Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Fedging, not sledging

Before I write anything else, I have just been down to let the chickens out and had the great pleasure to watch two barn owls perched and flying around the sheep field. One is the most ghostly one I think I've ever seen. The owls are becoming active at the moment. Last night a pair of Little Owls were duet calling from over near the veg patch somewhere. I mimicked their call and managed to get both birds to fly into the Ash Tree just outside the patio doors. Amazing!
But there was a reason for the pair of barn owls being quite so conspicuous this morning, for a fortunate forgetful moment meant that I had to nip back to the chicken pen to close one of the doors. Without this slight senior moment I wouldn't have seen the Short-eared Owl which was flopping about over the field. So three owl species in two days. That can't be bad!

It's been a bit wet and windy this last week, but ridiculously mild. The soil is too wet to work for a while, so I've turned my efforts to other jobs. I pollarded some willows which I planted about four years ago and was left with an assortment of logs, sticks, twigs and whips. Only one thing to do... build a fedge!
Last year I experimented with this, but I really just stuck a few sticks into the ground in a pattern and hoped they'd grow. I took the chance to inspect them the other day and only about half have taken. Some weren't pushed into the ground far enough, some I think were just too thin and some were older wood with less chance of rooting.

But this year's fedge was going to be done properly. Firstly, I would use only the freshest wood. Secondly, I would use a strip of ground cover material to protect the young fedge from grass competition. Thirdly, I would keep to a neat, criss-cross weave pattern. And finally, I would make proper deep holes so I could get the sticks as deep into the soil as possible.

While Sue got busy with the loppers to give each stick a neat, pointed end, I searched out something to make the holes with. I eventually settled for an old polytunnel crop bar, which actually made for the perfect tool.

If I could go back to my youth and choose a career, I would probably become a woodsman, living in a shack, coppicing, making charcoal, green woodworking... it's probably a bit late for that now (especially as some tree species go on a twenty year cycle!) But to have planted my own willow, to be starting to coppice and pollard it and to be using the product to construct my own fedge, outside on a fine winter's day with Sue and the dogs, that comes pretty close to perfick!

Another aside. When I was cutting back the edible hedgerow, which is now into it's fifth year and thickening up nicely, I spotted a nest. My guess is that it belonged to the gang of house sparrows which spent so much of their time in the hedge during the summer months.

My hedge's first nest!
Note the fresh green leaves... at the end of December!
Anyway, here's the almost finished fedge. It just needs some long whips weaving in across the top.

It would have been finished by now but I needed to harvest the long whips. These came from a different patch of willows which I had cut back for the first time in their lives just last year. Being slightly older trees, the year's growth they had put on was amazing, with some shoots almost two inches thick at the base and many whips up to about 10 feet long.

My willow harvest, all bundled up
Any older wood I cut back gets thrown to the sheep who instantly get to work debarking it. I can then use it for any stakes which I don't want to take root. The smaller twigs get devoured and turned into fertiliser, lamb meat and wool! Nothing goes to waste.

An Egyptian mummy points out the offending branch!
But then I had to stop. For whilst cutting another willow down to head height, one of the branches somehow fell down onto my saw hand such that the bow saw teeth bit into my other hand, the one holding onto the tree as I was precariously standing in a V about three feet above the top of the step ladder. I stayed in the tree, but that bow saw had a good chew on my hand!
Not too much damage was done, but I had some quite nasty scratches and it stung.
All is fixed up now and the bandage makes it look more dramatic than it was. It's just on to hold the dressing and to give protection so the wounds don't open up again.

For today, I'll be taking it easy, though I should be able to weave in those whips.

I've just ordered a book on living willow structures, so there'll be more to come next year. Archways, benches, domes...

ed... Update

The fedge is finished!

And the hand is on the mend. The bandages are off and the cuts are healing fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave comments. They are really valued.

Looking Back - Featured post

Storm Arthur

What's been going on at Dowse Farm recently? Well, we escaped Storm Abigail, but Storm Barny swept through with gusto one night. We'...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...