Posts Tagged With: willow

There’s no Stopping it!


5th March 2017 – a new Pea Obelisk


5th May 2017 – there’s more Obelisk than there was before!

The tutor for the willow weaving course at Denmark Farm in March said that if we left our creations out on soil, they would grow. He wasn’t kidding!

As Conchita Wurst said after winning Euovision in 2014, “We are unstoppable!” She was, of course, talking about willow.



Categories: gardening, wildlife | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

PalletGate: Evolution


You all remember PalletGate, don’t you?

Ah, PalletGate, the great (DIY) scandal of our time, I have neglected you lately largely because, against all the expectations of the general populace, you haven’t actually broken. I know, I know, this is an amazing thing, as unbelievable as Donald Trump saying “Well, perhaps I AM a little bigoted” but even a succession of oddly-named storms has failed to reduce PalletGate to its constituent parts.

The storms did, however, reveal a slight design flaw. The complex, integral latching system to stop the gate opening when unattended – that sticky-out bit of wood on the right halfway up – was not quite long enough at times because of a different design flaw in the post against which it was intended to rest. That post is the corner upright of our fruit cage (a DIY structure built before the age of my blog, thus saving the world eighty-three posts on the relative merits of the different ways of positioning fruit cages) and, after so much heavy rain over the last few years, it is a post that all but dances in the wind – a kind of drunken-Dad-at-a-wedding dance, in fact much as I would dance if absolutely forced to. So, when the wind blows, the post moves, the complex latchy sticky-out thing no longer pushes against anything solid et voilá – hens in the bit of the garden they shouldn’t be in at the moment.

What the complex latchy sticky-out thing needs to be is a SLIDEY complex latchy sticky-out thing, so:

****Naff DIY to the rescue!****


We had resorted to using string to hold the gate closed in the high winds – effective but irritating to undo in the rain


The idea was to attach two blocks to retain the sliding latchy sticky-out bit, then put two bits of wood overhanging slightly top and bottom to hold the SLS thing in place, then add a reclaimed plastic handle and an end stop before mopping up the blood and the broken dreams and heading inside for a cup of tea and a lie down. All the wood was to come from a piece left by the builders and bits of old pallet leftover from the last massacre, er, DIY project.


Two retaining blocks made from a bit of wood the Limery builders left

Two retaining blocks made from a bit of wood the Limery builders left

Suitably drilled and placed, the next bits were the overhanging but:


Disaster! Every time I drilled a small hole, the piece of wood broke in two.

Things like this put the “Why?” in “DIY”. Looking around, I found a lovely piece of willow log, waiting to be chopped for the Kelly Kettle. Yay! I used that instead. It felt like an “organic” thing to do.


Willow Log to the rescue! Overhanging and not splitting in two, everything that was needed from these bits.

And finally… I took the original sticky-out thing and attached a plastic handle that came attached to a box with, I think either a laptop or a cheese-making kit in it (and it would make sense that I have gotten those two things confused ever since). Fixing another piece of willow as an end-stop gave:


Swanky New-fangled Slidey Latchy Sticky-out thing in all its Glory


There it is. PalletGate is now PalletGate Plus. As the bard himself (probably) wrote: “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Actually, that sounds quite unpleasant, so don’t bother.” Notice that I am so confident that this mechanism will last, that I have left the string where it is.

Dreamy Gate

Even PalletGate can dream



Categories: gardening, General silliness, recycling, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Going Against the Twain


“But I wanted to be a gate!” “Not today Blue, not today…”

Mark Twain is often quoted as saying:

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

 If it wasn’t him, then I claim it as one of mine. Anyway, one of us was right.

With all the recent rain we have had here in Wet Wales (over what seems like the last forever but is in fact only since November 2015), the area where the chickens live at Chez Snail has turned from terra firma to terra squelcha. Despite a few dryish days, there have been puddles here and there in what is already artificially raised land.

The whole area is, in fact, a mixture of sand and wood chip, mixed with a liberal dollop (oh, I just had to use that word, didn’t I?) of chicken poo. The idea was always to top up the wood chip from time to time using our wonderful willow hedge as a source, and remove a little of the lovely fertile wood/mud/poo mixture to put on the raised beds.

With all the rain, it became desirable just to put some wood chip down to give us non-galliformes a dry place to walk to attend to hen-shaped things (like the hens for example) and leave the gloopy mud in situ for the time being.

Well, it was finally dry enough for long enough to allow me to shred some of the willow I cut down last year (see here).


