Sunday, 29 January 2012

If you go down to the woods today...

Theres been a lot going on recently and as a result I've been a little tardy in updating the blog . For those of you who havent already found it I have set up a Facebook page for "Grove Farm, Bonnyrigg" which means you can keep up to date with whats going on  every few days rather than every four to six weeks!   You'll need a Facebook profile to do this  - just click here

 So what's been happening down on the farm? Well if you read the previous blogpost then you'd quite naturally be expecting a photo of the newly completed kitchen...   

April was happy after three months cooking in the caravan !

...however if you know me well, then you'll not be surprised to hear that as soon as we moved into the 95% finished kitchen (awaiting LED lights and skirting board/ new doors) then my enthusiasm waned and my attention was immediately diverted elsewhere.

This was primarily because of the really high winds - two rounds of  hurricane force winds - the worst in over thirty years apparently.   The first lot had ripped off the woodshed roof (about 70 sqm worth) which meant I had to spend three full days shifting all the split logs to the other shed, which meant picking them all up to put in van , driving twenty meters and then throwing them all out. YAWN ! The pile is enormous , I suspect its about four years supply !

This was at the start while I was still smiling !
Dads caravan which got hit by a large beam in the first storm (with no photo to prove it) got hit a second time - so here is the proof !

The tool shed roof lifted enough for the horizontal rafters to fall in...

so I had to rebuild the end of that shed - someway back inside since the roof is so decrepit, to keep future storms out ...

The roof will be removed soon, one way or the other !

 The main task for recent weeks has been starting to clear the rhododendron in the wood, about two hectares worth. Beautiful as the rhododendrons look while in flower...

they really are a disaster from an environmental point of view , killing off everything else under their embrace so they have to go. This involves cutting them flush to the ground, drilling and spraying with herbicide and burning all the leaves and branches since even when they rot down they still prevent other plants growing. Call in the experts !

 "Who ya gonna call ?!"

"Rhodo - Busters !". Me, Dad and Sam
We cleared quite a big area in the first week - some before and after shots show the massive difference a concerted effort makes...

"The Mound" BEFORE

"The Mound" AFTER


We were having so much fun that I thought that other people might enjoy some "Boys Own" hacking and slashing with an assortment of sharp tools and as a result we had some volunteers come along for a Saturday. Many thanks to Ben, Kris and Peter for adding their enthusiastic efforts to the assault ! It was incredible to see how much got done in one day and really inspiring that we will get it all cleared so that the native flora can at last return.

Some photos of the first clearing week...

Sam on a chainsaw rampage on "The Mound"

Kris crushing the enemy with his bare hands !
Ben enjoying the day.

Peter "Hatchet Man", Sam "Where's my Chainsaw?" and Kris "The Grim Reaper"

"Its all behind you !"

What a native woodland should look like !
It a really nice area to work - and rest occasionally ...

"What shall we chop down next?"
"How about that unphotogenic branch over the river?"
"Lets do it !"
Its been quite a team effort, with frequent visits from the tea trolley ladies to keep us going...

"Where's the tea trolley !"

"We want to play too !"
The woodland has not been an ideal place for kids (though that will change of course).  Some parts of the wood are incredibly densely overgrown and very slow to clear...

I'm on the left - stood upright in the tangle 

We have most recently moved onto the long, wooded, South-facing slope that runs between the lower walled field and the upper field. Its been hard work on a steep slope which still has a number of fruit trees hidden amongst the sprawl. They had all grown to remarkable, contorted, straggly length , bending and breaking themselves to the elusive light...

 With no fruit to speak of (during the previous two summers), a difficult decision to cut some of them down to tall stumps has been made.  Hopefully  they will re-generate or be suitable for grafting. The extreme clearing has really improved the area already...

BEFORE: This deformed tree shows why some active management is required !

AFTER: The same section of wall just a few hours later (taken slightly higher up the slope)
Check out the overgrown sprawl behind me and the "less-than-vertical" fruit tree in foreground!

I took to wearing the saftey visor more frequently after having to visit A&E after poking myself in the eye with a dry stick while pruning a greengage tree. Three days with my eyes shut in a darkened room helped drum the message home ! I can't recommend "superficially scraping 40% of your cornea" - it really hurts ! Luckily it all healed up within a week.

Which was just in time for another blitz with the assistance of volunteer Peter once again. Or "Hatchet Man" as he may become known ! Now where's a tree that needs to come down ? ....

"Over here Peter !"

"TIMBER !"    

There was no stopping him  ...

We do have a selection of saws Peter !

Those old trees stood no chance...

This section had undergrowth higher than the wall originally, as evidenced by the colour of wall !
Carefully does it !
If the tree was too close to the wall or damaging it, it needed to come out.

We need a bigger chainsaw !

This tree had grown around  the top of wall like it was hanging on by its fingernails !  " Dont chop me down...aaargh! "
 To aid recovery of the woodland floor we are burning mainly just the rhododendron and some of the sprawling woody vegetation. Lots of the native timber  is being left in piles to rot although some of the bigger bits will end up on the stove.

I've just bought a book on British fungus so every now and again a new type of fungus would be found and placed carefully on the "rotting" woodpile.  Gaining an appreciation of such easily overlooked details as "native fungus" added to the pleasure of this particular job. Both Sam and Peter quickly found new fungus to add to the future list while Dad seemed happier just burning them ! Creating a record of all the different species of flora and funghi that we find at Grove Farm is also now on the to-do list especially since we have a list of what plants grew in the area in 1826.

The nearly finished section between the parallel walls, showing the tall stumps of the old fruit trees.

There were quite a few other minor jobs undertaken over the last six weeks,  mainly tidying up and the never-ending rubbish collection. There has been rubbish picked up from almost everywhere , the all pervading spread of it is depressingly incredible ! I even found a broken five meter long aluminium ladder in the river ! It was just below an excellent "Turkey tail" fungus growing out of an old rotten stump, surrounded by broken asbestos cement panels and discarded metal tins. 

I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or not!) and I really believe this place will be beautiful again eventually. All the hard work that everyone has done recently takes us a step closer to that and for that I'm very thankful.

Turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor)  Image from wikipedia


Dont forget to "like" the Grove Farm Facebook page to keep up to date on progress !