I do substitute teach occasionally, but the pay is not that great. Besides, I can't substitute on Wednesdays because that is my Tai Chi day, and if it's sunny outside, of course I'd rather be in the garden. What I have been looking for instead is some kind of work that has more flexible hours and something totally different that wouldn't feel like work at all. Something related to gardening would be enjoyable, but I'm hardly qualified to be a landscape designer or a garden coach.
Then a few weeks ago, I had a brainstorm. I have been preparing a new flowerbed for next spring, and inspired by Tina's excellent post on "double digging," I decided to spade up a patch of lawn rather than using the tiller to break up the sod. This project may take me until spring to complete because I work only a short time each day that it isn't raining. Tina admitted that while she once was able to dig up a new flowerbed in a day, it now takes her a few days. I think we can all relate to this, but Tina has to be in much better shape than I am. After an hour of pushing the spade into the soil, lifting up a clump of turf, and throwing it over to the side, I need three hours of rest on the couch to recuperate. (Stock tip: the company making Ben Gay would be a good investment right now.) This doesn't even consider the strain on the knees later while spreading newspaper and additional soil or mulch over the freshly dug bed. (Note: add the makers of ibuprofen and acetaminophin to your stock portfolio.)
However, one day while waiting for Sophie to take care of her "business," I spaded a few more inches of the flowerbed-to-be and soon discovered I had an unknown source of gardening assistance. Finished with her necessary duties, Sophie ambled over and found my work intriguing. She quickly joined in and demonstrated an amazing ability to assist me, cutting my work time considerably. This inspired me to consider launching a new business helping others prepare new gardens. Considering the increasing number of baby boomers entering retirement and turning to gardening as a hobby, I think there is a real market for a new business of this type.
We're a long way from marketing our services just yet, but let me show you the potential here. Please be advised that these are very short amateur videos--I had to enlist the aid of my grandchildren to take them--but a more professional shooting would be used in future commercials or other advertising.
Notice how the gardening assistant carefully separates the turf from the soil, ensuring that the rich topsoil is not lost, but can be easily raked back into the garden area. After the initial spading by yours truly and the separation of sod and soil, the assistant continues with the next step.
This next step of "double digging," according to Master Gardener Tina, aerates the soil and produces a fluffy medium that provides an ideal growing environment for new plants. It also results in a raised bed for a more aesthetic appearance.
This new business is still in the drawing board stage, but I have finally come up with a name for our venture. After rejecting such names as "Doggie Digging" or "Sophie's Sodbusting," I have decided on "Golden Girls' Gardening Assistance." Just vague enough to pique curiosity, I hope. And just in case you are smirking, the name is an obvious reference to Sophie's pedigree and to the few strands in my hair that have retained their gold color, NOT to my age.
Of course, there are a few kinks still to be worked out. I spaded up a small area a month ago to plant the "Bloomerang Lilac" that had been languishing on my patio, and after digging up even more space, decided to finish this area off with a layer of newspapers and new garden soil so that I could also plant a lily and aster that had been purchased weeks ago. I returned home after some errands that afternoon to find pawprints all over the completed garden area and newspapers strewn all over the yard. Obviously, some employee training will need to be completed before we can open for business.
Since the formulation of the initial plan, I've also considered branching out into other areas. On Monday, we had a trial run of garden clean-up. I demonstrated to my assistant the ease of pulling out dead tomato plants and garden debris. Unfortunately, the grasshoppers jumping about all over the garden proved to be too much of a distraction. Again, additional employee seminars on productivity and learning to focus on the work at hand will be necessary before offering additional services.
I am not sure when I will be ready to open for business, but in this early stage I more than welcome any suggestions or constructive criticism you might offer me. And, if you are within easy driving distance, I might be able to arrange an experimental demonstration of our services. Since this would be strictly a trial run, the cost to you would be minimal--a few Snausages or a small cheeseburger should be sufficient.
Whenever we do launch our business, I do know that there will be this disclaimer on the contract:
"Not responsible for accidents if the gardening assistant is
allowed to enter a previously planted garden."