Tools and Their Care

No one is born a perfect gardener. It’s a learned skill. Some of us began our education as children, helping our mothers or fathers or grandparents or aunties and uncles to weed and harvest and learn organically. Some of us were not so blessed and began our ventures much later in life, perhaps after becoming parents ourselves. And our styles are varied and abundant. And mine is random, experimental, delving, deeply appreciative, and full of curiosity. Concurrent is a gradual learned discipline, ever evolving, shaping our lives in the garden, and this includes our use and care of tools.

Folks who have read my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy might recall a saying I learned from my Brazilian gardener, that it was “better to dig a five dollar hole for a fifty cent plant than a fifty cent hole for a five dollar plant”. This bit of wisdom, coupled with the realization that the men in my life who were gardeners were able to do things I could not not because they were men, but because they owned the proper tools for the job, got me to start investing in some for myself. Haha. 😉

One of those tools was a lawn mower. And gradually the accumulation grew and they all have their various and sundry places now, in my home–out in the shed, if used less often. The many pairs of gloves live with the small tools in a handy drawer in the dining area. Every single time I open this drawer my Border Collie, Ruby, runs to the back door in anticipation of going into the garden. It’s very endearing. But she’s right. We are off for a good time and some exploring.

Nearby is a larger drawer filled with Big Tools. Let’s just call them that, OK? Occasionally I am called to use them.

And the third spot in my home is a little cubby in the kitchen, sharing space with indoor tools. Its height allows for long tall tools, and keeps them clean and handy. Blower, small rake, edging tool and cutting tool all at the ready.

So, with good storage handled, what else need I consider?

I must confess to not always getting the shovels back into the shed in a timely fashion. I’ve learned that soaking a shovel sporting rust in a mild solution of water and vinegar does most of the hard work. A bit of steel wool might still be required to finish the job.

If I told you I followed professional advice and washed my clippers each time I used them with soap and water to avoid passing along (whatever) from plant to plant, I’d be lying. But I do rinse them off and that will do for now.

After researching the care of wooden handles of our shovels, etc. I concluded for myself that oft-recommended linseed oil, which is combustible, was not anything I was going to adapt, and have opted instead for a bit of high quality olive oil to maintain my handles. If someone has a better idea, that does not involve the possibility of burning down the shed, I’m open to learning.

While all of the above I consider important, the tools I’m most inclined to want to encourage my gardening readers to care for is your own body. Your hands and nails, your skin, your muscles, eyes, hair, lungs and feet are all integral to happy and successful gardening. Here’s a quick list:

*Hands and nails are best kept healthy and happy protected with gloves. Find a pair or two you love. It can make all the difference. Moisturizing and sunscreen are important. Have nail brushes handy when you shower or bathe, as well as at the sink. Use a really good handcream often. (I love Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Cream.) I give my nails a quick filing after every gardening adventure.

*Cuts and bruises need care. Wash cuts–no matter how small–with soap and water and treat with something you trust. Bruises do well with an application of arnica gel. Big bruises do better with Tiger Balm.

*Muscles need to be stretched prior to use. And incorporating an additional practice that strengthens muscles avoids injury.

*Wear a hat in the sun. Find one you LOVE. Otherwise you will collect a few that never seem to make it to the top of your head. I love the ones that serve specifically as sun protectors.

*Wear proper footwear! I invested in Hunter wellies this year and I love the protection they offer me in wet weather–up to my knees!

*If you suffer from allergies, protect yourself from pollens as you can. I use Alleraide and it basically eliminates symptoms. It’s homeopathic.

Those are some of the things I’ve learned over the years. I would love to hear some of your tips to make gardening one of the happiest activities in your life.

Love and gardening blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Blog news: Honored to once again have this blog be acknowledged as one of the top gardening blogs around. I’m so glad it serves so many people. It’s my joy and privilege to share from my corner of the world here in Northern California. Thank you for visiting!

“Feel not obliged to make good use of every ripe fruit on the vine.”

While living in Sonoma County on these four acres of land at the end of a dirt road there happened to be, as mentioned, a lovely apple orchard at the entrance to the property. This gave me the opportunity to learn about tending to twenty-three trees. During my first winter there, there was an early freeze and subsequently not that many apples emerged in the springtime. Imagine my surprise when in the second spring each tree’s limbs hung towards the ground under the weight of hundreds of apples. A full crop. What to do? In the beginning I diligently and happily climbed a ladder and picked blemish-free apples and mailed a large box to my parents and a large box to my daughter, being careful to have them approved by the local agricultural office before putting them in the mail so as not to unwittingly introduce some hidden menacing bug into another territory. They were always pronounced as fine. Then there was the round of picking for my own self. My canaries loved the abundant fresh organic fruit. Next an offer to neighbors,many of whom had their own trees to harvest. I felt the urgency to share the abundance and my good fortune. I began feeding apples from the ground to the donkey and horse next door, whose fences ran across the edge of my property. They joyfully complied and I discovered that they began to do all their daylong grazing along my fence-line in hopes that I might emerge and toss them some fallen apples. Their owners hardly saw them! The apples continued to ripen and fall. What to do? I decided to call every food relief society within a two-county range to see if I could get someone to come pick the apples for hungry families. Sadly, I could not find a single agency who felt they had the manpower and /or insurance coverage to come pick apples for needy families.

