A Thousand Words About Winter. And Some About Naked Gardeners.


That’s already a thousand words right there, but I will add a few more.

I saw a post on Facebook that said there were five stages to winter:

  1. Shock
  2. Denial
  3. Anger
  4. Depression
  5. April

to which a friend sagely commented, “Winter is over in April…said no Peace Country resident ever.”

It made me laugh, but I have to admit that as soon as March climbs on her lion and leaves, I always think spring is going to come bouncing in on a lamb. April Fool. And this despite living over a half a century in The Peace.

I guess April is when I hang out in stage 2. There is no lineal order to these things. And there is no guarantee we will be able to comfortably garden naked on May 5th neither.

You know, on World Naked Gardening Day.

It’s a thing and it happens annually on the first Saturday of May.

According to Wikipedia World Naked Gardening Day (WNGD) is an annual international event celebrated on the first Saturday of May by gardeners and non-gardeners alike. According to NBC’s Today News, WNGD “has become an annual tradition that celebrates weeding, planting flowers and trimming hedges in the buff. While it’s linked to a movement of nudists who promote wholesome and unashamed acceptance of the human body, the day is meant to be funny, lighthearted and non-political, founders say.”[6]

“It’s not about exposing your body to other people,” said Corky Stanton, of Clothes Free International, an organization that promotes nude recreation.

“It’s about body acceptance and being one with nature on your own.”[6]

The article goes on to suggest that gardening fits in favourably with nudity, and I suppose that is true. So long as you’re not pruning roses or barberry bushes. And it’s not snowing.

And if you haven’t just moved to a new neighborhood and are still hoping to make a somewhat positive impression with the neighbours. I don’t think any of them want to see my wrinkly butt through the hedges. Or other bits for that matter.

Ruth Stout wouldn’t have cared. Moreover, she would have scoffed at the hoopla of going to the bother of actually making a decree of garden nudity. Just do it, was her motto long before any fitness clothing company came up with it.

Ruth Stout, for those who might not know, was the Queen of Mulch.

Born in 1884 in Topeka, Kansas, Ruth and her husband Fred retired to a 55 acre property in Redding, Connecticut  in 1930.

Fred, a former psychologist, spent his days wood turning, creating beautiful bowls in his workshop, while Ruth took up gardening.

For years she gardened the way everyone around her did; she had her plot worked up by a local farmer and then she dug in.

One year the person who was coming to till her garden kept postponing and in her impatience she had an idea.

Why not just stick the seeds in the untilled earth? If it was good enough for Nature why wasn’t it good enough for her garden?

With that thought everything about her gardening changed. She never tilled the earth again.

Over the years Ruth perfected vegetable gardening based on Nature’s example. Just as leaves and other organic matter fall to the ground to feed the wild earth, she heaped hay and leaves on her garden and let it decompose in place, leaving unbelievably rich, moist, soil in its wake. When she wanted to plant seeds she simply raked back the mulch and popped them in.

Much to her surprise, her sensible, simple, method was not only a huge success, it soon became a public sensation.

She was asked to write numerous articles for Mother Earth News and went on to publish several books with titles such as How to have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back: A New Method of Mulch Gardening and the book I found at our local library that would become my own gardening bible for years, The Ruth Stout No Work Garden Book; Secrets of the Famous Year-Round Mulch Method. 

As you may have surmised, Ruth frequently gardened in the nude. Not to make a statement, but simply because she liked to.

Her husband said he could tell when Ruth had discarded her clothes by the sound of traffic braking on the highway that ran past their farm and garden. He would just smile and continue turning bowls in his shop.

I never gardened in the nude but I did shed my clothes in the garden once.

We had bought an old iron claw foot tub at a garage sale which I had whimsically placed in the center of my herb garden. It was only meant as whimsy, though sometimes I would fill it with water and let it warm in the sun and then dip water out of it for the plants.

At the back of my mind there was always this idea of having a bath in the herb garden that appealed to me. I imagined sprinkling some herb leaves and rose petals on the water, stepping into the warm bath and settling in while birds and butterflies flitted about. What’s not to love?

One afternoon the temperature climbed into the mid 30’s-a rarity in our area. I had filled the tub a couple days before and when I went to scoop some water out for watering, I was surprised at how warm it was. Almost hot.

Suddenly the idea of stepping into that bath on that sticky, hot day seemed glorious. No one was home. We lived in the country at the end of a long drive, with no visible neighbours. Why not? I even sprinkled some rose petals and herb leaves about and then, a bit giddy at my daring, shed my clothes and climbed in.

It was everything I imagined it would be.

For about five seconds.

Then I heard a vehicle slowing down on the road at the end of our drive.

No matter that all vehicles slowed down at the end of our drive because we sat in the middle of an S-curve forcing them to gear down. I was convinced this vehicle had not only slowed down, but was about to turn in. I sat up, gripping either rim of the tub with white knuckles, listening hard until the motor (thank you Jesus!) faded off around the bend.

I had scarcely leaned back and started to relax again, when I heard the sound of a small plane approaching overhead.

To make matters worse, the idea came to me that it was one of those planes that take photographers around to snap aerial photos of farms, which they later bring around to sell to the landowners.

I scrambled out of the tub, snatched up my clothes and ran for the house.

The old claw foot tub in the herb garden behind our log home.

Not long after, my bees discovered the tub and decided they would much rather collect water from it than from the pond. I threw in some branches to keep them from drowning and it soon became the bees favored watering hole.

That was the end of my nudity in the garden. I understand the appeal and agree that we should be far more accepting of our body and more connected with nature. I guess I have a nudist heart but an uptight head.

Which is too bad, because if Ruth is anything to go by, nude gardening may even contribute to a person’s longevity. After all, she continued to garden-on her own way terms-right up to her death at the age of 96.

I sincerely hope everyone feels free to shed their clothes in their gardens on May 5th (or on any day for that matter). And when May 5th comes along, I also hope it has stopped snowing.