I have to admit to being a tad apprehensive about emptying the van and lifting three rubble bags worth of hedge cuttings into the skips provided. Fortunately they proved lighter than anticipated which made sense as they were into the third month of drying out within the van. Mission accomplished time to head to my first place of work since the 'Snap', definitely mixed feeling upon arrival of be glad to be working again but unsure of how my body was going to cope. So the job today involved the start of a tidy up of a hedge-line that has been neglected for many a year....
Now the above picture may well look like a perfect day for working and last year I would have agreed with you. But with being out of action since the milder weather was with us, that Northerly wind proved to be bitter and lazy (it cuts through a body instead of traveling around it). Even the extra blubber that I now sport proved no protection for this cold wind. Last year I would have just shrugged it off without a second thought being well attuned to our weather but this enforced break (pardon the pun) has lowered my bodies ability to cope. It will improve I know but it will take time.
The work went better than expected with my injury holding up reasonably will. Having said this I am quietly surprised at how I am now protecting my right side by using my left arm much more, it is almost an automatic and unthinking action and this adaption has indeed pleased me somewhat. I have cleared about ten per cent of the hedge line of the lighter branches and dead wood leaving only a few larger limbs that will require the use of my chainsaw (which requires a bit of work on it before firing it up) though I am apprehensive about the starting up of any of my machinery as none of it is key start and all require a good pull upon the starter cord.
Now last winter I carried out similar work for this client upon another hedge and once all the required material was cut away and stacked a contractor was hired to turn all but the very thickest of branches into woodchip with the idea of generating areas within the hedge that would encourage an increase of biodiversity by firstly slowly feeding the hedge and also encouraging the invertebrates to move in and increase in number, hence encouraging the next step in the food chain and so on. This year the results were plain to see with a greater number of insect dependent birds observed along the hedge and also regular visits by a Sparrow Hawk gliding under the newly formed browse line looking for prey. With this year's hedge I have used a different approach and that is instead of having the cut off chipped I am laying the branches within the hedge line instead. This different approach will, I hope, will have a better impact than having the branches chipped. This year's hedge is far sparser than last years hedge and requires rejuvenating somewhat more.
So as said, I am laying the cut branches, dead wood included, within the hedge line as above. The invertebrates will not multiply as quickly here but this more natural tactic, I believe, will have better long term benefits to this hedge. The branches will break down more slowly and naturally than chippings hence the number/variety of fungi and invertebrates will also increase but at a slower rate. But the main advantage is that this layering of cut timber will provide some protection for the hedge's seedlings from the browsing livestock on the land, hopefully allowing them to begin to fill the hedge line with the native species that are already resident within it. These include Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, some Willow and the occasional Dog rose. Not only potentially protecting future seedlings, these branches will provide protection for small fauna such as Wren, Robin, Vole and Blackbird all of which I observed using the cut branches of last years hedge (before they were chipped) in which to forage. This will hopefully encourage an increase of fauna to stay within the hedge line, pooping out berries that they have eaten. As well as the branches being used this way this hedge line will also be supplemented with the addition of Hawthorn whips within these protective stacks. The final gain of this method is not having the cost of the chipping to contend with, something I am sure that my client will appreciate.
So in about ten weeks (I'm working on it one day a week at the moment) this particular hedge will be done and then it will be interesting to compare its progress over time with the previous hedge. I am pleased with the way my body coped with the five hours of work today especially after a hot bath once I was home to warm up my bone cold legs and ease my aching knees. Tomorrow I shall be contacting other clients and hopefully the work shall start picking up, also tomorrow I shall be resuming the clear-out and reorganisation of the Orc's Workshop and already I have some ideas of how that is going to move forward this year. So that's about it for this evening apart from my final mug of tea before the wooden hills lead me to bed. Stay safe and well folks and above all make good memories to cherish.