Three baby mice found and photographed by the author.
Three baby mice found and photographed by the author.

Today, I found the time to tend to my garden bed, which had become a little derelict since the peas finished a few months ago. Life just got away from me, photographing, holidaying, writing, attending seminars and a host of children’s commitments had kept me very busy.

But, today was the day, I had a couple kilos of potatoes that I’d let go to seed and the time was right. In my gym leggings and t-shirt I started to dig up the bed, laying potatoes down as I made my way from one end of the garden bed to the other. As I neared the middle, I saw something wriggle, it was a tiny baby mouse, and then I saw an adult mouse scurry out of the bed. I went to find a container and by the time I returned the baby mouse had disappeared. So I proceeded with caution as I placed the shovel back into the soil. I upturned a number of tiny mice and very carefully collected them, putting them safely inside the house until I finished all the gardening. I had a decision to make, what do I do with the baby mice? They were too young to survive on their own so I couldn’t relocate them up the street like I usually do if I catch a mouse. I couldn’t possibly kill them, and I kept thinking of how distressed the mother must have been to make the decision to leave her babies who were probably suckling from her at the time my shovel destroyed their home.

I finished revamping my potato bed and decided to take a few photos of the mice, being extremely careful and letting them compose themselves—they tended to huddle together and climb on one another. What next though? Their tunnel was gone, I was responsible for that. I carefully placed the three mice back on the renewed garden bed and then positioned a cardboard box over them. The box created a semi-protected home and had gaps at both ends so that the mother could easily find them. I am quite sure she will return. And if not, I have done what I can to undo any harm I’ve caused.

I washed my hands, made a cup of tea and sat down to catch up on some computer work. In my social media feed was a link to the latest marketing campaign that celebrity trainer Michelle Bridges has made on behalf of Woolworths. She was dressed in attire to make her look a little mad as she acted out her part as a crazy gardener who ate dirt. The footage then cut to a more socially accepted version of her, she’s wearing black pants and a t-shirt, much like myself, only she’s had a stylist tend to her hair and make-up. Michelle’s now in a tidy kitchen as she says, “It’s time to get real, eating healthier doesn’t mean you have to act like a freak”. The innuendo is that if you garden; you look like a frump, eat dirt and are insane. For the record, I look quite sexy in my gym pants and I often wear cute little dresses when I garden. I don’t eat dirt, nor do I eat worms or even mice for that matter. And as for my sanity, I admit that in the past I almost did go insane trying to conform to the will of people like Michelle, but since I let go of that baggage, I am now quite well balanced.

In a few months my children will help me harvest our fresh potatoes and it will be a highlight for them as they brush back the soil and collect the vegetables that have grown in our yard. I will wash the potatoes (yes, I will eat them without the dirt) and then I will steam them and perhaps roast them or even put them in vegetable soup (but I won’t microwave them). My children will see how food is grown, they will appreciate the time, the water and sunshine required to grow the food that will sustain them. They will eat those potatoes (without dirt) with a sense of personal satisfaction, knowing they personally pulled them from the soil (which they won’t eat) with their own tender hands.

OK, so does this behavior make us freaks? Freak is defined as: a curiosity, a rarity, an oddity, a mutant, an anomaly, a person or animal on exhibition as an example of a strange deviation from nature; monster.

So if Michelle (and Woolworths) view people who grow their own vegetables as a strange deviation from nature, what do they view as normal, natural behaviour? The footage of Michelle continues; she proceeds to show us exactly what non-freakish behavior looks like. She opens the freezer, pulls out a pre-packaged meal with the Woolworths logo on it, puts it in the microwave and nukes it and then heaven forbid—EATS IT! So this heavily pregnant woman is saying that eating pre-packaged food from a plastic container and cooking it with radiation is healthy and non-freakish behaviour.

The antonyms of freak are: conformity, normality, commonality, ordinary or regular. So what Michelle (and Woolworths) are saying, is that growing my own vegetables makes me a mutant, anomaly or a monster. And that I really should eat pre-packaged food that comes in plastic and cook it with radiation and this will make me healthier and normal, it’s what normal, ordinary people do.

However, I am surprised that I am finding that I actually don’t want to be Michelle’s and Woolworths’ version of normal. I do not want to conform to the norm if it means ditching my garden in lieu of a Woolworths’ pre-packaged, microwavable meal. If Michelle thinks growing my own potatoes makes me a freak, what will she think if she knows I also tried to save these little mice? And on top of that I am trying to bring to the world’s attention that Woolworths are trying to sell all of our food in plastic, even the fresh produce.

So I grow my own potatoes, I try not to kill animals if I can help it and I want to start an underground movement where we refuse to accept food that comes in plastic. Perhaps I will be given three labels, but in keeping with the level of intellect displayed in Woolworths’ latest marketing campaign, let’s not try to use our brains and keep it simple. So simple that I will willingly label myself for them, so they don’t have to think too hard.

I am a:




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