Sledgehammer

Whilst I’ve always liked Peter Gabriel’s hit song ‘Sledgehammer’ I’d never imagined I would one day be the owner of such a thing. Why would I? That would imply being involved in some fairly hard physical labour, in a life where lifting a heavy book down from a shelf is as hard as my labours ever get.

This last weekend I got my sledgehammer.

The sledgehammer, 7lbs of whack.

The sledgehammer, 7lbs of whack.

Recently Sarah and I have been doing some work together on Plot 44, the allotment on Greenbank Lane where she’s been gardening for the past twelve years. Some of our work has simply been summer clearing. It’s the time of the year when the carefully cultivated garden of springtime suddenly fills up, everything given added energy to grow by the light nights of the middle of the year.

And though Sarah has never been one for obsessively neat manicured gardening, this year’s growth spurt had actually swallowed a couple of paths, making the far end of the garden inaccessible. So I was sent for, to help.

Sarah begins the summer clearing.

Sarah begins the summer clearing a couple of weeks ago.

And in hacking through the summer’s overgrowth, which you might have seen in Summertime, we decided that Plot 44 had a structural problem. Not enough paths in general and some paths not leading to other paths, therefore resulting in neglected and overgrown ‘cul-de-sac’ areas. You’d think we’d know better having helped run so many urban design courses years ago, but no.

Some of the worst congestion was being caused by something that was in all other respects a seriously good idea, a dead hedge. Sarah and Gemma had created this last year. Two rows of canes and in between filled up gradually with the sorts of garden waste that won’t easily compost, such as the prunings from the dogwood hedge and the tougher and taller grasses.

In the background, the dead hedge, just after it was built last Spring.

In the background on the right, the dead hedge, just after it was built, Spring 2012.

This was practically useful, looked attractive, and provided home and shelter for all sorts of tiny garden inhabitants.

But it was in the wrong place. Stretching across the middle of the allotment it was causing much of the chaos and congestion we were trying to deal with. So we decided to move it. ‘Hedges are for edges’ I exclaimed, contributing a new cliché to the language.

How it got, this Summer. A good pot storage area in the foreground, but that chaos behind used to be a path.

How it got, this Summer. A good pot storage area in the foreground, but that chaos behind used to be a path.

This Sunday then we were up early and arrived at the allotment at the new world record time, for us, of 8:30a.m. We knew we had some hard labour coming up and wanted to get as much of it as we could done while the glorious day was still relatively cool.

We’d decided the canes on the existing dead hedge hadn’t worked too well, too flimsy, so we’d bought more solid stakes this time (from Terry’s Timber down on the Dock Road). We’d come down on the Friday evening to start knocking these in, but the tools we’d had just weren’t up to the job. So Sarah had gone and got the sledgehammer and proudly presented it to lucky me!

Work was soon underway.

Work was soon underway.

And the new structure began to take shape.

And the new structure began to take shape.

But it was very hot. The temperature would eventually reach 37˚ (That’s nearly 100° in the Fahrenheit I still think in), so we took regular breaks for drinks in the shade and, as Hobbits will, we had two breakfasts.

Keeping ourselves going.

Keeping ourselves going.

Original dead hedge still in situ on the left, blocking the pathway.

Original dead hedge still in situ in the left middle distance, blocking the pathway.

During the day we had company.

First, in clearing some overgrowth for the new dead hedge I disturbed a wasp’s nest.

The beautifully delicate nest, sorry wasps.

The beautifully delicate nest, sorry wasps.

The day was so hot I think they were too drowsy to bother stinging me, and just got on with checking the queen and the eggs were ok, I think. (Anyway, for the rest of the day we left them well alone and hope they’ll now go and build themselves a new nest somewhere else. Otherwise we’ll have to face up to how exactly DO you move a wasp’s nest?)

Our other companions were a family of Robins. These have a nest in the dogwood on the other side of the allotment, and all day they were flying in and out of there to come and see what we were doing, and see if all of our digging and plant moving was turning up any food for them.Sledgehammer12 Sledgehammer13

The Robins family.

The Robins family, old and young.

Nearly done, just a bit of tamping down and straightening up to do there.

Nearly done, just a bit of tamping down and straightening up to do there.

The new dead hedge.

The new dead hedge.

When we finished we decided the hedge could usefully be half as long again, and as I write Sarah’s back at Terry’s Timber picking up another 16 stakes for the sledgehammer to whack in.

The old dead hedge gone and the pathway reinstated.

The old dead hedge gone and the pathway reinstated.

The trusty sledgehammer. At rest after a hard day's work.

The trusty sledgehammer. At rest after a hard day’s work.

In the end we were at Plot 44 until the evening. Two pear trees and many other plants were moved in our hedge making and pathway construction, and we returned home exhausted but satisfied.Sledgehammer05Sledgehammer15

A good day on Plot 44.

A good day on Plot 44.

7 thoughts on “Sledgehammer

  1. Gerry

    A good day’s work indeed! I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than working (and relaxing) on an allotment – oh, and harvesting, too! We got ours three years ago, overgrown with brambles and bindweed. It’s only now getting to be somewhat orderly. I’ve been mainly responsible for ‘infastructure’ (amazingly, building not one, but two sheds after a career teaching students how to write essays), while Rita had the horticultural vision. I kept a record for a while: http://greenshootsandrhubarb.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

    I’ve mostly stayed away from ‘working’ on Sarah’s allotment. Instead offering occasional observations on structural changes without the effort of actually carrying them out. But somehow, 12 years in, I’ve now arrived at a place where I find myself surprised at how much I enjoy lending a hand. So much so that blog posts about Plot 44 now appear on here, rather than on the separate blog Sarah used to run: http://plot44blog.wordpress.com

    Thanks for the link to your allotment blog. Maybe That’s How The Light Gets In could also have room for these posts occasionally? I think gardening is very close to walking and poetry.

    Reply
  3. jbaird

    How beautiful the images from your beloved Plot 44. That’s a trusty sledgehammer for sure, and you are putting it to excellent use!

    Reply
  4. lindsay53

    Hi Ronnie & Sarah. Yes, I’ve managed to grab some time to catch up on reading your posts. Like the subject matter of this post, my time recently has been consumed by gardening, harvesting veg. keeping on top of plant die back to allow others to flourish, more harvesting …great crop of potatoes! & litres & litres worth of watering in the same temperatures you mention! Your dead hedge looks amazing! What an excellent idea & all the posts look well hammered & sledged, Ronnie! X

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Welcome back from your labours Lindsay. Yes, it comes to something when I’m hammering in posts in that heat. It’s the strange effect that determination has isn’t it?

      Reply
  5. cheethamlib

    What a satisfying day and lovely photos. I wish I had a robin to keep me company in my garden. Sometimes I think a good hearty day in the garden is one of the best things in life. It is good for thinking and clarifying thorny problems. I haven’t used a sledgehammer but my trusty mattock has worked hard over the years.

    Reply

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