Tag Archives: willow

The Dogwood Fedge

We used to have a willow fedge on the farm, which was quite useful. They make good windbreaks, are sustainable and don’t take a lot of skill – just some thought and a bit of hard work.

I hadn’t thought of the word “fedge” for several years but it came back to me this week. So did “pressure graft”. It means the bits of branch pushing against each other an eventually joining up.

I’m not sure we need a new word to describe them fence or hedge would do the job without being mashed together in a new word.

When we went to Harlow Carr we saw a development we hadn’t seen before – a woven dogwood fence. Or hedge. Actually, I suppose there is a use for fedge now I think about it – it does save the effort of making a decision over use of the word hedge or fence.

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Dogwood Fedge at Harlow Carr

It’s an interesting decorative border, I’ll take more photos as the year moves on. They willow ones get quite leafy – I’m intrigued to see how the dogwood version does.

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Dogwood Fedge at Harlow Carr – rhubarb forcing pots in the background

The Wasteland

No, not the poem, just a judgement on the remains of our old Butterfly Garden. We had a look while we were visiting the farm on Friday to visit Men in Sheds.

There is nobody in the centre or kitchen anymore, as things didn’t work out. This is a shame as they did a lot of work and it has presumably cost them a lot of money. It may still be costing them money if they signed a lease.

Sadly, without our (free) help, the farm appears unable to maintain the place.

Standing and looking at the place we spent five years working you half expect a tumbleweed to roll past, or a loose door to creak in the wind.

The willow work is out of control, the buddleias are going mad and the log xylophone has been torn out.

In other beds the shasta daisies, the borage and the oregano have all been ripped out.

As a result we didn’t see many as many pollinators as we should have been and there were no brown butterflies, which used to love the oregano.

 

It’s seven months since we had to close down (or were evicted, to be more accurate) and the negative feelings are gradually fading as we move other things.

It’s also time to re-evaluate the title and content of the blog, as it’s clearly no longer the story of a Nottinghamshire Care Farm. I’ve been thinking of this for a while, and putting it off as it seems so final.

Thoughts about renewable energy

I watched The Apprentice last night.

At one time I used to watch in the hope that I might learn something about business. I’ve not learned anything I can use, though I do now know that every year proves there is a seemingly endless supply of idiots.

If I can find a way of converting idiots into electricity I may have found the next big thing in renewable energy.

Talking of which, we drove past another solar farm today.  It seems like every time we drive north from Nottingham we find another new field of black panels. Land use has changed considerably over the last ten years in North Nottinghamshire – first we had willow, then we had miscanthus. Currently we seem to have a small forest of wind turbines springing up and the latest fashion seems to be to cover acres in photovoltaic cells.

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Solar farm in north Nottinghamshire

When I see that I feel more comfortable about using electricity, but then start to worry that we won’t need it, because if we cover the land to generate electricity there will be no food to cook.

I’m a bit worried about food, after listening to a radio programme tonight. In order to halt global warming we need to scale back on meat production (mainly on account of the methane produced by cows) and would, they calculate, only have 19 grams of meat a day. That’s 133g a week, about the weight of two moderate burgers.

In the Second World War the bacon and ham ration ranged between 113 and 227 grams. However, there was also a meat ration, controlled by price – between 1 shilling and 1 shilling and two pence (5 – 6 pence in modern terms). I’m struggling to find a comparison of prices – one I found suggests that could be about £1.50. It’s not a lot, but compared to 19 grams a day it’s a positive feast.

To add to the complexity of looking into the future it also seems that grass fed beef (as generally reared in the UK) is worse for the environment than intensively raised beef fed on maize and soya (as raised in USA). It’s not about the method or the food, it’s about the fact that grass fed beef takes longer to grow to full weight, and thus spends more time emitting methane.

Now, methane is the main component of natural gas, so is it just me, or are other people thinking that some sort of gas-collecting nappy on a cow might be an alternative to fracking? Ah, just me…

That’s not the end to it of course, there’s also milk to consider. If they were telling the truth (and I fear they are) we will only have enough milk for four cups of tea a day.

