Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Christopher Columbus meets Walt Disney in the Orchard

There is a curious pattern of behaviour prevalent among gardeners whereby we garden for relaxation, yet we are incapable of sitting down and relaxing in our gardens because some little task will catch our attention and before we know it, we are gardening again. In our house it is known as Gardeners' Relaxation Aversion Syndrome (GRAS). 

Christopher Columbus took the vital first step towards remedying GRAS in Europe by introducing the hammock. When lolling in a hammock, the gardener's eyes are diverted skywards and away from all those little gardening tasks and should a weed be detected, the effort of exiting a hammock in haste is enough to subdue any desire to spring into action. The indigenous people of Middle and South America called the hammock the “cradle of the gods”; I like to think of it as the “cradle of the gardener”. 

A hammock with a view in Tuscany
My own research, involving rigorous relaxation in hammocks and more than a few extremely pleasant garden visits, suggests that the most effective treatment for GRAS involves a combination of hammock and orchard, so in the name of research (along with a passion for growing food and a love of orchards), I have been planting more fruit trees. 

Last year I popped a medlar in the farmhouse garden. I did this because in the seventeenth century, Culpeper credited the medlar with "making joyful mothers". It's a pretty enough thing, but I can't say there has been a significant increase in maternal joy in our house. Perhaps that will change when it fruits. To add to the medlar, we now have apples, pears, plums, gages, cherries, mulberries and quince in the orchard. Anyone might think that Walt Disney was directing the planting, which was overseen by a wise owl

with a pheasant surveying posts



and Sprout doing the fetching and carrying....(and no, we didn’t whistle while we worked). 


Planting trees is an investment in the future. These saplings are unlikely to support fruit for a year or two, let alone a hammock cradling a chocoholic welly-shod gardener, so I am going to plant a couple of sturdy, highly secured posts adorned with honeysuckle to support my cradle. Of course, the probability of finding my dream cradling device - the heated hammock - is about the same as the likelihood of the pheasant fitting on the seed feeder, but we shall both remain optimistic.


Come spring, I will lie in my hammock in an orchard filled with bird song and apple blossom. Mr and Mrs Pheasant and their jolly brood of young will parade past Sprout as he slumbers contentedly in the meadow grass under the watchful gaze of the wise owl. I will close my eyes and give thanks for Christopher Columbus' discovery and its soothing influence on GRAS, before leaping from my cradle in an ungainly fashion as GRAS reminds me that the lawn needs mowing. 


88 comments:

  1. GRAS...love that acronym and it's so true!

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    1. Cheers! I am hoping that by giving it an acronym, non-gardening nearest and dearests might be more sympathetic to our condition.

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  2. I'm very pleased you've given a name to my condition!
    Your dreams will of course come true one day - you've done the most important thing - getting started!
    I am imagining the scent of the honeysuckle as you lie back and relax, wonderful!

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    1. It's really hard to believe that the summer honeysuckle will ever flower this year... actually, given the seemingly constant snow, the honeysuckle may still be in its black plastic pot in the summer, so if the weather is poor, I may take it indoors and lie on a sofa and pretend.

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  3. That's so true! I have GRAS, definitely. Stunning pictures! Have a great Tuesday!

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  4. I thought this was going to be one of those school games - when x met y in the z etc.

    Love the owl shots.

    I'm not sure a medlar will add to your happiness, we have one and although the fruits are interesting we have only used them once to make medlar jelly. It's a case of when does bletting turn into rotting? The quince is delicious though and a better candidate for bringing happiness.

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    1. I am rather looking forward to the whole bletting business, but I am more than a little concerned about over-bletting (if that's possible). I am very pleased about the quince though, I planted two of them, so double the happiness!

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  5. Looks like a fun time in the garden. Sprout is the perfect name for a gardener's dog. Your owl and pheasants are gorgeous.

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  6. Even without the hammock, I'd welcome a bit of spring weather... lovely blog as always. thank you. great to see Sprout being so helpful :-)

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    1. It is the eternal winter. It snowed last weekend... it's snowing this weekend... I am actually struggling to remember a weekend when it hasn't snowed, which has been a real problem for our bare-root hedge planting... but not as much as an issue as Sprout, who has a thing for sticks and keeps running off with the plants!

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  7. I think the hammock would take my mind off the gardening purely because of the concentration of not falling off whilst trying to find my chocolate bar! I love your shots of the owl, I missed out on one while taking a picture of a sunset. Ho hum! Enjoy your GRAS time! Chel x

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    1. You may be onto a new design here.... perhaps there should be a safety harness, or a chocolate opening device on the hammock.