What you need: some willow


A Trusty Shredder


It really doesn’t seem to produce a lot of chips

The pile of willow cuttings don’t seem to produce a huge amount of material but it spreads reasonably far, creating a patch about a metre or so square of fresh, dry, absorbent ground.


“Was this here before?” “Who cares? Let’s dig it up!”

So, I and the chicks have a bit less terra squelcha and a bit more terra firma, possibly proving Mr Clemens wrong. Now to create some more land and move it somewhere warm…


Move along, nothing to see here




Categories: gardening, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Willow Talk – 3

Half the battle...

Half the battle…

...the other half of the battle

…the other half of the battle

The willow saga ends…

Last Friday, while bottling of tomatoes and peaches begun in the kitchen, I repaired to the garden for the final push on the willow hedge. The last section of the hedge was going to be particularly tricky since it was all squashed behind our fruit cage, and right where chickens like to investigate, unaware of the dangers of saws, falling branches and being trodden on by your truly. Ignorance maybe bliss, and it is – right up to the moment you have your tiny chicken head taken off by a willow stalk, ten feet long and two inches thick moving fast out of the sky. Your last thought may be “Well, that Chicken Little guy was right then” but that won’t detract from the fact that a) it will be your last thought and b) your job laying eggs and digging up weeds isn’t over yet.


A pile of brashings, twice the height of a chicken, and a chicken, half the height of a pile of brashings

On a day that actually could take the description “summer” and successfully run with it, cutting down a hedge is probably not the best thing to be doing but I was beginning to lose the will to finish this task – my guess was that a good gale force wind might snap the main trunk supporting all those branches and then the job, whilst not being done, would be nearer the ground.

The last stand (of willow)

The last stand (of willow)

After some hours, finally the last trunk was cut – what should I find inside? Glad you asked:

Woodlice ate my willow

Woodlice ate my willow

Woodlice ate my willow - 2

Woodlice ate my willow – 2

Examining the trunk, I could see no immediately obvious entry point of the little woodlice so perhaps they had been in the main wood for ages and the entry hole had then healed up. I felt a bit guilty about exposing their des-res to the elements but I am pretty sure they will survive.

Presumably if I had left things as they were, perhaps the woodlice would have eaten their way through the hedge and done my pruning for me!

Cut down to size - at last!

Cut down to size – at last!

As I stand and survey the wondrous victory that is a hedge now under six feet high, I can hear the birds, the sheep – and the distinct sounds of willow growing.


Categories: gardening, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Willow Talk – 2

The Tools for the Job (Dog optional)

The Tools for the Job (Dog optional)

The willow saga continues…

As you can see from the picture, I use just hand tools to tame the willow hedge. This should be solely on the basis of ecological and environmental reasons, but really it is because chainsaws scare me (and most of the cast of horror-gore movies) to death. I actually don’t like using power tools particularly, making me (i) a disgrace to the whole of my gender and (ii) hopeless at DIY.

The little Opinel saw is truly brilliant although it does need a fix at some point as the doobrie that holds the hinge in place broke and the paper-clip* I put in its place keeps falling out. It is a testament to how much it has been used over the past six or seven years (if not longer) that that is the only thing that needs attention. It still has its original blade, minus the very end which broke off after the willow grabbed the saw and really wouldn’t let go. The tip of the blade remained embedded in the trunk I was cutting and has never been seen since. In fact, that actual trunk was extracted some time ago so I assume that either the blade tip fell out at some juncture or it was assimilated by the willow, Borg-style**. Hmm… a cybernetic hedge? Scary.

I've got my eye on ewe, I mean, you.

I’ve got my eye on ewe, I mean, you.

The animals in the field behind the hedge do their best to keep it under control. A couple of giraffes wouldn’t come amiss!

We should eat out more often

We should eat out more often

So, I am off to do battle in the next round. Yesterday, I harvested wood from the previous cut and shredded*** that into the new raised bed, a bed that swallowed this biomass as if it were me eating chocolate.

The next Battle Ground

The next Battle Ground

Here I go…

Possibly a metaphor...

Possibly a metaphor…


* Paper-clip in French is Trombone, which is brilliant. And nothing to do with this post.

** Borg are tennis-playing humanity-draining aliens from Star Trek: Wimbledon, in case you weren’t sure.

*** OK, I use an electric shredder, but that doesn’t really threaten to injure me unless I am really very, very careless.

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

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