Four cups of tea a day?

I could see myself as a vegetarian, but I don’t see myself cutting down to four cups a day.

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Under threat – my cup of tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Like eating soup with a fork…

After an active morning, with a lot of poultry work and watering, we had lunch and settled down to some serious outdoor education with a trek in the woods and the making of nature memory sticks. I would say “and picking blackberries” but someone has got there before us, for the second year in a row. The sticks are on willow, but despite repeated soaking most of them stayed defiantly unbent.

Here are the results. They look pretty good in real life, though possibly not quite so good in the photos. The sticks, that is. The group, of course, when faced with a camera look shifty, bored or anywhere but the camera. That’s what suggested the title. I’ve just deleted about half the group shots because people moved, looked away, closed their eyes or opened their mouths unsuitably wide. The surviving shots then needed weeding for ones where they have greenery sprouting from unexpected places.

As you can see, it wasn’t the most successful of group portraits – long on character but short on technical skill is a kind way of putting it.

Part of it was my fault, I suppose, as I kept asking for different sorts of cheese to encourage them to pay attention. It may not have worked, as shouts of “Boursin!” and a discussion on paneer proved not to be advantageous to the job in hand.  So, by the miracle of coincidence and cheap digital photography,  here are some pictures.

 

Fedge, feathers and flutterbys

The pollinators have been active today, but the butterflies haven’t been about much. The difference is that a stiff north westerly breeze leaves plenty of room for a pollinator to operate, but it doesn’t do much for a butterfly. If you have generously proportioned wings they are going to act like sails in these conditions.

As I see them zip past I’m reminded of a story I once read as a child where a small sailing dingy was blown off course by a storm. I can’t recall the name of the book, though I suspect it was probably a device used by several writers, as I’m thinking both C. S. Lewis and Enid Blyton.

 

Main job of the day was tidying up the willow work in the central area – tucking some back in and trimming the rest. The ones that are woven back are mainly secured with plastic cable ties. Even professional willow weavers seem to use them. The fedge is starting to look good, though I’m still not sure it’s so far from being a hedge we need a new word for it.

The trimmings are a great favourite with the goats, who prefer hedges to grass. As a youngster, having read that Native Americans chewed the bark of willow to deaden pain, I gave it a go. It’s probably the bitterest thing I have ever tasted. It’s worse than sloes. The goats love it.

Incidentally, they are in disgrace after breaking out of their pen last night and invading a neighbour’s garden. I think that makes them ‘scapegoats.

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Plans for the coming week

1) Make comfrey tea.  We have comfrey, we have water and we have a bucket. Really it should be simple but somehow we always end up putting it off until “next week”. I’m going to make some in a bucket and some in two litre plastic bottles.

2) Make willow water.  Again, we have willow and we have water so how difficult can it be? After last year’s dismal showing with the cuttings I need all the help I can get.

3) Make more plans. Experience shows that I do more if I have it written down. If I merely have a head full of good intentions it’s very easy to find I still have all the same good intentions when Friday comes.

4) Grow a courgette in a bottle. No practical use for that, but it sounds fun and will provoke discussion when we have groups round.

Four simple points, let’s see what happens….

Meetings, sticks, stars and crows

We had two meetings yesterday and they generated enough work to fill most of today. They didn’t fill it with anything useful but emails from people at the meetings have comprehensively instructed me how to suck eggs as well as sucking the fun out of the day. If I say the most productive part iof the day was making stars out of willow sticks and garden twine you will see what I mean. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   One tip for making stuff with willow – make sure it’s dry for this sort of work. We normally have it wet to enable us to bend it  and it didn’t occur to me when I originally made these last week that they would shrink and the bindings would loosen to the extent that some of the stars actually fell apart. Not that it was all bad, we went shopping for supplies for the group this morning and had a good view of carrion crows hopping on the tops of cars. Not sure why, and couldn’t get close enough for a really good shot because I always get embarrassed when people start looking at me with the camera.

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