Conversation at Permaculture groups and gardening gatherings at my age always turns to aches and pains. People want to keep on gardening but struggle with bits and pieces falling off – arthritis, new joints, RSI, old sports injuries, heart problems and so on. We’re a crotchety old lot. Anyway, I have recently had neurology surgery and now I am never able to bend, stretch or twist my lower back, or lift heavy objects. So here I am with a new large growing project and realising I have to adapt to this new order of things in the health department.

I have over the years partly wrecked my body already with gardening.  I developed tennis elbow and RSI in the 1990s, due very much I think to gardening on heavy London clay which makes everything hard going. I discovered Peta fist grip ergonomic gardening tools then and have been using them ever since. I was introduced to them at THRIVE the organization for social and therapeutic horticulture when I was on one of their wonderful courses.

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Peta  Ergonomic Gardening Tools



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Getting stuck in with Peta Fist Grip Trowel.

I have worked out over the years many ways of making my gardening easy, little tweaks and small alterations. Here is one of them – the watering can launch pad! Build a small pile of bricks and slabs under a tap to lift up watering cans to an easier height for lifting off!


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The Watering Can  Launch Pad

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So easy to set off with a watering can now!

I have lots more tips I plan to share and I also want to have conversations and explore ideas with you too. I hope to be growing food well into my 80s so that’s a lot more gardening.  The Permaculture maxim of making gardening ‘the least work’ is apt, and my no-dig, no-work methods pinched from Ruth Stout are serving me well.

I’m going to run a ‘mixed agility’ gardening class next year. I always have some high raised beds and learners  are always amazed at how easy that makes it to cultivate and work the ground. Little things like this and the right tools make so much difference.  Follow this blog for more ideas!

And if you are under 40 you probably don’t need to be reading this post yet – just send the link to a gardener who is older than you!



In which I learn about the curious nighttime calls of two owl species.

I have never before lived in a place where I hear owls so often as here. Mostly my knowledge of owls came from Winnie the Pooh, but I am learning now how important habitat like this valley is for them. The Tawny owls live up in the ancient beech woodlands above the village – much of it is National Trust at Standish and Randwick. When we walk up to the Throat at Ruscmobe at dusk we hear them warming up their voices in the woods. Then as a lie in bed I hear their  traditional ‘twit twoo’  hoots coming and going as they sweep across the valley searching for food, and I find their presence quite soothing and expected.

What I never realized before is that the Barn Owl has a different voice altogether.

Barn Owls  have a really eerie screechy sort of shriek which I find quite disturbing. I hear it over the field, I sense when they fly off away and come around the front and hang around the church and graveyard, quite disrupting the peace of the night. I truly don’t mind, although it does wake me up. I love fresh air and we sleep with windows flung open in all weathers. I feel privileged to share my space with them, and hope they have luck hunting for small mammals in my field. I do wonder where they live, as I have learned that  barn owls are hard pressed nowadays to find the holes for nesting in agricultural buildings which they like to use. Most of our Cotswold stone barns around here are ‘housified’ .

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Woodland Green – view at the Throat,  Ruscombe  – the woodland rising behind our village.


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Not a bonfire pile but but a habitat pile – for small mammals, snakes, insects.


In the field an unexpected late outing with the mower for Nigel. It has been a warm and moist autumn so the grass just keeps on growing. More mulch for the veg plot, and especially nice now it has chopped up fallen leaves in it too – worms love leaves.  On top of the beds where we grow squashes , we put a layer of  cardboard over the dandelions first and then piled  on the grass clippings. Then I will dib in a load of broad bean seeds. This means the soil is protected for the winter, the nutrients are there for next year’s squash, there is food for the soil life and an edible green manure crop. Field beans which are sold as green manure are the same thing as broad beans.  So if you plant a kitchen variety of broad bean as your green manure you are guaranteed to get delicious beans as well. I actually plant ‘The Sutton’ which is a dwarf variety, only 30cm high which is suited to windy sites like this – otherwise I would have to stake them.  The rodents like bean seeds so I plant them generously to make sure some are left. But the rodents feed the owls of course, which I so love…

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The Mower Man

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Spreading the lovely mulch of grass clippings and chopped leaves