sight of in a world of supermarkets and seven day a week shopping.
And the difference nowadays for those of us who make the choice to try and live like this is that we are the exception to the rule, so we face these mountains of produce on our own. In the past, much of this work was done on a communal and sociable basis, and thus much of the lonely laboriousness was mitigated.
And the solution for me, too, was a bit of communal work – the dear Seaside Landlady and her daughters provided the many hands that made light work. What had been a solitary and seemingly endless burden for me on my own was despatched in a trice by a few helping hands. D H Lawrence wrote that if work ‘doesn’t absorb you / if it’s never any fun / don’t do it’, which is very fine and dandy, but I would say if it’s not fun, then find someone to help, and it will be done in a twinkling.
Lawrence does go on to talk about the value of creativity: doing what you love, making things for yourself, and ‘smash the machines’, but he also writes ‘When a man goes out into his work …’ (my italics), and I somehow feel that he hasn’t really engaged with the concept of the monotony of housework. As we all know, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Anyone fancy helping me with that?