      Thanks for your comments about the owl - it is always around, which makes it rather easy to grab a photo, although it could be argued that I should manage to take a better photo given the owl's quite predictable hunting ground.

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  8. Very funny post. My problem with hammocks is that I keep falling out of them. Love the pictures of the owls!

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    1. Thank you! Clearly a hammock safety harness is required...

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  9. Sounds like you have such a lovely garden, hate hammocks I feel out and hit my head quite badly once.

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    1. Oh no! What a horrible thing to happen. This is sounding less and less like a good idea... clearly GRAS sufferers need a safety harness, chocolate-opening device and a hard hat in order to relax.

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  10. I think I have that...GRAS...someone take my temperature ;-)

    Seriously, such a great post and the photo of Sprout with pot in mouth, not to mention the owl...!! Just lovely.

    Do they make heated hammocks? Mine is just a poor rope one but, I can see through it when reclining and view the garden (when I am not sick with GRAS of course). I have always thought was a good thing it was rope, rather than a solid hammock.

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    1. Thank you! I don't know if they make heated hammocks... all I know is that I want one.

      Does the chocolate fall out between the ropes of your hammock?

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  11. You may have hit on a brilliant idea there - a heated hammock is just what's needed for the UK climate, there would almost certainly be a market for it... see all that research was worthwhile!

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    1. With the current weather, a snow-proof roof on the hammock would be an asset.... time to do more research...

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  12. Now I know the remedy for my problems! I tried putting seating in the garden but it hasn't worked at all. Now I know I needed seating that looked skyward.

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    1. Skyward and difficult to exit are the key characteristics. Seating was clearly invented by non-gardeners for non-gardeners ;-)

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  13. GRAS - now I know what's wrong with me! I've added seats around the garden and can't seem to sit still long enough to enjoy them. Your hammock idea sounds great!

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    1. Hi Martha -it is very thoughtful of you to provide seating for non-gardeners. They will be delighted that you have given them somewhere comfortable to relax and enjoy the results of all your hard work. Get yourself a hammock... hard hat... safety harness and a large bar of chocolate.

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  14. Oo a hammock lovely idea - I think it would be sadly redundant with the awful summer weather we had had over recent years. Great owl pictures - we have often seen them when on holiday in Norfolk.

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    1. Hi Elaine - yes we do seem to do well for owls up here; they are very much part of our landscape.

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  15. Love this post! As a fellow sufferer of the GRAS syndrome I do have a wonderful spot for my hammock and will try and relax in it for more than 15 minutes at a time this year... a heated hammock sounds like a wonderful idea too!

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    1. Thank you! Good luck with staying in the hammock!

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  16. I do agree with the concept of GRAS; a garden is always a work in progress. I love the photographs of the owl; how wonderful to see one. And I'm just waiting for (unheated) hammock-weather here.

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    1. Hi Wendy - it is wonderful to have the owl - they are such majestic creatures.

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  17. I like the EM Forster ref in the first photo too :-)

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  18. I love your Sprout helping in the garden. The owl and pheasant pictures are extremely beautiful, it never happens to me to get a pheasant nice on a picture and these owls I have never seen in our neighbourhood.

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    1. Thank you Janneke. You will have to book a holiday in Norfolk - they are very much part of our scenery on the farm!

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  19. Wow! pheasants and owls. Well done for planting ancient species like medlars

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    1. We are very fortunate indeed with our wild friends. The farmhouse was built in the sixteenth century, so the farmhouse garden seemed like a good place to plant a medlar.

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  20. Wise words - I too suffer from GRAS, and can confirm that a hammock is the perfect antidote, though it makes drinking a mug of tea or glass of wine a tad tricky. Lacking a orchard we have a hammock that came with a stand, not pretty but very effective. Now I just need more sunny warm afternoons to practice entering and leaving said hammock without endangering life and limb...

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    1. Oh! I hadn't thought of drinks! Now I need a hammock incorporating some kind of straw linking the gardener with the drink. The ideal hammock is quite a complicated piece of kit!

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  21. I loved this post. We had purchased a pretty hammock about 5 years ago and never put it up, as a result of GRAS. I sold it on Craigslist hoping someone would put it to use since it became obvious that it would sit in our closet forever. Enjoy yours when you put it up and take a long nap for me! ;)

    Petunia
    rustyspade.com

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    1. Hi Petunia - I will take you up on your kind offer to take a nap on your behalf. Thank you!

