Saturday, February 21, 2009

Totally knackered but happy

So finally I have finished cutting down trees, splitting the logs, making millions of bloody faggots and making the wood stacks. Not my favourite occupation, seven hours a day with a billhook in hand gets repetitive like anything else. I really dislike chestnut as not only does it have uneven straggly branches which wrench your hand if there are any dead bits on them, which there are, and prickly husks which mean you can’t go barefoot, and you have to leave it out for a couple of years before it is ready to burn which means you have to stack it so now we have unsightly stacks of logs and sticks all over the place. But now it’s done. I have raked the grass and leaves, cut off all overhanging branches from the unproductive trees and for the first time managed to do this before the daffs come through so this year they won’t be hidden by tons of leaves. Also the huge (18’x 6’ by 5’ high) pile of brambles and grass rakings and leaves has finally composted down to a manageable level and I have managed to sieve out five enormous wheelbarrows full of beautiful black compost. The rest will be put into a composter to continue. The two large leaf composters down in the wood have produced two barrows full each which considering I have never done anything to them is quite a success. I think I will dispense with the smaller ones that I have dotted here and there for leaves because though productive, they need to be much larger so I can get in there and turn the leaves every now and again. We’ve also found that the compost from the local recycling plant is dirt cheap and seemingly of good quality (time will tell I suppose) so if it is we are going to buy 240kg of the stuff this autumn to boost up the soil fertility. As we can’t find free manure I’m going all out this year to make our own compost in huge quantities. With all the leaves and grass and ash twigs we have I should get quite a lot if I do it actively rather than just forget about it and I should have time this year to strim the woods and rake all that in to the composters too and with luck get a bit of grass to grow in between the trees as a result.

I have become compost mad this month. This because we have decided to increase the size of our veggie plot to about 800 square feet and the soil is poor, usually only 30 cm deep, on solid rock.

Because of the incursions of the dreaded boar and the nasty evil little roe deer with their gnashy teeth I’m having to fence the whole lot off. Wire netting gets ignored by the boar, they just push their way through it and if the fence is too low the deer glide over it like so many four-legged birds. And after having the deer graze 300 strawberry plants down to the ground in one night we are not taking any chances and this time I have put up sheets of five feet high ,10x10cm electrowelded builders grid, with a 6 mm rod diameter and over-lapped and tied each end by 10 cm to form a continuous impregnable fence right along the top of the field. The western side already had grid up and on the bottom there is the house and to the east a mini cliff. If they get through this I will give up and start buying ready prepared vegetables in plastic bags.

All the raspberry canes we planted this autumn, being titchy, have been chewed off at the tip and what did the chewing do you think? Goats? Deer? Astrorabbits, or was it perhaps the DOG? I will be pulling whiskers out later. So far I have just planted the shallots and onions and garlic because it is still too cold for anything else. The other morning it looked like it had snowed again but it was just thick frost. And we have bought another 20 raspberry canes 6 blueberries, and 6 plump-blackberry canes which we planted out today.

It’s a simple thing I know but believe me but a fence is quite a liberation and makes me all enthusiastic knowing that none of the habitual crop destroyers can get in now. It does look a bit like a concentration camp and if anything even dares to sniff the fence it’s going to get shot but soon I’ll have the beans and peas climbing up it and sweet peas, hundreds of sweet peas which should cover most of it up. That just leaves the moles to work on. So it seems to be perfect, we have fence, water, compost and finally after 5 years, I actually have time to take care of the veggie plot. Bliss.

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