Weekend 1: Where there’s a willow, there’s a day… spent taming it

Spot the Chicken

Spot the Chicken

We know what you're doing...

We know what you’re doing…

After a week of Urbanity, it’s nice to return to the outdoors particularly when it involves saws, cutters and my favourite plant in our garden, the willow hedge.

As regular readers of this blog and that of thesnailofhappiness know, we have a hedge that, from 30 tiny sticks, has grown into a living companion of immeasurable worth. It provides us with wood for the Kelly kettle, shreddings for the compost heaps and chicken area and a means of controlling the water flow off the field behind our house.

And, whilst others have their gym membership to keep them in trim, I have the willow hedge to keep me in trim while I, well, trim it.

Last week, the remnants of hurricane Gordino (a service station on the M5, surely?), er, Godzilla, er Gonzalo (a character in the muppets?) swept across Wales and in particular our garden. One corner of the hedge, having been left largely untouched except for the weaving of a thick lintel at head height (a sort of experiment to see how to create a willow archway), decided to try to take out the neighbour’s fence. The snail did her best, in a howling gale, to cut away the bits most at risk of inflicting damage and the fence was left unscathed (unlike the snail).

So, my Saturday was spent gently easing out large trunks here and woven sections there, partly out of as sense of reverence to this amazing living factory, and partly out of a desire to not have large bits of it crunch my skull.


BC: Before coffee

AD: After Doing (the cutting down)

AD: After Doing (the cutting down)













I had to start at the other end of the section of hedge I wanted to “manage” because a certain chicken was occupying a key area by the main trunks. You can’t (and indeed shouldn’t) take on a beak when it wants to lay an egg – it is a force of nature, and it knows it!

Fortunately, Anna only took ages and it meant that I could legitimately have a cup of coffee once I had done a bit of work (about 10 minutes-worth). Good girl, Anna!

Prototype Arch-ness

Prototype Arch-ness

Finally, I was able to reach the section that needed the work. As you can see from the BC and AD pictures, the harvest from this was somewhat abundant! I had to ensure that Anna could still reach her laying area, and she seemed happy to go there on Sunday to leave her contribution to our larder.

While carefully cutting down the hedge (not hacking into it and wishing I had a machete, no no, that never happened), I found a couple of places where I had used plastic stretchy string (as fun as it sounds) to tie bundles together to form the arch. Over not-very-many years, the wood has grown around the ends such that they are now encased in willow – just incredible.

Plastic string 'growing' out the trunk

Plastic string ‘growing’ out the trunk

Plastic string held forever in Willow

Plastic string held forever in Willow









So a lie in on Sunday then? Nope. Hurricane God-only-knows-what-I’d-be-without-you had had a little altercation with that favourite of DIY projects – Palletgate. Oh joy!


Categories: Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Weekend 1: Where there’s a willow, there’s a day… spent taming it

  1. Reblogged this on The Snail of Happiness and commented:
    Just like Kate (Tall Tales from Chiconia), there has been sime sever cutting down of stuff here Chez Snail. However, rather than write about it myself, I’m going to point you in the direction of Mr Snail, who can tell you all about it…


  2. BC (before Coffee) is fine, but I feel that after your efforts AD should be rethought. After Depredation, Decimation, Destruction and Deliberate chopping back, your hedge is now considering its options. “Willow won’t I grow back better than before?” And from experience, one way to make that hen decide to lay elsewhere is to make her a special laying area right there and put lots of work into it. She’ll immediately decide it’s no longer desirable….


    • I just hadn’t had enough coffee! After Destruction is definitely the way to go! A willow with options – is that like a hedge fund?
      I bet you are right about the chicks and their laying habits – I am tempted to do an experiment but actually, I know you’re right! I was happy to leave a path for Anna so she didn’t just peck at my legs while I was cutting the willow!


  3. Oh heck – another great blog to follow! Greetings Mr Snail – I am most impressed with your elastic producung willow!


  4. Don’t you love the tenacity of nature? We are at the other end of the willow scales here. I am desperately trying to keep my curly willow alive as it was planted in a very dry part of the property and is on it’s last legs. I think it might be time to let it take the path of the hurricane methinks. Well “pruned” (for want of a better word 😉 ) and kudos on your sustainable use of a most eager to re-grow resource. Hopefully you got that sleep in but if you are anything like Stevie-boy, it was back into the fray and into the shed (I swear the man has a bed and a telly and a fridge full of beer in there hiding somewhere!)


    • I do indeed, I file it in the same box as looking at galaxies of stars on a clear night sky, sea squirts (that reabsorb their brains when they don’t need to move anymore) and fat dogs who still manage to climb on a table and eat a roast chicken (looking at no-one in particular, Max). Willow is just amazing stuff but it does need water and drives down deep roots in search of it. If onkly we could send you some of our rain!
      As you will see from my next post, sleep was followed by more DIY (Destroy It Yourself)!


      • Our older dog Bezial (who is also the fatter dog…) would like it known that only naughty thin dogs get up onto the table in our house (that would be “Earl” spelled with a capital “E”…) We had to give away a black willow and a couple of rare dwarf willows because we simply couldn’t give them the best conditions to thrive here. You have to know what your limitations are but that doesn’t mean that I don’t lust after plants from afar and growing conditions from afar and if I could take some of that rain I would be in 7th heaven over our long dry summer where we can go for 4 months without a drop of rain. We are growing bamboo as our own sustainable alternative to willow. You just have to think smarter, not harder 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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