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  22. This is a wonderful post. So true about always spotting something more to be done in our lovely gardens. The photos ~ you are right like a beautiful Disney scene. What wonderment you have surrounding your garden. The pheasant and the owl and fun little Sprout are all magnificent creatures! Of course your garden sounds very captivating and obviously it is indeed.
    Despite the cold and snow we have had here in New England, I did notice our Honeysuckle thriving in the lattice ...hurray ~signs of Spring finally.

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    1. Thank you, Willow! Thank you too, for cheering me up with signs of spring. I have been nurturing honeysuckle in pots and have popped out to check them and they are showing signs of having come through this eternal winter. Spring is certainly on its way (even if it is still snowing here!)

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  23. Gras explains it all!! It is so very true that we are forever restless in our gardens. Your reference to Disney had me laughing out loud. Your tree selections sound spectacular and your land and the wildlife that comes to visit is AMAZING! Now if I could just find a place for a hammock in our space I might just be able to relax!!! All the best...and do they really make heated hammocks?!?

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    1. Thank you! The wildlife is spectacular; it is such a privilege to share space with these amazing creatures. If they don't make heated hammocks, it is about time somebody did, then again, after all the hedge planting we've been doing this past few days, a heated massaging hammock might be the way forward!

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  24. Great owl shot... and Sprout is gorgeous! Is there any treatment for GRAS without hanging up my wellies?

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    1. Oh you absolutely mustn't hang up your wellies! The heated, massaging, drink-dispensing, chocolate-unwrapping hammock should allow you a reprieve from GRAS AND allow you to keep your wellies on (just in case the hammock doesn't fulfil its brief and you need to spring into gardening action).

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  25. What a great post filled with wonderful thoughts. You are right about GRAS. Relaxation only happens in the gardens of others. I loved the shots of the owl and pheasant, two birds I wish I would see here. As a kid, I saw both daily in PA, now I have not seen a pheasant in 20 years.

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    1. Thank you! How sad not to have seen a pheasant for so long. I couldn't imagine our landscape without pheasants as there are so many here. I love to see them pootling around the garden - they are hilarious creatures and always make us smile.

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  26. What a lovely post. I too suffer from GRAS. In fact have it in an incurable form. I far prefer to work in my garden than sit around. I once made the mistake of telling Brenda that it is all play. She now with great relish tells me she works in the house and I play in the garden! (usually when she wants me to do some household chore). Before I met Brenda I had no seats in my garden, now it is littered with them!

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    1. Argh! Never admit to enjoying those gardening chores and always assume a miserable face when doing a particularly enjoyable gardening task, taking the time to comment wearily about how arduous it is to work when the weather is too hot/cold/windy etc.

      Is Brenda littering the garden with seats in the misguided hope that you might stop gardening long enough to sit in one? If so, make the effort to sit down soon, before the whole garden is furnished with seats and there is no space left for plants!

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  27. I was watching Michael Palin in Brazil last night. Hammocks were used everywhere, including on the ferry. As we now have to use a ferry to get to the mainland I'm hoping the idea will catch on.

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    1. That would be great so long as you don't hit rough water.

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  28. There's always something that needs doing in the garden. My next door neighbour has a hammock which is attached to a wooden frame, it looks so comfortable.

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    1. Would your neighbour mind if you tested the hammock which looks so comfortable?

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  29. The start of your post made me laugh. I was just accused of being one of those people who can't sit still earlier today, which I denied vehemently but now that I think about it I would never be able to relax in a hammock in my garden because I WOULD inevitably spy something that needed to be done!

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    1. Hello and thank you! It is too challenging isn't it? Perhaps we should include blinkers with the hammock.

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  30. I love hammocks! I had one for years, but my own severe case of GRAS made it difficult to completely enjoy it. If there is an effective treatment for GRAS, your orchard and its inhabitants surely must be it!

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    1. Oh I do hope the orchard will help. If not, at least we will have plenty to eat.

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  31. I am wondering has a reputible science journal published your in depth research into GRAS and am wondering is there a hammock for Sprout as he looks like a very hard worker too?

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    1. Sadly no, on both counts. Research by Swiss scientists into the effect of hammocks on humans has, I believe, been published, although as far as I know, their research did not extend to gardeners and dogs. This is a shame because I would love to see Sprout relaxing in a hammock!

