The Garden Basket.
In every garden magazine you always see people collecting their garden produce with these sorts of baskets. These people wear wide brimmed hats, sunscreen, and sensible-coloured clothing (that matches from head to toe and probably has no carbon footprint, not to mention the fact that it probably decomposes nicely after they discard it). They always have a proper hairstyle. They wear garden clogs (fancy clean garden clogs with fancy clever patterns on them). They have nice smiles, too (gleaming sets of teeth that give me huge Tooth Envy). And their baskets are always the same: wide, flat, natural fibres. Filled with strangely coloured vegetables I've never been able to grow. They stand in their twenty perfectly groomed acres plus super cool greenhouse-made-from-antique-glass-windows with their baskets on their arms, dog frisking around their feet, chickens off to the side. Stuff like that. It's a beaming portrait of garden bliss.
It's also rather galling. I am so not a beaming portrait of garden bliss. Ask the teenager - he's taken to giving me startling and horribly disconcerting comments on my advanced decrepitude of late. Tonight we were discussing the Spanish soccer player Puyol at dinner and how he's the Old Man of the team (at 32) and Max burst out with "Ha! Imagine what YOU GUYS would be if you were on that team! Ha ha ha!"
Editor's note: Teenager now knows never to refer to mother's age with scathing/mocking/jocular tones ever again, particularly if he wishes to live to see his own decrepitness one day. He also knows not to chortle too loudly with a open mouthful of hummus when mocking mother's imminent senility but we won't get into that...
Anyhow. Back to me and my decrepitude. It's why I never feature photographs of myself in my garden on the blog. My summer clothing is always a tattered stretchy dress and rubber boots or grubby, falling apart runners. My figure is a little on the frumpy side. I neither gleam with rude health nor do I glide around gracefully in my well-matched garden twin-set. And most of you already know of my travails with my teeth. No gleaming, beaming well-matched sets there, either. (Sheila gives a sob as she considers the rude state of her teeth)
But...I do have a basket. I almost gave it away to the Sally Ann a while back, thinking as I did so about all those Beautiful Garden People and their baskets. "Ha," I thought, "this is a stupid-looking basket. Who gets stuff out of their garden with this? I'd feel completely idiotic."
I saw one of these baskets on Martha Stewart's blog the other day, funnily enough. It was filled with way too much tarragon, a fact which made me wild with envy because I love tarragon and it's the one herb I struggle to understand. I bought five plants when we moved here and today I have two and a half (the half is somewhat dead and no it is not pining for the fjords). And you what my first thought was when I looked at that gorgeous Martha basket of tarragon? I thought "OMG, Martha and I have the VERY SAME BASKET."
Can you guess where I'm going with this? (Sheila rolls her eyes)
I started using my Martha Basket. I gathered kale leaves, young beets, lettuce, peas, and stalks of mint before dinner. I used it to collect cut flowers for the house. I put a little peg on the wall near the door so I always know where it is. (I also used a big whack of duc tape to mend the handle but maybe we shouldn't get into that - kind of spoils the picture, doesn't it)
And I hate to admit this, given how much I take the mickey but it's actually a very sensible design: the flowers can lie flat, the vegetables can recline in their own little corner without rolling together, and you can pile a fair bit of greenery in it.
So there you go.
I would have subtitled this post In Which Sheila Has A Moment Of Rude Awakening About Garden Baskets And Discovers That It's All Good but that would have given it all away, then, wouldn't it?
By the way, I made some of these ice cream sandwiches for my kids and their friends today. I cheated a bit, using a box of cookies and some big box store ice cream and chocolate chips on the top (instead of ganache) but it's hot here right now. Too hot to be baking and ganaching. But they sure were good. So I'm going to leave you not with my Tarragon Travails but with a nice sweet finish.