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The Search for the Perfect Gardening Apron

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Perhaps because I'm a notorious mess whenever I do anything, I'm obsessed with aprons. I have a kitchen drawer filled with all sorts of kitchen aprons--vintage, even older vintage (antique), modern, Japanese, and Mennonite. The Mennonite one is my favorite. My friend Ida Burkholder, who is Mennonite, and I designed it together, and she made it of organic white canvas trimmed with red.

But that apron's for cooking. I'm still searching for the best one for gardening, and I have a very specific, particular list of design must-haves. I'll share it with you in the hopes that one of you out there knows where it is and can help me find it. (Either that or I'll ask Ida to make it for me.)

First, it can't tie behind the neck. I feel so miserable and tense and claustrophobic when something ties behind my neck that I might be dangerous with my Japanese weeding knife. I don't know why this is, although every masseuse has said I carry all my tension in my neck. I can't wear a halter bathing suit, either. The straps of my favorite cooking apron, described above, go comfortably over the shoulders and cross in back. Mennonite women wear them for everything, including cooking and gardening, because that's just what they do. The apron is lovely. I simply don't understand why all aprons aren't made to that design. I know there are a lot of half-aprons out there, and there is a place for them, but if I'm out for a serious day of gardening, I want full-frontal coverage and I don't want to be strangled in the process.

Second, the waist ties have to be long enough to wrap around and tie in front. Again, this could just be my particular ideal, but I find that an apron that can tie around my whole waist (with the work of tying right out front where you can reach it) solves three problems:

• When you sit down to relax, you don't lean back into a knot.

• A full wraparound tie holds the apron in place better when you are doing strenuous activities like lifting heavy pots or rocks.

• It's just plain easier to tie.

Third, one word: pockets! Lots of pockets. My perfect gardening apron has one pocket for plastic trash, one pocket for compostable trash (it recycles!), one pocket for my cellphone/camera, and at least one pocket for my tools of the day--usually a Japanese weeding knife and a pruner. I'd also like another pocket big enough to stuff my gloves in so I don't lose them when I take them off to do something. I think some sort of holster would add a nice touch, too! Perhaps a holster for my knife! And a few extra pockets just in case.... (You never know what you'll find or might need when you are out working in the garden.

Fourth, my ideal apron would be organic. I'm an organic gardener, so why wouldn't I want an apron made from organic fabric? Seriously, I think an organic, heavy-duty canvas or even waxed-canvas apron would be just divine. It's got to be washable, since it's going to get dirty. And it's got to be sturdy enough to withstand knife jabs and rose thorns and kids pulling on it to get my attention because I am so fixated on gardening that maybe I've forgotten to feed them.

Have I forgotten anything? Maybe. As you can tell, this is no prissy-missy frilly decorative apron, but an apron that can last for a long time, through thick and thin and all weather! But seriously, people, this is what I think about. When I'm in meetings and I have a thoughtful but perhaps vaguely distant look on my face, I'm likely thinking about the perfect gardening apron. And I'll find it. One day...

For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com

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