Thursday 27 March 2014

Burning the blackthorn after hedge laying

We now have piles of thorn bush trimmings to burn  following the hedge laying process. It really is nasty stuff. The thorns can easily pierce shoes, jackets and thin gloves. If the thorn penetrate your skin they can often cause a septic wound unless you remove them and cleanse the wound.  I use some rawhide welding gloves and wear heavy boots when moving the stuff. It takes awhile for the thorn to ignite, you need quite a fierce and large fire running to get the process started, but once it is going you have to work hard to feed the fire with thorn branches.

The picture below is me working in the orchard a couple of weeks ago burning some of the earlier batches of thorn wood. I'm using my trusty Sheen X300 flame gun to get the process started.

Burning thorn bush trimmings left from hedge laying

The sapling behind me is Alder which was growing wild like a weed on the land following the earlier dumping, we are removing them. The american cowboy hat is merely to protect my shiny head from the sun and the thorns.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Hedge laying almost complete

The hedge laying at the orchard site is is now almost complete with the final section of hedge by the road gateway. The hedges are thin, thanks to the neglect by previous owners, but they should fill out soon, though in some parts we'll have to plant new shrubs.

We've been left with about a dozen large piles of thorn bush for us to build bonfires and burn.
Thorn bush piles left to burn.

Overall the field side hedge looks much better, but the next stage will be to install a wire stock fence to provide security and to protect the newly laid hedge from sheep/cows for a couple of years. You can see the laying is typical Derbyshire style with no binding rods between the posts. I'm more used to the Midlands style.

There are clear signs of spring with daffodils growing in random places in the field. These are almost certainly relics of the earlier dumping of waste soil and rubble during previous ownership.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Planting trees

We had a busy day in the orchard site yesterday planting most of the fruit trees. We'd planted the maiden bare root apple/cherry trees a couple of days ago. The first thing was to transport the trees in their pots from where they'd been overwintering in our garden. The buds were beginning to sprout so we had to transport them carefully two at a time in the back of our estate car from Belper. It took a total of five return trips. 

Next we visited Lester Lowe for a bundle of 50 hedging stakes which we'll use to provide to provide protective enclosures for the trees. They are about 20 mm square and 150 cm tall with tanelised sawn wood. They should last for the first few years of the tree's lives after which the trees should be tall enough and tough enough to resist the predations of any marauding sheep who sneak into the orchard. Hopefully by then our newly laid hedges will be providing some protection too.

We had a good three hours hard work, assisted by our German Shepherd Dog, digging holes and driving fencing stakes to provide the new home for the trees. The heavy post knocker we purchased last year has proved to be a great investment. The bottom of each pit was lined with a mix of coarse sand and manure compost to give the trees  a bit of a head start. We planted all but three of the fruit trees. We'll complete the tree planting today, then during the next week we'll build the protective enclosures for the trees. It is interesting to hear the comments of people walking by on the Ashbourne Road, clearly there is some interest in the progress of the  project from our neighbours.
Elka the GSD puppy discovered a mud wallow

We had a bonus in the shape of a walnut tree given to us by our neighbours in Belper. The tree is about four years old and about 2 metres tall. This also has been planted in the orchard. It took a rather large hole to accommodate the root ball! Our dog Rocky has been left to guard this tree.

It looks like all of the hundred willow wands we planted are sprouting new leaves in the grove we planted earlier this year. We should be able to harvest some of these for the spilling work on the river bank next  Autumn.

In many places we found clay and builders rubble which had been dumped on the land during previous ownership. Odd garden flowers such as crocus are appearing on the land. This is a clear sign of dumping which has effectively ruined the land for agricultural purposes. However the original alluvial soil is good and should be good for the trees of the orchard. I'm sure we'll build quite a large rubble heap over the years as we extract bricks from the soil.