It’s all happening so fast

We just saw the fencing contractor and the digger-driver off after their days’ work. The trees have taken over and are dictating these jobs to us: the fence is needed urgently because trees are being planted; the digger had to be called in to put in a short track so that the fencer could drive his post-basher up to the Spring Paddock. We have everything exactly backwards, so far.

The trees are a triumph, though. Five hundred and seventy are already enjoying life between the barn and the canal bridge. Oak woodland on the steep section, half an acre of hazel above that. Some grant money has been promised so the coppices are going in at full density; fourteen thousand trees will be planted in the next six weeks.
To prepare to get the spring overflow pipe away from the digging, I rolled out Ralph’s two-inch hose that he was using to experiment with hydroelectricity and dragged the bathtub into place to model a header tank at the barn’s level. Neither hose is long enough to reach the bath from the current spring overflow but, in true Warland style, the solution and materials presented themselves. Ralph visited and explained that some short sections of stainless tube (a mystery when I found them, carefully chamfered and de-burred) were intended as connectors for the hose, paired with a Jubilee clip on the outside. He then described the current tank system in more detail and it turns out the old, brick, house tank is still in place gathering the overflow from the new tank. I don’t know what size it is yet but at least we have a bit of a header tank for the system and a sensible, single capture point well away from, and uphill of the barn.

Watching the digger methodically create a major improvement for a fairly small cost also gives me confidence that we’ll be able to dry out the barns soon; we don’t have to wait until I feel strong enough to take a spade to the task. The driver liked the land, too, and found it easy to form. There’s a thin layer of mossy grass on top of four inches of clay, then good, firm glacial morain underneath. Once the trees get through the clay, they’ll go off like rockets. The mulch from their leaves will soon become incorporated and help break down the clay to let moisture through. I suppose the clay is the result of the grazing and the mono-culture that’s been dominant for a couple of hundred years; I don’t see how the land could survive much longer without the grass sliding off the clay. “Snotty Ground” is what the locals call it.

We had planned one half-acre fall of sweet chestnut but the Forestry have just raised an objection that it’s not native to this area. I’m persuading the planters to put the chestnut outside the grant area and to substitute micro-coppices of crab-apple, lime, cherry and rowan; all lovely wood for small projects like turning or edging. The lath that I was blithely burning as kindling turned out to be sweet chestnut and it’s price shocked me at 20p per foot! I started each fire with a £1 lath and the whole pile must be worth hundreds. I’ll save it, of course, but it also shows the sense in getting the chestnut in, somewhere.

I got the Vespa inspected this morning, to ensure it can be registered in England. It passed the tests, excelling at the emissions sniffer. “That’s not using much petrol at all!”, said the tester. It should be MOT’d and taxed within a fortnight so we’ll have a fuel-efficient, fun way to nip to the shops. Just got to avoid the growing potholes on the road down to the canal.

The state of the road is the main subject for discussion, wherever we call in Warland. We introduced ourselves to the neighbouring farm above us and they blamed the folk down here for the damage and for stealing their salt-bins, though they seem to have given us a grace period and allowed the fencer access to bring materials over the top of the hill. Our other main farming neighbour was a different case, as Monica discovered.

The fence stretches down the hill between ourselves and Stone House Farm, to the north along the slope. I asked Monica to have another go at making contact while I was pacing out the job with the contractor. When we got down, she was back and very disturbed by her experience. On her arrival, four men had furtively refused to make eye contact and the owner allowed his dogs to bark around her for some time before she asked him to call them off. When he heard what we were doing he said we had to stop because he’d claimed the “unused land” and it was his. Monica had to politely tell him he was dreaming before making her exit. Turns out, of course, that he’s made no such claim and that fencing it is the best thing we could do if he’s eyeing it up.

With all this activity outside, unpacking is still struggling to get our time but, the slower we do that, the longer until other projects start and the slower our out-goings. I have yet to find a toolbox of my own!

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