Monday, July 17, 2006

The grass was not always greener...

In our search for historically accurate stories for our homeschool, my daughter needed to know when the lowly garden hose was invented. Now, if I was to ask this of you, what would be your response? I knew about Roman underground hoses (pipes really) from my trip to the Roman Baths, but that was a different animal altogether. The real answer was an absolute surprise to me and perhaps it will be to you too.

While humanity’s love affair with emerald-green grass has been documented since before the Elizabethan era, it wasn’t until the garden hose entered the picture that things really started taking off. In the early 1600s, the British epoch of gardening began, with an English lawn being the absolute envy of all European gardeners. Seen as a status symbol among the aristocratic gentry, no fine country house or estate would be considered complete without the vast, sweeping verdigris delights of perfect turf. This extravagance took a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of water. Fortunately for England, it rains a lot. Hence, if the grass needed watering, no need to fret; Mother Nature would be along shortly. Not so the rest of Europe. Drier climates and hotter temperatures made keeping a green lawn almost impossible, with endless back-breaking trips to the river, the well or the creek.

Although there are records of a type of garden hose dating back to around 400 B.C., this implement was made of hand-sewn ox gut and was hardly of any use, certainly not enough to water the grand and still growing estates of Europe in their day.

In 1672, the first European garden hose make its appearance in Amsterdam. First made of linen, then of leather, this hose was the brain child of Jan Van der Heiden, a young man who initially invented the hose to help put out fires that ravaged his beloved city in 1652.

With the birth of the hosepipe (British term), gardening took a whole new turn. No longer at the mercy of the rain gods, people were going crazy with the size of their gardens: the unique and rare plants they could now cultivate, the ease with which hoses allowed easy and frequent watering. The passion was fueled and cultivated by ever-increasing machinery and cheap materials. (Found here.)

So now you know your children are playing with a bit of Elizabethan history when they are squirting each other on the very hot days of summer.  The homeschooling opportunities are endless! :+)


cyndiegirl72 said...

Wow that is so cool. We learned the history of the washing machine a couple of months ago. It is so neat to learn the humble beginnings of such things. Necessity truly is the mother of invention!

Camy said...

Kate, thanks so much for taking the time to bless me with your thoughts. Though I could find a lot more to complain about today (can you believe we had a big storm and the power was out for over 20 hours????!!!), I will only find ways to thank God for His blessings. I'm alive! I have 7 dear children and a fantastic husband, *and* many dear friends. Praise Him for that!

Take care (smile).