Community member Chris Ogle shares his story of rediscovering gardening after sight loss.
I was always keen at gardening right from being small. I used to make my own gardens and build my own borders from old stones taken from stone walls and all kinds of things that were lying around. The farmers didn’t mind me tidying up things and taking what I’d tidied, so there was always plenty to work with.
I started to lose my sight about 25 years ago from diabetic retinopathy; first losing sight in one eye and then by about 8 years ago I had completely lost all my sight in both. What I found hardest was not the thought of losing my sight, but losing my driving licence. With living in the country, it sounds daft, but I was more worried about that than the sight loss.
I moved home to Carlisle and there was very little garden in my new house. I was clueless and there was no help available for me at the time, so I didn’t get much done and left gardening alone for a while. But I got some new neighbours a year ago and they were keen on gardening, so I thought “I’ve got competition!” I’d got a new cane and was starting to get things together again, so I decided to start gardening. I bought a talking tape measure and spirit level combination and then got to work.
I found the fence was broken, so I fixed that first. After I got the fence fixed I had to deal with the lawn, the edges were all over the place and the path was different widths in different places, so I fixed the paths. Then I bought some soil from the garden centre and put it around the borders. I dug the ground with a hand fork, taking the weeds out as I went and then added the new soil.
I mowed the lawn using a battery lawnmower so I didn’t have to worry about running any cable over. I don’t need to see where to mow. I just mow in a pattern.
I got some wallflower seeds and sprinkled them in to three tubs so that I could transplant them into the garden, using two-inch pieces of wood to get the spacing right. When they got a bit bigger (about six inches high), I used the same method to transplant them six inches apart. With that all done I just have to wait a year.
I've also put some daffodils in using a bulb planter tool. It’s a cone shaped tool that will remove the soil about four inches deep for you to drop the bulb in. The tool has a spring to release the soil afterwards and drop it into the hole. A lot of what I do is by feel and the tools I use also help. There’s always a way to do what you want – you just have to find it. I spend time at night trying to think of new ways to do things. When I do things outside with my hands, I can see what I’m doing in my mind’s eye.
When I first went blind I thought “That’s me stuffed, I’m good for nowt!” I had no idea what was available. Now I just get on with it. I had a few people laughing when I was struggling to get things right, but I don’t let it get me down. I think I can do more now than when I could see!