It began as a seed of an idea one wet Sunday morning. What were we supposed to do with our garden? Pave it, deck it, let it grow wild? Or we could go outside and try to take it on. We'd only acquired the place to begin with to let three young boys run free. But if the nettles grew much higher we'd lose them. So, gardening...
We had once grown a bamboo in a tub and a cactus in a pot that despite our best attempts to ignore it refused to die. Unlike the aloes we'd travelled back with from IKEA, a blue plastic bag full of green spiky arms that we'd arranged on the balcony of our tiny flat to deter the two year old from jumping off. They turned to mush in the first frost.
All of which in no way prepared us for what happened next. Because after a lifetime spent avoiding anything beyond the kitchen table that called itself a fork, we struggled out of bed and dug in. And loved it. We've been doing it ever since, with varying degrees of success, learning the hard way and wondering why no one ever told us a) how to do this and b) how good it made you feel.
Five years on life has changed. The garden is ragged, colourful and still grows wild, but at least we know what's what and how to nurture it. If we can find it. Although we're still not sure how to prune properly. Our boys are bigger and spend too long stuck inside on Playstation. Their garden is increasingly ours now. But are screens the future? Which is why you're holding this magazine, not Googling it.
Because there's something about connecting with the natural world that makes life better. Which is why Rakes Progress is as much a snapshot of the world beyond your computer's window as it is a guide to the tricky business of growing stuff. Flick through these pages and of course you'll see gardens, plants and flowers, but you'll also find photography, bees, tools, craft, veg, art, architecture, sheds, clothes, jam and, of course, rhubarb. Even if you never pick up a rake, if you want an antidote to the mad whirl of digital, there is something here for you.
Whether you are photographing war gardens or sowing tomatoes, designing clothes in a garden house or fixing stuff in a shed, gardens are places to grow. As the marvellously direct fashion designer Nigel Cabourn told us when we interviewed him in his garden in Gosforth, 'What you've done to me today is make me realise how f***ing important this garden is to me! It's obviously influenced me without me realising it.' We know how he feels.