Burn, Baby, Burn

March 9, 2010

I think we established back in January that bonfires are pretty damn good when you’re out there saving the planet all day. Today we established that they’re even better when someone’s been organised enough to bring baking potatoes and tinfoil, especially when someone else has been disorganised enough to leave her lunch in the visitor centre three miles away from the work site.

Next week, weather permitting, we hope to establish the precise levels of excellence of a bonfire when accompanied not just by baking potatoes but butter, cheese, soured cream and possibly marshmallows (although not actually on the potatoes, because that would be vile).

And after that, the only way is up. I fully expect that by this time next year we’ll be going out every week for a full-blown hog roast with all the trimmings… happy pigs only, of course.


Considerably Harder than Thou

February 2, 2010

‘Right,’ I said to myself. ‘The minute the snow starts coming horizontally, I’m stopping.’ We were planting trees, you see, in an east wind, and the showers had turned wintry on us. The ground was almost frozen, we were frozen, even the poor little trees we were planting were half frozen and the clumps of roots had to be hacked apart with a spade. In short, not exactly prime tree planting weather. ‘Who the hell plants trees in the snow?’ I was muttering to myself as we went. ‘I bet we’re the hardest tree planters in all of Scotland.’

And then we did stop, and went into a nice warm room for a reviving cup of tea and our lunch, and I read about these people, who are recreating the wildwoods of the Southern Uplands. And had a look at some of their volunteering activities and decided that – when it came to tree planting – we’re still with the Southern Softies.

What a project, though. Well worth a little frostbite, don’t you think?


Burning Issue

January 19, 2010

I was so not up for going out conservation volunteering this morning. What with one thing and another, I haven’t been for more than a month and when I had to drag myself out of bed long before dawn – and brave the shower before the heating had had a chance to get going – I did wonder exactly why I had ever thought this was a good idea. I set off with the sun barely struggling over the hills and the Met Office’s promised (why? Why do I believe them? Why? It’s not as though they haven’t got a 100% track record of utter wrongness to date) partly sunny skies had proved on closer inspection to be lowering mizzle. 10 miles of cycling in a keen east wind did not promise good things.

I’d like to go on to say that the hard work was its own reward and that the satisfaction of a job well done was what changed my mind as I pedalled homewards, weary but happy. But actually, the real reason why I ended up having a fantastic day was that I was put in charge of the bonfire. A whole morning spent setting fire to things and then poking them? There can be no finer way to spend a damp January Tuesday on the beach. I had a pitchfork, too. Go on, admit it, you’re jealous.

Worryingly, though, I discovered today that I was considered something of a bonfire expert, for reasons which escape me. Fortunately my fire-starting weaknesses remained undiscovered (something to do with lighting a bonfire of gorse using kindling made out of old creosoted telegraph poles)  and, hopefully never will be, or at least not until the weather gets a little warmer.


Through a Hedge Backwards

November 2, 2008

Take one neglected, lightly flailed hedge:

Hedge before laying

Hedge before laying

Knock it about a bit:

cutting pleachers

cutting pleachers

cut and laid

cut and laid

Hammer it down well:

hammering in stakes

hammering in stakes

Repeat ad nauseam and hey presto:

Laid hedge

Laid hedge

A fully functioning, theoretically stock proof hedge. Rendered somewhat irrelevant by the subsequent invention of barbed wire, but hey, everybody’s got to have a hobby.

And how was your weekend?


Us and Them

October 13, 2008

Coming back from a hard day’s footpath clearing today – after several hours doing battle with the skin-tearing, hair-tangling three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle that is the gorse bush – we encountered two walkers. ‘Oh,’ said the female half of the couple, spotting our implements of destruction. ‘Oh good, I’m glad someone’s doing something about it. I was just saying we should …’ I smiled politely, ready to direct her to the guy from the council who would happily provide her with the opportunity to join us on the next task. ‘Email somebody and tell them they should do something about it,’ she went on.

See, all this time I’ve been thinking that I was one of ‘us’. Only now do I discover that actually I am one of them, the great they that gets things done, or doesn’t, depending on whether a public-spirited citizen has emailed to remind them. Still, at least that makes me a somebody after all these years. Next up: what they, sorry, I, should do about the credit crunch…


Will Work for Wood

September 19, 2008

Ooh ouch, the light on our oil meter was flashing yesterday – time to refill the tank for the winter. Five hundred quid for a thousand litres of oil; running the rayburn does not come cheap. Heating the house won’t either, with an oil-fired boiler and single glazed windows, even if the walls themselves are a foot thick. Time to get out the Antarctic parkas, I think.

Still, I was out today chopping things down in the name of conservation and by the end of the day a largeish pile of wood – all in nice fireplace sized chunks – has happened to come my way. Normally I volunteer for the nice warm metaphorical glow it gives me, but on this occasion, I was more than grateful for a literal one as well.


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