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365 days later: 2020 in review

I have never been so glad to see the number on the clock flip over to 00:00 – a whole new year. I say this in an entirely metaphoric way as I was in my bed asleep when the year passed, I’m not one for staying up late. But still, it’s been a hell of a year and I was glad to have that pretence of a new year, so things will be different… immediately 😛

And 2020 has been a really trying year, a very busy one for me, being an online teaching dude in higher education, I was somewhat in demand and a tad stressed at points. I’ve been working from home since March and Kate splits her time between home and a couple of days in the office (Kate is termed as a key worker because she works for the Scottish Parliament and so has had to attend physically to support essential business). The one positive thing I will say about the work from home experience is that I found the fact that I didn’t have to commute, that I was always close to the garden, really was a positive mental health thing for me. On even the busiest days, I was able to go out into the garden for 10 minutes just to clear my head and change perspective, which was amazing. I even did one “class” from my greenhouse when one of the folks on the other end was struggling with being couped up in a flat. We had a bit of a garden tour. Unfortunately, the internet out there isn’t great so it’s not something I could do regularly. Kate, however, managed to make the best of some of the better, sunnier days with a quick shift of her work kit into the garden with the help of a sun umbrella and a power extension.

Gardening-wise though, I’m not sure I can specifically say there was or wasn’t a difference due to being at home more this year. Yes, we did have more time to be out there, so instead of huge amounts of time tidying or weeding at the weekend, we were able to get out during the day and do short bursts (see the previous comment about 10 mins here or there). We didn’t take on any new projects just because of lockdown, I suppose because we were both working full time still, same as normal, but I think being in the garden every day did mean we kept it neat.

What we did find though, was that because I was finished with my studies (finished up in January), I was finding that I had a lot more time, and I was struggling with how to fill it, especially once we couldn’t go out. Having spent nearly 4 years burning the candle at both ends, I struggled with the lack of direction and masses of free time, so of course, that got channelled into the greenhouse and I think it’s fair to say, this may have been my best season to date. But… I’m not going to chat about the actual growing in the garden for this post. Mostly because we actually do that in our regular blog posts and videos, so you guys have been with me along the way and seen it all. Instead, I’m going to talk about our community here and how it grew this year. This was the year where our little community of kitchen gardeneers grew, a lot.

When Kate and I started blogging here about the house and garden, we didn’t think for a second that anyone except our family would be reading them. I’m pretty sure for the first few months that was accurate, but pretty soon, the comments here were coming from all over the world, from people we’d never met. The blog became a much bigger beast than we ever imagined. It was so much fun hearing from people in Brazil, America, Portugal and lots of other places.

This year, things took an even bigger turn. With so many of us in lockdown all over the world, we found ourselves being contacted by 20 to 30 people every day who were new gardeners. some looking for something to do while they were stuck at home, others finding the time to try a hobby they’d always wanted to but didn’t have the time before. Suddenly, those random videos I was doing to support blog posts took on a whole new meaning, people were using them to learn about gardening. I’m not going to lie, this was one of the best presents 2020 could give, I love gardening, and I still consider myself a beginner / a learner. I am more than happy to share anything I’ve learned with others, after all, I’ve been lucky enough to have you guys here sharing your experience and knowledge with me 🙂

By the end of April, there were almost as many people subscribed to the youtube videos as are to the blogs. Just over 1000 people clicked the little button to be alerted when a new gardening video was published and every week they were leaving comments, asking questions and requesting tutorials. I think this might have been the most unexpected positive to come out of the horrors of the past year. It also brought with it challenges though. The subscriber count didn’t stop or even slow down and those 20 to 30 messages kept growing. We now had comments coming in on the blog, on youtube and on Instagram as well as a few by email. The most horrible thing happened, and I had to admit that I just couldn’t answer every one, which was heartbreaking, but more on that in a second (there is good news).

Things plodded on, and we all kept going as best we could. The official lockdown here in Scotland ended and we were instead living a more careful life but were now able to venture out and about, carefully. But it didn’t really hit home, how important it was that we kept trying to put videos and blogs out when we could. It wasn’t until July when I got a surprise email that changed everything. A UK based online plant company got in touch. They had been contacted and asked to send Kate and me a plant as a thank you and had got in touch to ask if this was ok and if we could give them an address. A week or so later a plant arrived by post with a card. I tried to read it on a video and had to edit out the bit where I was in tears. The plant was a gift from an elderly couple who were shielding to stay safe and had been watching Kate and I clowing around in the garden as their weekly treat of garden entertainment. The card said it all,

“Thank you to Kate and Eli, you cannot possibly know the joy you have brought us and the importance you play in our lives. Thank you for keeping us entertained and amused during lockdown.”

David and Ellen

That gesture, without exaggeration, changed things for me. Up until then, I had kind of felt a bit silly and a bit guilty about writing our blogs and making our videos. Along with us all being stuck at home, our neighbours were now using their gardens much more than they did before and I was finding it a bit embarrassing, this loss of privacy and the fact that the neighbours knew I made these silly videos about gardening. A couple even mentioned finding our blog. I was mortified.

But this gesture of thanks from David and Ellen blew all that away. It didn’t matter that the neighbours think we’re nuts, we’re doing something we enjoy and other folks were getting enjoyment from it too. The best feeling ever.

So I’m going to leave you there, and stop boring you with this waffle – I promise next week we’ll go back to just talking about plants – in fact… next week will be Seedanuary 🙂 And we are going to try a new thing, we are going to combine things and tomorrow, at 20m UK time, we are launching our first video of 2021 but it will be what is called a premiere, meaning that when it goes live, you will also be able to chat to use and the other kitchen gardeneers who are watching. This is the first time we’ve done anything like this, so fingers crossed for no technology gremlins 😀 Oh and in case you were wondering… there are now nearly 4000 of you guys subscribed to our youtube videos.

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