Goodbye Grumblings

Find the good

Cranky? Work up a sweat and get dirty!

Gardening is my favourite way to get filthy. I picture someone wearing spotless white clothes and a big straw hat. A tall drink with ice cubes clinking softly waits nearby. My reality is pretty much the opposite: sunscreen, sweat and filthy clothes. Usually I remember to bring a water bottle out with me. The more I need a shower when I’m done, the happier I am.

See how spotless she is? Don't ask me how she does it!

See how spotless she is? Don’t ask me how she does it!

As a child, I considered gardening a chore, and would grumble when Mom would send me out to get carrots or beans, or worse, beets, from the garden. I had no interest in growing things myself until my late twenties, when Mom helped me make a small garden and I grew some flowers. The next year, an amazing wall of cucumbers grew up and obscured the entire living room window. I was hooked.

Now gardening has become an antidote to grumbling instead of a trigger for it. Why do I enjoy it so much? Some of the reasons I’ve come up with are qualities that also make gardening an excellent tool to combat Grumblings. Into the bag of holding it goes!

Here are 15 reasons I love to garden, in no particular order.

  1. As someone whose hobbies and whose work are sedentary, gardening is the thing I do that makes me sweatiest and dirtiest. Shovelling, hauling bags of dirt or mulch around, wheel-barrowing, pulling weeds, even mowing and trimming plants — these all work up a sweat. I usually end up with dirt in my hair and shoes, and under all my nails. It feels like good, clean, honest, hard-earned sweat and dirt.
  2. Gardening produces immediate, tangible results: a pile of weeds, a plant that sprouted from a seed, a momentarily tamed spot in the garden.
  3. I can’t stay mad when I’m gardening.
  4. After the long winter, soaking up a little fresh air and sunshine feels not only therapeutic, but necessary.
  5. I get to keep company with trees and other growing things, which is good for me!
  6. I’m doing work that contributes to the household, and I feel good about that. No-one bothers me. (They know I’ll either talk to them about plants or find jobs for them.)
  7. There’s no phone, no email, no screen. If I have my phone outside with me, it’s either ignored on the front step or playing an audio book or a podcast.
  8. It’s alone time. Even if neighbours stop to chat, it’s brief. Because I’m working!
  9. I forget many of the names of the plants in my garden over the winter; it’s good mental exercise to re-learn them.
  10. There’s plenty of fodder for my imagination. According to folklore, knowing the true name of something gives one power over it. I prefer to co-exist harmoniously with the plants, though I do think it’s probably a good thing that the creeping Charlie doesn’t know my true name. (My brother suggested I put up a sign. I’m thinking of one indicating that wildflowers are welcome if they share space nicely.) Plant names really are amazing. If you put them in the right order, you can almost find a story. Look:

Rose of Sharon. Lady’s mantle. Spotted dead nettle. Russian sage. Creeping Charlie. Hosta. Black-eyed Susan. Lemon balm. Creeping phlox. Japanese spurge. Snow-in-summer. Bachelor buttons. Lily of the valley. Forget-me-not.

  1. Each plant brings to mind an anecdote, a memory or a joke. The yellow yarrow plants are Thing Two’s favourite colour, and remind me of her primary school science project, which taught us about the medicinal properties of this plant. The rose of Sharon reminds me of a good friend who gave the shrub to me, and of my twin sister who died at birth. It’s surrounded by black-eyed Susans. The maple tree that has survived over a decade of winters in a small pot reminds me of Thing One’s plans to make a bonsai. In front of the row of monster hosta plants, a small oval rock is painted with the words “A hosta situation” — a silly pun that always makes me smile. The handfuls of mint that I rip out of the garden remind me that those experienced gardeners who recommended keeping it contained were right after all. It does smell lovely, though.
  2. When I’m gardening, my hands are busy, and my mind can wander at will. In the rush of day-to-day, I don’t always take time to daydream. I feel better when I do, and some research says that daydreaming is good for you.
  3. Gardening is good for my bug jitters, if facing my fears is the way to minimize them. It takes about a month every year to get used to the creepy crawlies who share the garden with me. Into July, I rarely do the get-it-off-me dance. I do, however, keep the gloves on most of the time. Just in case.
  4. Gardening appeals to my love of order and my contrary desire for a little chaos. I make small pockets of order amid extravagant and chaotic growth. The plants work very hard over the summer, growing and blooming as hard as they can. The June-to-September season is short, and they really give it their all.
  5. In short, gardening decreases my stress and gives me a feeling of well-being.

If gardening doesn’t do it for you, plenty of other activities share some of the qualities I’ve listed. Look for something productive that gets your muscles working. Something that keeps your body busy so your mind can wander. Something that you can really get into… and get all over you. If not gardening, what kinds of things work for you? Could be a risky question, but how do you like to get filthy and sweaty? What’s your best way to work off a mad? Send an email to susan  at  or leave a comment.


About GrumblingSusan

Word lover. Story addict. Daydreamer. Optimist. Ottawan. Treehugger. Scouter.

4 Replies

  1. Jennifer Kaip Hanrahan

    Hi Susan, I just finished weeding my front garden and I’m watching my zucchini grow and this year I planted to tomatoes for the first time in 15 yrs. I believe this year is a tomato sun shine year. If you know Calgary it’s a difficult city to grow things especially in the North.

    Finally on you blog, and I like your grumbling.
    Love Jennifer

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thanks Jennifer! Good luck with your tomatoes. I like the sound of a tomato sun shine year. (-:

  2. Totally with you on this. For chasing away a bad mood, the dirtier and sweatier the better.
    Lately, I’m having to add a good stinky spray of some caustic chemicals if I want to get anything done outside, as well. Even yuckier, so I look forward to it less, but the benefits are still there.
    Your words helped pry me from the couch when I sorely needed it.

    1. GrumblingSusan

      I too find that I have a motivation hump to get past before I can enjoy the benefits!

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