Digging Up The Past

When the spade splits the sod at Pig Row you never know what you are going to hit. Up to date we have unearthed a femur, that was a glorious day that scared us witless (that's the polite way of saying this, though the original rhymes freely); thankfully it was pig femur. We have pulled out enough iron horse shoes to shoe every horse at Epsom for the next five years, winched out broken bits of farm machinery and assorted bottles of nails, brace hinges, door handles and bits of metal that are no longer definable. There was also the time I dug up some lead soldiers and a bottle of ancient laxatives. I don't know what the link was but they were buried side by side.

Digging up the past whilst planting a hedge.


We are presently working against the clock to clear some space to fill out our hedges with sloe. These are earthed in on the lower plot, half buried in the shade; to keep the worst of the winds off them and more importantly keeping the sun off them too. We don't want any growth before we get them in the ground. Our old hedge was largely hawthorn when we moved in, unloved, and hadn't been pruned in years. We knocked it back into shape in 2011. The hedge thickened up in 2012, as we left for our summer holiday, just in time for my neighbour to put in a fence on their side allowing the builders to hack back vast sections of the hedge with no apparent reason or skill. We don't blame our neighbour for this, she wanted to keep her dog from getting out and attacking the chickens in the neighbourhood, which it did whilst we were on holiday. We could have cried, our neighbour did, but rather than weep over hacked areas (that have since grown back) we have taken the chance to plant hazel in the larger gaps and now we are weaving in sloe. This will allow us to create a native hedge that is lovely, edible and thick.

Sloe planting and finding preparing the soil throws up secrets.

Of course, the hedge hasn't always been there and we suspect there was a stone wall here in the Victorian era. We know this from experience as we weeded out the couch grass and assorted weeds we found the inevitable bits of stone. We now always have a crowbar to hand and to give you an idea of what we are up against, out of a seven foot section we dug up a ton of stone. That's right, one ton of stone. That is not just a bit of stone! There's still more stone down there but the roots of the hawthorn have choked it and as much as I would like to get it out, there is no chance. You can always guess the spots that have stone under the surface of the soil, it tends to be coated with couch grass and moss. Sure enough, drive down that crowbar and you hear the dull thud and scrape of metal against stone. Last week I found a five foot stone pillar buried, this took a mere three hours to excavate and roll out of the hole. The area by the hawthorn hedge is slowly turning into a homage to cairns as more and more piles are coming back from the past. Thankfully the stone won't be wasted as we are rebuilding stone walls in the garden. Only another hundred plus feet to go and a few thousands more cairns to erect.