Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Cool tools

Tools are cool - old ones, I mean. These are sheep shears belonging to Harold Sweetman, who heads up Jenkins Arboretum in Devon but grew up on a farm in Colorado. His grandfather raised sheep and his father, an entomologist, grew small cash crops and ran a plant nursery, greenhouse, and florist business before taking a job at Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore. Ultimately, he became Jenkins' first director. Harold recalls using these sheep shears to clip grass when he was a kid. That memory, and the simple, utilitarian beauty, of these old implements helps explain the reverence old tools often elicit. I think of things like this on summer Saturdays, when I'm awakened by the roar of weed wackers and gasoline-powered lawn mowers, and in autumn, when humans wielding leaf-blowers are out in force. (This is a city neighborhood with have small yards and sidewalks. I can only imagine the din in the 'burbs.) Harold talks about well-made tools designed to do one thing very well. Like the old shovel in my garage. It has a with a weathered, wooden handle, thick old blade and Y handle. My guess is it's been left in the garage through a succession of owners that led to us. One family lived here for more than half a century; there followed two owners interested only in flipping the house. Till it got to us. (We're not flippers.) Guess when we go, we should leave it, like everyone else, in the garage and hope that the next family will take the time to appreciate it.

Cool tools

Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)
Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

Tools are cool - old ones, I mean. These are sheep shears belonging to Harold Sweetman, who heads up Jenkins Arboretum in Devon but grew up on a farm in Colorado. His grandfather raised sheep and his father, an entomologist, grew small cash crops and ran a plant nursery, greenhouse, and florist business before taking a job at Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore. Ultimately, he became Jenkins' first director. Harold recalls using these sheep shears to clip grass when he was a kid. That memory, and the simple, utilitarian beauty, of these old implements helps explain the reverence old tools often elicit. I think of things like this on summer Saturdays, when I'm awakened by the roar of weed wackers and gasoline-powered lawn mowers, and in autumn, when humans wielding leaf-blowers are out in force. (This is a city neighborhood with have small yards and sidewalks. I can only imagine the din in the 'burbs.) Harold talks about well-made tools designed to do one thing very well. Like the old shovel in my garage. It has a with a weathered, wooden handle, thick old blade and Y handle. My guess is it's been left in the garage through a succession of owners that led to us. One family lived here for more than half a century; there followed two owners interested only in flipping the house. Till it got to us. (We're not flippers.) Guess when we go, we should leave it, like everyone else, in the garage and hope that the next family will take the time to appreciate it. 

About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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