When life requires ladders

Pruning the Prunus Awanui has been a two ladder job for Mark this week, involving one of our old A-frame ladders and the extension ladder at the back.

Ladders feature remarkably large in our life here and not just because Mark and I are of shorter stature. Lloyd is tall. Many of our plants are much taller than he can reach. For many years we have operated on four aluminium ladders – three typical A-frame type and a full extension ladder. A few months ago, Lloyd stopped a pruning job halfway through and said that he did not feel safe continuing with it because of the state of the ladders. Lloyd is not one for complaining so, on the rare occasions when he red-flags a workplace safety issue, we take it seriously. Besides, we knew our ladders had become dodgy and rickety.

The new platform ladder
A platform ladder has a comfortable platform at the top

It has taken a couple of months, some research and many discussions but the first two of three new ladders arrived this week and it is ridiculously exciting. This is what is called a platform ladder. Now any of us can feel quite safe standing on the top rung because it is a larger platform with a safety bar on a very sturdy base. We bought the tallest one because it is the higher jobs that had become problematic here but I can see that this ladder may also give new options for my garden photographs. I may finally be able to get some elevated vistas of the summer gardens, particularly the Court Garden. It is heavier than a straight A-frame ladder but still light enough for me to move short distances on my own although I think it will be Lloyd who uses it the most.

Look at the view from the top!

The second ladder has yet to arrive. It is what is called an orchard ladder with just three legs, the back one of which is a prong. This means it can be located closer in to the plants and will do less damage in a garden because it is only the front two legs that need to be placed with care and it can be used safely in areas with more slope. We have gone for the tallest option again. We had been thinking about buying one for several years but even before it has arrived, I can see how helpful it will be. Mark is particularly looking forward to this one.

This is the orchard ladder we have on order

We will still keep the rickety A-frames and the extension ladder. The A-frames are lighter and easier to move around for small jobs, as long as we are mindful of their limitations.

While I was busy learning about ladders, I bit the bullet and found another shorter ladder, primarily for indoor use. It was way cheaper than the other two ones, says she justifying what feels like an extravagance. A snip at just under $80. Being of shorter stature, kitchen stepladders have always been a part of my life but even so, I cannot reach the top cupboards without bringing in a taller ladder. In a house with a high ceiling stud and five of the downstairs rooms having cupboards right to the ceiling, it does mean that anything on the top shelves languishes there, ignored and probably useless, except for once every five years or so when I might remember something or wipe down the toppest of the top shelves. No more! All is now within my reach. I wonder if it is time for me to declutter?

A corner of my kitchen (yes, those are old fashioned pullout bins on the right) with the rather large new ladder which will need to be stored away in a handy cupboard and brought out as needed.

True, I bought it online and I may have hesitated had I seen it in person. It is a little larger than I had anticipated. Quite a bit larger. To balance out the extra height, it has a wider base. Note, it is another platform ladder which is helpful because these are way more comfortable to work from. Clearly it will not replace the modest, utility kitchen steps that we use every day so I must keep those, too.

When I was a child, we used to have just one type of flour for cooking. Now we have six on hand at all times (wholemeal, high grade white, ordinary white, self-raising, cornflour, spelt flour and tapioca flour). We probably only ever had one ladder too, and that would have been a solid old wooden one in those days. Now we have a ladder for almost every occasion.

ACC* would be proud of us.

Footnote: For overseas readers, ACC is our Accident Compensation Corporation – a longstanding, taxpayer-funded body that acts as an insurance company paying out on a no-fault, no-blame basis for medical and related costs – including wages and loss of income – for all injuries and accidents. It is not a perfect system and we all like to moan about it but it has freed this country from the litigious nature of many other countries. ACC also likes to educate us on dangers around the home and unsafe ladders feature regularly.

A quick garden update. Zach has reached as far as the bamboo grove in the Wild North Garden and we now have a path through it which I found quite exciting.

Mark’s low meadow (formerly the front lawn) had finished flowering so Lloyd ran the mower over it for the first time in over three months. I expect we will have a lawn back soon and that will continue until late spring this year when Mark will want to grow it again.

16 thoughts on “When life requires ladders

  1. John

    If your “orchard ladder” is anything like my “tripod ladder” – it’s a question of semantics – I won’t be surprised if your retained A-frames find themselves collecting cobwebs. Aside from orchards, they’re great when it comes to hedgetrimming. With a bit of care and, in time, experience, you will find that you can get the “prong” right into a hedge. Plus, of course, the tripod is the most stable and versatile shape you can get. And if yours is anything like mine, you will find it easy to carry around with just a crooked little finger – they are surprisingly light.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      This is very encouraging because our need is for close-in trimming of higher hedges and certain key plants we like to clip annually. Hopefully ours will arrive in the next week or so.

    2. Myles King

      Orchard ladders provide amazing stability. i have used them for a number of jobs including attaching shade cloth roofs, pruning, picking, painting the high peaks on house walls – this from some one that does not like heights :(

  2. Pat Webster

    I always enjoy your posts, Abbie, and am impressed by the garden and how plants grow in your environment. But this post beat them all others for impressing me: five different types of flour! OMG! I’m lucky if I have one.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I laughed out loud, Pat. Don’t get me started on cooking oils (a zero count from my childhood but now numbering at least five for different uses.)

      1. Pat Webster

        Cooking oils are a totally different matter. Not sure how many of those I have…

  3. Tim Dutton

    Yes, an orchard ladder is a godsend, though ours isn’t quite as light as John indicates or his little finger is a lot stronger than mine. It is still surprisingly light and manageable though. I have a 3.3m orchard ladder that has been invaluable as an addition to all the others in the ladder arsenal.
    Sadly having a big garden seems to require a large selection of suitable tools: right tool, right job, not just right plant, right place.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I have high hopes for the orchard ladder. They have certainly had a ringing endorsement in comments on social media today.

  4. tonytomeo

    Orchard ladders that I remember from the Santa Clara Valley a long time ago were imposing. Not only were they big, but they were sculptural, with long side legs that curved from the bottom to the top. They were very heavy, and needed to be moved around through vast orchards. The hinge where the single leg attaches gets wobbly, and makes the whole thing scary. Of course, they had been in use for decades!

      1. tonytomeo

        Oh, of course. Aluminum ladders are much easier to move about. Those old wooden ladders were well constructed too; but very old by the time I encountered them.

  5. Paddy Tobin

    There has been an ongoing discussion on ladders in this household/garden also. Our 50 or so year old wooden stepladder, which originally came via the Green Shield Stamps where you collected stamps in proportion to your shop spending and could use them to claim goods from a catalogue, is showing some signs of aging – like myself, I suppose! It certainly is no longer steady, lots of movement at the joints – which is the opposite to me, I suppose, for I have become stiffer at the joints! – and two of the steps are held in place by nails driven in through the sides, though not perfectly accurately for one protrudes and catches one’s foot when climbing. The fascia and soffit of the bungalow could do with a lick of wood preservative but Mary has found reason after reason to delay this until she finally confesses that she was afraid every time I stepped onto that ladder. I have two aluminium ladders, passed to me by a gardening friend who was moving, but they are equally decrepit. The A-frame lacks that strut which prevents the A becoming a flat line – not the best when you are perched on top and it has left me hanging on to the branch of a tree on two occasions. Yes, perhaps I should follow your example!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Time for a new ladder, Paddy! This may be a sign of ageing but would seem an investment in safety. Though, speaking from experience here with our A frames, you can improvise the missing support strut with a piece of string around the steps on either side. It is not as rigid but does at least stop the ladder from splaying outwards.

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