Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Can’t Buy Me Gloves

Gardens provide a wealth of stimulation for each one of our five senses – so much so that it often strikes me as redundant to use the term “sensory” when referring to a particular style of garden (you know the kind of thing – the ones with the florally flowers and the features full of wet water). But the sense that’s been concerning me these last few weeks is that of touch; particularly with reference to those parts of my body that come into physical contact with the garden in all its wintery glory; cold, wet, and muddy.

My feet are generally kept in a state approaching comfort by means of a pair of thick socks and a well-placed PostIt note reminding me not to leave my boots in the land rover or porch over night (safety toe-caps seem to retain the cold for an unfeasibly long time given half the chance – they must contain the same stuff that you find in ice packs). I confess I’m still wearing shorts, partly due to the odd bout of housemaid’s knee, but mostly because I just find them easier to move about in. Thus exposed to the elments, you’ll doubtless be delighted to hear that, nonetheless, my knees are coping admirably when called upon to interface with the frosty ground. If I find myself having to kneel for a long period of time on frosted soil, a knee pad or two can be pressed into service. But really, it’s my hands that are of most concern, or at least, finding appropriate protection for them.

I get through gardening gloves at a rate of knots, and it’s not because I’m a cheapskate. In fact, my glove of choice is the Gold Leaf ‘Dry Touch’, which aren’t inexpensive – made of reasonably tough, supple leather, with a light fleecing and moderate waterproofing, they’re the best I’ve found for general work, but I’ll still shred a pair within a fortnight, spending the next couple of weeks with the torn fingers bandaged in duck tape* before I take the plunge and invest in another pair. They’re not the warmest gloves either – you’d want the Gold Leaf ‘Winter Touch’ for that (I wrote a post on these here). These are like luxurious insulated riggers, but you can forget them if you want to do anything requiring even a moderate level of finesse. Frankly, though your hands will be nice and toasty, you might as well wear mittens unless all you intend to use them for is pruning with loppers and picking up sticks with the girth of a rolling pin.

Look nice when they’re new, don’t they?
Not so good after a couple of weeks
Even worse close up. This are beyond even duck tape.
I spend a fair amount of time over winter perched with my weight distributed over a wide board, and my fingers scrabbling about in the wet clay soil, pulling out weeds. Thick gloves don’t do well in the mud, so I resign myself to cold hands and select a much thinner glove, usually some stretchy polyester knitted thing with a rubberised coating, like the ones pictured at the top of this post. These have the benefit of giving a level of protection while also allowing freedom of movement, and you can easily rinse your hands off when the mud gets too much (oh, the joys of Kentish clay in the winter!). They also keep your hands relatively clean for the moments when, inevitably, my phone rings and has to be hauled out of a deep pocket. A downside I’ve found is that the colour invariably runs, and I return home at the end of the day with my hands a deathly shade of green, exhibiting the kind of palour you’d expect to see on a body lying in the morgue, rather than a living, breathing, albeit only slightly warmer specimen.

The corollary of all this is that at any one time I’ve got at least two, often three pairs of gloves with me. Perhaps I should toughen up and develop rhino-like, craggy skin on my hands, so thick you couldn't push a crataegus thorn into the palm if you tried. To be honest, though, my hands are already hard enough to get clean after a day’s work, and I don’t relish the thought driving, or dealing with the diary, phone and payments with muddy paws. I find it mystifying that, with all the developments in modern materials, there doesn’t seem to be a single brand of glove on the market that provides an acceptable combination of warmth, protection, waterproofing and dexterity for the gardener, even at the higher price points. Surely it must be out there somewhere? Apparently not. But I intend to keep searching, all the while wrapping metres of duck tape around my constantly-disintingrating hand attire.

These ‘Reinforced Riggers’ lasted two hours. TWO HOURS! Rubbish.

If you’ve found the perfect gardening glove, or have had similar frustrations with yours, do let me know in the comments below. Misery loves company!

*I looked it up, if you’re wondering. Apparently, both Duck Tape and Duct Tape are correct. In fact, it appears the former was used before the more specific title was applied. It said so on the interweb, so it must be true.