Kevin Smith's Blog

Day 383 - Harvest

Friday, 16 September 2011

I've called this post Harvest because I'm currently enjoying an seemingly endless supply of tomatoes and, more excitingly, spent last weekend at the Harvest at Jimmy's festival. I was booked to give gardening demos which, in festival terms, classified me as 'talent'. What an absolute hoot - James Martin, The Feeling, The Gruffalo and little old me all on the same bill. I had a special wrist band that gave me access to all sorts of exciting places, and a bit of a write up in the programme. Here's the proof:



I'm looking particularly pleased with the programme because the organisers allocated me four more lines than Monty Don (look closely). Now this is either because they thought the punters needed some convincing of my credibility, or because I'm actually more interesting than Monty Don. Let's go for the latter shall we.

I only had to give a couple of talks. On Saturday I got everybody up to speed on why gardening in containers is a good idea. Here I am tripping the light fantastic with a terracotta pot and a few winter-flowering pansies:



And to prove that people did come and listen, here's a shot of the audience. I'm showing a chap from the crowd how to sow salad leaves. It was all very rock and roll:



On Sunday I was tasked with doing my Michael Parkinson bit, and had to interview Monty Don. Here I am asking Monty how big his garden actually is after he talked of The Jewel Garden, two vegetable gardens and a cricket pitch:



Oh, and I must tell you that Monty said he once did an inventory of his garden and found a pair of knickers in a tree. Do you admit that kind of thing? I shouldn't imagine he'll mind me telling you seeing as he shared the information with the considerable crowd that had gathered to hear him speak.

It's impossible to pretend that I didn't enjoy the weekend and the work it entailed. It's just about the most fun I've had since I went freelance. And, of course, there was the helter-skelter to ride:



Beer to drink:



Food to eat:



And The Feeling to listen to:



Sadly, Ida has just had chicken pox which meant that she and Gemma had to stay at home while I stayed out to play. Little Ida's on the mend now, although it's such a shame she and Gemma missed out (I'd bought Ida groovy new wellies especially). Luckily our good freinds Neil and Victoria could make it, which is a bloody good job because they took all the photos I've used in this post.

I know lots of writers do talks and demonstrations, but this was my first big gig since leaving Gardeners' World magazine and it seems worth celebrating. And I want them to book me for next year so it seemed sensible to write about it.

Until next time...

P.S. Next year's harvest is 7-10 September. Book here and I'll hopefully see you there!

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Day 371 - one year on...

Sunday, 04 September 2011

This post is an important one (I hope you're all concentrating) and I've been thinking about what to write in it for quite a while. It's important because on 31 August I reached Day 365 of my blogging journey, which also marks my one year anniversary of being a stay-at-home dad and freelance garden journalist. I can't believe how quickly 365 days have passed. I can't believe how much I've enjoyed full-time childcare. I can't believe what a success my freelance career has become. I've had a very, very good year.

Let's have a chat about the childcare bit first - after all, if little Ida hadn't come along in 2010 I'd still be traipsing up to London every day and working on the editorial team at Gardeners' World magazine. I seem to have done an okay job of looking after her - after all, she's alive, happy and healthy. We're regulars at local play and music groups (I think I'm still a bit of a novelty for all the mums), we go swimming as often as we can and Ida seems to like my cooking. She's cut teeth, started to walk and, very recently, begun to talk - it's incredible how much she's changed in the past year. Here she is just after I took the reigns, along with a snap taken a couple of weeks ago. See, these pictures are proof enough that I haven't cocked up.

September 2010



August 2011



Don't get me wrong, there have been tough times – I'll never forget a particularly grizzly day in the spring when Ida and me were both in floods of tears as I tried to juggle a tight writing deadline with childcare. It was nothing short of horrid.

Of course, you quickly forget the nasty bits and, on the whole, the work/Ida balance has been just fine. Freelancing has been far better than I ever imagined it would be, and in the last year I've edited Toby Buckland's book, Flowers and written for Gardeners' World, The Garden Design Journal, Amateur Gardening, Daily Express and The Guardian. I've also edited a Grow Your Own magazine for Robert Dyas, edited two editions of Seasons, the Dobbies garden centre magazine, and written advertising scripts for B&Q's gardening range. I've blogged for the BBC gardening website and have, just about, managed to keep this blog afloat. Admittedly, I've been pretty rubbish at keeping on top of my twitter account (I just don't think I'm very good at it), but I'm happy to let that go.

The garden's worked hard too, and I've used it a great deal for photoshoots and projects that will hopefully appear on the pages of gardening magazines in 2012. In fact, just like Ida, I've done a comparison of the garden so you can see how it's progressed over the past 12 months. The first shot appeared on my first ever blog, the second was taken just a few moments ago. Although things haven't changed a great deal, I pleased to see that everything looks much more tidy and cared for this year - it's amazing what having a little time to potter can achieve.

September 2010



September 2011



I've just read my first blog again and it seems, back in the early days, I was very worried about having to sacrifice plants for children's paraphernalia (sandpit, swings etc etc). And of course I had good reason to be worried because we now own all sorts of horrible garden toys and are about to install a playhouse in the next few weeks. But do you know what? I don't care, and in all honesty the toys aren't that bad - here's Ida's pop-up tent which folds away to virtually nothing. Once you've wrestled it into submission it's very easy to store and takes up no room at all. Every garden needs one.



Okay, before I finish I must mention my fabby wife Gemma. I'm forever grateful that, while I've been looking after Ida and titting about in the garden for the last year, she's been working hard as a Deputy Headteacher. I don't know what Ida and me would do without her. Thank you, Gemma.

So, there we are. 371 days gone - I wonder what I'll have to report this time next year.

Until next time...

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Kevin Smith | Garden Media Writer and Editor

On 31 August 2010 I quit my full-time job as the Commissioning Editor at Gardeners' World Magazine to be a stay-at-home dad  and to try and scratch a living as a freelance garden journalist. It's often said that a 'life change' is good, but can I cut it with the yummy mummys? Will I manage to get a single shred of work done? Will Ida (she's the gorgeous little girl who's the cause of all this) like gardening as much as me? Who knows, we're going to find out...