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  32. YES! Yes, I have this! I can utterly relate to GRAS. I love going around other people's gardens yet find it close to impossible to relax in my own. As the garden is so small, I can sit in the middle of it and gently turn in a circle while my mind reels off the list of jobs it sees, prune this, weed that, pot on this, sow that. It's rare that I don't give in and reach for the hand fork. I'm sure it'll get better though, just as soon as I finish that list of chores...

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    1. That is a lovely image of you rotating in the centre of your garden! Perhaps a bench facing a fence might be a more relaxing (and less dizzying) solution!

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  33. Oh I totally understand this, we gardeners are neurotic about weeds, and placement. Not able to look at the garden without jumping up and doing something about something.

    Bring on the hammock.

    Jen

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    1. Exactly! I am beginning to think that hammocks should be compulsory.

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  34. I loved your post - brought a smile on this still chilly "spring" morning. I had a hammock once, which I never enjoyed but the kids loved. Currently I have a lovely chaise which my sister-in-law gave me, but I can honestly say I feel horribly uncomfortable lounging in it - too much to see, to much to do! GRAS - very clever, it is so nice to know I am not alone :)

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    1. Hello Brenda, I hadn't thought of the kids! They will definitely want to commandeer the hammock. I had better camouflage it with extra honeysuckle. What a generous sister-in-law you have!

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  35. "Come spring, I will lie in my hammock in an orchard filled with bird song and apple blossom." That sounds positively divine! It will be wonderful to have fruit grown in your own orchard and a comfy spot from which to admire your handiwork.

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    1. It will - although I will have to be patient. Spring is taking its time arriving and the buds on the trees are still tightly closed. Still I have my dreams...

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  36. Love this! I have a hammock and have often wondered while gardening why I don't spend more time in it. It's very enticing but I've never learned how to get out of it gracefully. I just roll myself out of it and hope I don't hit the grass face first. :o)

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    1. That is a lovely image! There must be a technique, although it is probably a little gymnastical for a welly-shod gardener.

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  37. I suffer from GRAS too, I hardly use my seating area and prefer to rest my bum on my gardening stool when I need to, usually whilst doing something gardening related since I am sitting down anyway.

    But this summer I am planning to get an outdoor sofa in my garden, perhaps looking up into the sky will give me some peaceful moments when we finally get summer - if it is our turn to have one this year!

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    1. You have reminded me - someone bought me a gardening stool for my birthday a few years ago. It had pockets for gardening bric-a-brac which made excellent hiding places for my secret supplies of chocolate (no one else would think to look there).

      A sofa sounds wonderfully comfortable - here's hoping you get to put your feet up and enjoy sky-gazing.

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  38. You have some lovely wildlife in and around your garden. And Sprout is so adorable doing the fetching. Happy spring!

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    1. Happy spring to you too! We are very fortunate to share our garden with lovely creatures. Mrs Pheasant arrived this week - she spends a great deal of time tidying up under the seed feeders!

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  39. I was just saying to Myra that I would like a hammock where I would lie and contemplate whilst looking skywards. I don't quite understand, but according to she who knows best my head is often in the clouds anyway.

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  40. You paint a lovely picture of summer relaxation; but you're right, it's utterly impossible not to try and squeeze in one more little job. As it is, I'm usually gardening in the dark in the summer months! (A bit tricky with last year's slug epidemic!)

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    1. Do you have one of those lamps you can attach to your head? If not, it might be a worthwhile investment. The very idea of a slug epidemic in the dark is enough to keep most gardeners in their hammocks for good! You are a brave soul.

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  41. This is so true... and so well said. My honey doesn't even like to walk in the gardens with me as my eyes see so much that still needs to be done. I'm afraid I'm well beyond any pleasure hammock therapy might provide... hopelessly addicted to perfection in gardening.

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    1. Hello Carolyn, perhaps you should buy your honey a hammock, then you can enjoy your walks while your honey looks skywards and doesn't notice all those lists of gardening tasks you are making. This way you will both be happy.

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  42. Well Gardening Shoe - never knew CC behind the hammock, so to speak. Where abouts in Norfolk are you? I too am in the east.

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  43. Back again Gardening Shoe and Sprout to invite you to join in #Terrifying Tuesday next week - post a garden related pic that can take any shape or form that is vaguely disquieting.

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    1. What an excellent idea for a meme. Count me in.

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  44. What a wonderful vision of lying in a hammock surrounded by the sweet smell of honeysuckle! I never know how to get in or out of a hammock, thus I don't have one, but you make a good point that we gardeners would then not be looking at the weeds mocking us!

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    1. The first time you climb into a hammock, make very sure that no one is watching. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you on the subject of getting in or out of hammocks.

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