Friday 10 April 2015

My low cost work-out gym

I've been busy in the orchard for the past few days and my body is feeling the benefit of the hard physical work. There's loads of twisting, bending and lifting work as well as walking the length of the site many times a day. In London I'd be paying £70 a month or more in Gym fees to get a similar level of exercise, but the difference is this workout is enjoyable and you see the results as we gradually reclaim the site. 

It has been gorgeous weather this week, though the flies are beginning to make themselves known. A few quick sprays of Avon's Skin so Soft lotion on the exposed parts of the skin soon deals with the flies. The trees are coming out in bud and the wildlife is coming to life. I was watching bats flying around the site yesterday evening as the sun was falling. During the day the raucous croak of male Golden Pheasants marking their territories resounded through the air.

At the moment I'm reclaiming a section of the land from thorn bush invasion. The previous owners neglected the land and allowed blackthorn and hawthorn to grow uncontrolled. These bushes are about four metres tall and ferociously self-guarded by twisted thorn laden branches. Their trunks are however not resistant to the caress of a chainsaw and these unwanted invaders soon come tumbling down. I've learned to wear protective clothing, gauntlets, helmet and visor when attacking these thorny trees. 

It does however leave the problem of what to do with the stumps of the fallen bushes. They are about 5 - 10 cm diameter with tenacious roots, it would be a lot of work to dig them out. Our budget doesn't stretch to tractors or quad bikes to winch them out, we have to do it by hand. As usual I turned to the Internet to research methods. Several references were made on YouTube to the use of farm hi-lift jacks to pull out stumps so I dipped into the kitty to purchase such a jack. It a bit of a disappointment as I found the base of the jack always ended up standing on the roots of the tree stump I was trying to uproot. I even constructed a lifting tripod with leftover fence posts, but it didn't provide a solution.  

I eventually resorted to using my trusty ACE cable winch. The winch was fastened to a convenient stout tree and the cable hook at the other end to the tree stump. It took some experimentation with lengths of chain to grasp the tree stump firmly, but I was soon removing stumps reliably and without the need for digging or chopping roots. In the space of two hours yesterday I hand winch pulled six tree stumps out. I was alone and unaided. It can exert a pull of up to three tonnes, if necessary I can use snatch pulley blocks to double the pulling capacity. It does however mean I have to cart about 100 Kgs weight of winching tackle to the far end of the orchard.

I had a visit from a family who live in an a nearby house, they wanted to know if their teenage son could help in the orchard on a voluntary basis. It would apparently count toward his Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. The young man seemed keen to help, I didn't refuse the offer, but for a while he has to focus on GCSE examination revision. I hope this works out, it would be good to have more local involvement in the project.

ps: I was pleased to find someone who could supply ACE Shear pins for the winch: Securefix Direct. I haven't required any pins, yet! 

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