Gardening In The Nude (or New Use For Rhubarb)


From Gene Logsdon

One of the greatest mysteries of life for me is society’s ambivalence about the naked human body. People line up by the hundreds every day to get a look at Michelangelo’s anatomically-correct statue of David. But if a real live David were to stand naked beside that statue, the sex police would haul him away, even in Italy where nude statues are as common as pizza.

I once did a lot of “research” into the subject of outdoor nudity. Research for a writer means I “asked around.” What gives here, anyway?

You’d be amazed. Actually most of you would not be amazed because what I found out was that most people, given their druthers, would not wear clothes in their back yards or even front yards, if they could get away with it, at least not when the weather is nice. People I asked drew the line only at going beyond the home environment unclothed or where the environment inclined excessively to poison ivy and mosquitoes. One person put it this way: “If everyone took their clothes off while they mowed the lawn, in twenty minutes no one would take a second look. If the nude person was as ugly as I am, no one would take a first look.”

I have a hunch that there are plenty of backyard swimming pools whose waters reflect bare backsides more than they do swimsuits. For sure what passes for a swimsuit in many of them would make a typical thong look kind of klutzy. But people also expressed a yen, if they trusted that I was not going to name names, for gardening in the nude. In fact the practice has been sanctified into folk tradition, at least in the Ozarks. According to folklorist Vance Randolph, writing in the 1930s and 40s, the spring planting ritual in the hills involved a sort of celebratory session of love making on the soft, loamy, newly-planted soil to insure a good crop. Some fifty years later, I asked an Ozarkian if people still did that. “Wellllll” (long pause). “Welllll” (another long pause). “Yes.” Did Ozarkians believe that such activity would enhance crop production? He smiled. “Oh, they just use that for an excuse.”

However, I don’t think that the yearning to go unclothed into the world, especially in the privacy of the garden, has much to do with sex. People just get tired of having their bodies bound and gagged by clothes all the time. My theory is that those lovely brick walls that enclose English gardens, especially those dating back to Victorian times, were built mainly to allow for nude gardening.

My favorite story on this subject comes from a Tennessee gardener when I asked him if he ever hoed in the nude. “Why do you think I live back a long lane, surrounded by 120 acres of my own property?” he replied. But even then it is risky, he acknowledged. “Once when I thought all the other members of the family were gone for the day, I decided to shed my clothes while I weeded the vegetables. All of a sudden here comes my wife down the lane with a carload of her friends. Oh boy. I thought about improvising a pair of shorts out of nearby rhubarb leaves but while I hid behind the plant, they left.”

My riddle for the day: can you really be 100% organic with clothes on?
See also: Man Charged With Nude Gardening

Gene and Carol Logsdon have a small-scale experimental farm in Wyandot County, Ohio.
Current Books:
All Flesh Is Grass: Pleasures & Promises of Pasture Farming
The Lords of Folly (novel)
The Mother of All Arts: Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse (Culture of the Land)

Image Credit: Adam and Eve In The Garden – Tate Britain
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Jane, Perhaps I should move to England. Gene Logsdon

If you are into nude gardening you should check out the website of Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, UK. The two main gardeners there, a husband and wife team, frequenty garden naked and there are ‘Clothing optional’ days for visitors throughout the year. See and click on events to see for yourself.

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