Today has mostly been spent lounging about in pyjamas, ignoring giant, tumbleweeds of dust that tell me that it is time to clean my house once more, and catching up on some reading. It has been exceedingly decadent, but I feel I have earned it, thanks to the fact that yesterday was the polar opposite of this.
My dear friend Andrea had a new building erected at her farm last year. It resembles a kind of Teletubbies house for cows. It is called a round house, and it is the latest technological breakthrough in the world of cow keeping. It is very spectacular looking indeed, and upon visiting it, it seems that the cows are as mightily pleased with it as Andrea.
Where the ground was levelled to place this marvel, the excess earth was shifted to create a bund around half of the roundhouse. It keeps all the draughts away, which is a good thing. It does however, look a little bleak.
Andrea wanted to do something creative and marvellous with her bund, so she got in touch with the local council and explained her dilemma. A rather lovely man came out to visit her and in line with new policies, said that he could give her heaps of free trees and stuff for hedges, and once this is all in, there will be wild flowers and plants to strew about to delight the bees and any other passing wildlife.
This was all very splendid and she snapped his hand off.
Which is how come 575 shrubs and trees were delivered to her on Friday afternoon, and how come me, the children and Andrea’s friend Rose, appeared on Saturday morning clad in wellingtons, warm clothing and wielding spades in order to give her a hand.
575 things are quite a lot of things to plant. Especially when they have to be planted in a certain way. The deal is that she has to create 100 metres of hedgerow on top of the bund. This has to be mixed, native species. She then has some oak saplings she can strew about as she sees fit. After which we will worry about the flowers and ground covering plants.
We stood atop the wind swept bund and made an extremely rough plan of what the hell we were going to do. Then we set about the back breaking work of doing it. Each sapling/bush had to be protected with a bamboo cane to strengthen it and help it grow straight, and a plastic spiral sleeve which will protect it from being gnawed by hungry wild life, but which will also spread as the bush/tree grows and allow it to grow out as well as up.
It was these plastic, spiral sleeves that caused us the most trouble. We had a mixture of crab apple trees, acers, maples, other things I can’t remember, and a lot of quickthorn. Quickthorn is another name for hawthorn. Hawthorn, as anyone who has ever fallen into a hedge will know, is bloody painful, due to the fact that it really lives up to its thorny name. It also doesn’t like to fit into small spiral sleeves of plastic. Mostly it just wants to break out in every direction and scratch you to crap. No wonder it makes very sturdy hedging.
We laboured all day, with a break for fish and chips which Andrea’s mother provided from their excellent local chippy, and which was a brilliant, brilliant idea on a freezing cold day, if only to warm our hands on.
We got about a quarter of the hedge laid, which wasn’t bad going considering that falling darkness stopped play reasonably early and we couldn’t start until eleven because cows need feeding and don’t really give a monkeys about the aesthetic and environmental pleasures of hedge laying at all.
One must also consider that the two smallest assistants got quite bored half way through and were sent off to explore, whereupon one of them (Oscar) fell into a small pond and then got stuck in mud so deeply he had to be pulled out like the enormous turnip, and Tallulah fell in a ditch and filled her wellingtons with ditch water. We were also hampered by the attentions of Andrea’s dog, Pip, a very delightful Jack Russell, who refused to believe that the holes we were digging were not actually for her, and nearly got her snout chopped off on several occasions. She was very disappointed to see that there were no rats lurking at the bottom of any of the holes, despite her constant spying on them. We were not disappointed by this.
It was an enormously satisfying day, all told, and I am rather hoping that I can sneak off next weekend if there are any things left to plant. Who knew I was such an outdoors woman. Ray Mears should look to his laurels.