Carol and Little D Come to the Rescue With Hedge Cutting

Andrew normally cuts the hedges at Pig Row with our help, this year and Andrew is not well, he moves around the garden with a walking stick and has to rest every fifteen minutes or so. This is largely down to his disability, Andrew has a partial missing disc in the base of his back and the other discs in his spine are slowly deteriorating. This means, Andrew can have good days and bad days, the medication he takes on his bad days affects his balance and last week he fell in the garden. He's okay, it is safe to say it shook him up and worried me, we are working together to address his work/rest balance. He's been anxious about his disability and his desire not to return to the hand to mouth existence we had a few years back after I was made redundant. He's scared that with age things will get worse, no matter how much physio or rest his takes. Hence the plan to go to raised beds in the long term, it'll be better on his back (and mine) and more importantly, according to Andrew, will help the soil warm up faster. We can invest in some cloches, extend the season and grow more intensively. This type of growing can be seen in our new strawberry patch, which is already paying dividends with a flourishing crop in the new tyres. There also easier to net in raised beds. The downside is that Little D has clocked them and inspects them daily, which means the strawberries may never make to our kitchen which will be largely finished by the end of the month -- I can't wait.

Learning to cut hedges

This is the first year I have cut the hedge. I know I look the professional there with the shears and the polka dot skirt -- who says you can't garden with flair? In the past I helped to hold the ladder or take away the cuttings, but always stopped shy of using the tools. However, maybe it's because in the last few years I have got into making metalware, which involves hammers, knives and saws of all sizes that shears don't scare me anymore. Andrew doesn't use petrol hedge cutters, the vibration gives him white finger, he has so few nerves left in his legs that he doesn't want to start in on his hands. Andrew tells me the hedges need to taper down, like a triangle, so that in winter the snow won't push open the top of the hedge. He also tells me from his chair that a fat hedge at the top means a bald hedge at the bottom, as the sun can't get to the lower leaves and the hedge gives up growing there. You can see this behind the comfrey and rhubarb, the green leaves start to grow as soon as they clear the shade of these plants. 

Look at me go cutting hedges for the first time

So, I leave Andrew in his chair and he takes a few snaps and barks a few orders (painkillers make him rather testy) along the lines of, 'Remember triangle' or 'Like a block of cartoon cheese'. Not sure if it's the painkillers talking with that last piece of advice but it makes Little D giggle. Little D tells me that he helped Daddy last year and he'll help again this year. He tells Daddy to leave us alone, to go into the cottage garden and sit down and rest, Andrew obeys grumpily, he wants to do the work, bless him can't. 

How dock leaves affect stings

Little D helps to clear away the cuttings but finds the only stinging nettle in the garden. There is panic, screams, tears, Andrew returns, stomping up the garden with his walking stick with goodness knows what thoughts in his head. He calmly takes Little D over to the chicken coop, yet to be finished thanks to the awful weather we have had, and plucks a dock out of the ground. Even this act is painful to watch, he stoops like an eighty year old man caught in the body of a fortysomething. Andrew has had to live with this disability since he was twenty-nine, and sometimes it gets him down. He once told me that the worst thing for him wasn't the pain but the fact that he couldn't pick his own son up, there is no answer to that, no solution, back pain is one of the worst problems in our society and still remains one of the least solved. We weren't built to walk on two legs, evolution has not caught up with the spine. Andrew tells Little D calmly to rub it on the back of his hand, that docks when large take the stinging barbs away by pulling them out whereas young docks, just about to unfurl act as an analgesic, the fresh sap calming the area. I suggest that we finish the clearing up and then apply some self heal to the sting and a block of chocolate to Little D. It's amazing what a block of chocolate does for getting a child to work, Little D springs up, wipes the tears from his eyes, kisses Andrew, and starts to grab fistfuls of hornbeam cuttings to go on the bonfire being built up in the orchard area.

Clearing up after cutting the hedge

The new paths are cleared quickly, and Little D asks for a photo of us both by the hedge we cut, for those of you who spot the wisps of top growth still moving in the wind, the growth by the opening to the hedge -- Andrew tells me that this is called a Ha-Ha -- is being pruned in winter to make it grow faster in spring so they can be woven together to form an arch. An arch once stood here but was blown away in the last high winds and the hedge is taking over from it.

Learning how to cut hedges

The rest of the top growth will be done on another day from our neighbour's garden. She was busy doing her washing that day, her children's clothes on the line, I doubt she would have wanted hornbeam on the line next to it.


Post a Comment