A young man on Gardener’s World talked about the greenhouse he had built. Using poly-tunnel plastic, pallets, a door frame, an old coffee table, and carefully selected pieces of wild wood attached as door handles, he had created a very functional and presentable structure.
It was the sort of achievement to which I might once have aspired, had I ever possessed the manual dexterity to put together the components he had used.
To be able to utilise the materials at hand, to recycle things that would otherwise go to waste, to be an upcycler and a promoter of sustainability, these seemed worthy aspirations, they seemed to combine function with beauty.
Making do and mending was a reality in childhood days, there was simply not money to pay for new things when old ones broke.
My farmer grandfather was still using a grey Ferguson tractor and a binder in the late-1970s. In the farmyard, there would be sheds filled with equipment and parts from the past. The potato shed, a dark room sandwiched between the farmhouse and the buildings that housed the cow stalls, was home to as many pieces of greasy metal as potatoes. Every machine was used for decades longer than its intended lifetime.
Growing up in London through the Second World War, my father grew up through austerity in a household where nothing was permitted to go to waste. To his dying days in March of this year, he kept everything. One never knew when the parts of a broken device might be put to some other use. Sometimes he would even buy things that didn’t work in order to use the components that did work. In 1976, he bought two Renault Dauphine cars, one for £30 and the other for £25. From the two, he made one car that ran. That it was 1976 is clear from the logbook of one which is still in a drawer of the desk on which his computer stands.
A capacity for sustainability is obviously not something that is passed on in the genes.
My grandfather would have happily constructed a greenhouse from pieces that might have been found lying around the farm. My father, for whom gardening was a necessity rather than a choice, would have been less enthusiastic about building a greenhouse, but would have done so if necessary.
I would not know where to begin in creating a greenhouse from junk. Much as I find sustainability to be an attractive idea, it remains no more than a theory.