I have few memories that date back to when I was four, but the garden shed is one of them. This magnificent place was the Dexter’s laboratory of 1965 with every tool and every material needed for house and home.
The gardener, called Mr Gardner (I kid you not) was a kind and caring man who spent more time with me than my own father. He wasn’t chatty, he didn’t tell me war stories or anything about his life, instead he showed me the tools and how he used them.
He was extremely organised and I expect back in 1965 the lack of resources forced people to find ways of reusing everything they could. The throw-away culture didn’t exist yet, at least not in the garden shed.
Jam jar lids fixed underneath shelves held jars providing useful visible storage for 30 to 50 different novelties including powders, potions, screws, nails, seeds, bicycle valves and extraordinary, sometimes astonishing materials.
They were practical, cheap, attractive and I had an endless curiosity that never once was too much trouble for Mr Gardner to oblige.
Then there were his ‘pottles’, not just the huge ornamental ones used to create mini indoor biosphere’s but everything from large jars to old fashioned whisky jars.
These contained peculiar smelling bulbs and liquids and yes, some were even fermenting. I don’t know if any of it was drinkable but I remember the shock of my first pickled walnut, or was it a chestnut? Either way it was horrible.
Rows of small glass pots, similar to cockle pots, were used for growing new seeds. These were transferred to red pottery pots and to the garden in warmer months.
There was no electricity so candles in jars illuminated the darker depths of the shed. He made the candles with fat provided by the kitchen and peppermint and other herbs from the herb garden.
Everything Mr Gardner needed was in the garden. If a shovel or a fork needed a new handle he would make it, if a door creaked, a bike squeaked or roof leaked, something in one of his jars would inevitably be used to fix it.
Brushes were made from fallen twigs and if he needed string to bind anything he would use cordage made from the sweet chestnut, willow, elm, oak and lime trees growing in the garden.
Today I don’t have a shed but can’t help hoarding jam jars in anticipation of one day owning one just like Mr Gardner’s. The ancient smell intermingling with the home made candles, pickling and fermenting jars and the dark recesses of a very long shed with wooden floors is a retirement ambition, something to look forward to.
Glass can be recycled, no need to remove the label or wash them out. Enter your postcode in the form below the video to find your nearest drop off point.
But consider keeping the jam jars…
Glass Bottles - how they are recycled from RecycleNow on Vimeo.
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