I heard from one of the agricultural experts that coddling moths would be making their homes happily within any apples on the ground. One morning I gathered an entire orchard’s worth of fallen apples from the ground and put them in the recycling bin. Gone. Apples continued to fall. The horse and donkey and canaries burst with apples. I bought a dehydrator. I dried apples for Christmas presents, after dipping them in lemon water and cinnamon and sugar. Yummy, but very time consuming. What does one do with so many apples? Where does it end? I had apples in boxes on the back deck. I had apples in the refrigerator. I had apples in bowls in the kitchen. I took apples to my grandmother’s nursing home. Must I do something with all of them?

Very unexpectedly a new critter appeared on our hill. A lovely blonde mama coyote with her baby. She loved the apples. She was hungry and had a new baby to feed. By this time the end of the season was nearing and apples stubbornly clung to branches, withering. I begin to shake the trees allowing the last apples of the season to fall. I left them for mama coyote. I advised both Cheyenne the donkey and Reno the horse that all subsequent apples would fall to the mama and her babe. But Cheyenne protested vociferously. She bucked. She brayed. She tossed her head and loudly hee-hawed as each morning I would walk to the orchard with my dogs and not feed her. Most mornings we would see mama coyote scamper out of the orchard into the surrounding pine forest.

So the season ends. And I realize that I am not obliged to make good use of every ripe fruit on the vine. The Earth and its inhabitants will naturally recycle what I am not able to use. It will be someone else’s joy and benefit. I can count on a master plan. I realize that life offers us myriad choices and that as we say yes to some, and no to others we might feel we have missed out on something, or that others, like Cheyenne, might protest loudly at our choices, feeling abandoned and not understanding. Choices we must make, however, and trust that whatever is left behind will serve a fellow being.

This is an excerpt from Kathryn’s book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden, which is available on, as a Kindle e-book at Amazon sites around the world, and at various indie bookstores around the country.

Book and Blog News: Lovely news! Gardening blogger/author Helen Yoest has kindly included Plant Whatever Brings You Joy blog in her column in the spring issue of Country Gardens Magazine Many thanks to her!

Spring blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

First Signs

I must admit, as much as I appreciate the much needed rain, I am far more reluctant to venture out to the furthest reaches of the garden due to The Mud Situation. But venture I did recently, fetching a dog. Imagine my surprise when I turned round and saw the quince all awash in buds, some of them already opening. I caught my breath and realized immediately I’d been missing something while seeking refuge in the warmth and comfort of my cozy home. I promised myself I’d put on my new wellies and see what other magic I’d been “avoiding”.

“Beauty surrounds us, but we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” ~ Rumi


These red camellias, of course, had caught my eye. I’m eternally grateful for their emergence each spring. The 17″ of rain that fell on us in January has forced their blossoming earlier than usual, but the noting of subtle changes each year adds to the mystery and does nothing to change my appreciation. On the contrary, I think the changing pattern actually accentuates my gratitude. Take nothing for granted.

My excitement was most reserved for the wild violets, however. There are the traditional purple ones, about which I have written–one of the most visited posts on this blog in its seven plus years! There is a deep and abiding love for wild violets, and I wish more nursery people knew and appreciated that fact, the hunger for them so apparent. And then one year the white ones emerged. I have no idea how or why. But they are equally charming.

“Cherish the beauty of the season.” ~Kathryn Hall, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden

Walking along the side of the house in my peripheral vision I saw an unexpected blue tinge. I bent to see what had caught my attention and saw it was a borage, full of buds, preparing to open. I am particularly fond of borage and make no attempt to discourage it, wherever it wends its way. The bees adore it–always a plus– and it offers its lovely pure blue color from early spring to well into cold weather.

Rounding out taking stock of my waterlogged garden was the discovery of blossoms on the rosemary, and a struggling but determined primrose, whose cheery face I welcomed!


I will henceforth be taking those delicious restorative walks in the rain. With two lovely Border Collies I have good company, and, lucky me, they are always willing companions, regardless of the weather.

What is it that is emerging in your garden that sustains your spirit these days? I look forward to hearing how spring is making itself known in your world.

Love and end of winter blessings,
Kathryn xoxo
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