Spin-off technology is one of those fun (not to mention highly useful) things in life. I'm talking about the kind of products that are developed first for a specific use (usually in a highly specialised area) and which then find an application in everyday life and end up in the commercial marketplace. One of the most famous of these spin-offs is Teflon, the non-stick surface which coats everything from frying-pans to muffin trays (and by the way, the belief that Teflon has its origins in the space industry as a heat-shield for aircraft re-entering Earth, is a myth). Freeze-dried foods originated from WWII technology used to transport medical serum from the United States to Europe, and space blankets (those thin, ultra-light-weight 'sleeping' bags found in first aid kits and among camping gear) really did come from NASA space technology. Now, however, I think I may have discovered my own spin-off. It came to light on a tramping trip to the West Coast.
Our son, who we first introduced to tramping when he was four years old and who now hikes and climbs in places I don't even want to think about, was being irritatingly helpful in the car park as we made a final sort of our gear. "Long johns?" he asked us, "I've brought a couple of spare pairs just in case." I was about to state, politely but firmly that my memory hadn't deteriorated to the point where I'd forgotten the basics, when he whipped a little parcel out of his pack, and handed it to me. "Here," he said, "I know how cold your hands get so I thought you might like these." I ripped open the parcel to find inside a pair of black industrial-looking gloves. When I tried them on, I found they were fleece-lined and very comfortable. Better still, they fitted so snugly that I figured I'd even be able to do up my boot laces without taking them off. When Max told me how he'd come across them, the gardening application popped into my head just seconds later.
The gloves, it turns out, were originally designed for staff employed in sub-zero temperatures – the sort of people who work in cool stores loading and unloading frozen foods. Since then, they've become a virtually indispensible item where mountain climbers are concerned, enabling them to carry out fine motor skills and to hold onto tools and equipment while keeping blood flowing to their fingers.
I gave my "Ninja-ice gloves" their first test run in the garden this week as temperatures plummeted and sleet and hail began to fall. They are the most remarkable gardening gloves I've ever worn. I collected two loads of sticky, slimy kelp from the beach before moisture began to seep through the fingers and, even then, my hands and digits remained cosy. The gloves were snug-fitting and I found no problem weeding while wearing them (and this comes from someone so fussy about "feeling what I'm doing" that I usually biff regular gardening gloves after just a few minutes).
Of course, I know what you're saying to yourself because I asked myself the same question. "If these gloves are so miraculous in the garden, what must they cost?" The good news is that if a bunch of university climbing club students can afford them, anyone can! Ninja-ice gloves cost less than $13.00. I got mine from Bunning's Warehouse and, if they're as strong as they look, I won't be buying another pair for quite some time! I'll also be checking out more non-gardening areas of shops to see what else I can convert to garden use even though it was never designed with growing in mind.
PS: Ninja make a wide range of gloves but "Ninja-ice" are the ones to go for. They comes in several sizes. To read more about Ninja gloves, go to www.ninjagloves.com