January is a great month to slow down and try to live like a hedgehog. Somehow that hibernation feeling comes naturally when you let it except it is much easier to get food out of the refrigerator than to dig for worms. In the world of the outdoor worker it is a good time to catch up with colleague’s, evaluate the past year, examine trends and to plan ahead. Every year a workgroup from the Wilde Weelde, (Dutch organization for ecological gardening and landscapes), arranges a two-day General Meeting coupled with a symposium and a get-together. This takes place at the end of January in an out of the way place, with space for 60 – 90 people to sleep, eat, relax and get fed with information.
One of the most revitalizing things of the two-day meeting is not only the information that is offered but also the composition of the group. Office-related professionals such as garden designers, project leaders and edible garden planners are an important part of the organization but individuals with a more physical orientated profession such as tree-surgeons, pruning professionals, rope knotters and nursery owners complete the picture. Wilde Weelde is a home for all of these people, most of them mid in their careers, but there is also room for the healthy above 50’s, for people mid in a job-switch and most of all for women with a passion for their green-orientated profession. At least half of the members of Wilde Weelde are women and they cannot be categorized into the more passive sort of professions just because they are female. I have never heard any of my female colleague’s complain about discrimination on the workfloor or admit to any physical limitations as a reason not to take on a project. There are always colleagues who can provide extra muscles, advice and/or machines.
One of my colleague’s hugely impressed me when we were sitting next to each other during a meal. She was a mother without a partner and had followed a landscape design study a few years ago. Unfortunately lack of work in the branch had meant looking elsewhere and she had eventually turned to garden design, construction and maintenance. Word-of-mouth between her (potential) clients had led to more than enough work and she admitted to being quite content with her life at the moment, working full days and most of the days of the week. That impressed me. However like many fellow Wilde Weelders, she did not have many garden jobs in January and had decided to make use of her free time by renovating her bathroom. New tiles had been glued over the old ones, the shower had been replaced and space had been created for a much-wanted bathtub. She had done (and was still doing) all of the work herself except for the plumbing and to her surprise she was even enjoying the process. Undertaking such a project impressed me as well. After discussing more domestic matters I eventually asked her how old she was… and the answer…. 61 years old and as young as ever.