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Diary Article 8 .

The next week after the Christmas Sale it was back to normal with more ordinary duties to be done. Taking my usual stroll around the site on my arrival to see what had been going on during the week, I noticed that the pig was missing from his little stable pen. The chap who looks after the animals told me he had gone to a better place! My immediate re-action was – OH! I know what that means, but I was wrong as he had been taken to a smallholding somewhere in Shropshire and he was to live outside in the fresh air and be used for breeding, hopefully, if he is up to it. In other words he really had definitely gone to a better place!

The recent winds had fetched all the remaining leaves off the Willow arch walkway and consequently many of the branches had sprung free as I feared they might. Being a lovely, sunny and dry, but cool morning, I got out a ball of soft twine from my car and within half an hour I had the loose branches pretty well tied down again. When I first worked on the arch I tried not to use too much string on the grounds that if it was not cut and re-tied every so many years it would strangle the branches. However, it is obviously needed to hold them in place and the argument is that it will need tying in again every Autumn so the strings can be cut and re-tied then.

A great pile of conifer branches had been cut with a smaller pile, of finer branches, heaped a few feet away that had been trimmed ready to be used to make wreaths etc. David told me trim some more and then burn the thicker waste material. Armed with a pair of secateurs from my car I soon had a pile of course branches ready to burn. With my mixed success at getting a speedy fire lit I made some paper fire lighters the old fashioned way by pulling out individual sheets and rolling them tightly between my fingers into a very long cigarette shape before twisting and tying them into knots. I had learnt this method of making slow burning paper fire lighters as a child some 45 years ago, but don’t get much chance to practice it these days! It took a little while to make the firelighters, but they say preparation is everything and within minutes the fire was roaring away. In all honesty though, that may not have just been due to my skills as a fire starter, because all I had to burn was conifer!

At 11 o’clock it was time for my ham sandwich with mustard, on brown bread, and a lovely mug of piping hot, hot chocolate to wash it down.

Suitably refreshed I returned to the fire that had nearly burnt its heart out and pushed the remains together, before seeking some other jobs to do.

To round off my morning, I was told to pot a couple of large Christmas trees that had been taken to the centre. I don’t know what they were for, but there were a few others that were simply too big to pot up and as I pointed out they didn’t really have much root on them, so they were as good as dead anyway. All the pots would do was to stand them up and make them look nice. I did gave them a really good drink that might give them a slender chance to survive, but said that it was not the best way of getting potted Christmas trees which should really be grown in the pots from small seedlings and not torn up from the ground. That can be done with field grown deciduous trees, but not conifers as they will almost certainly die. I am sure that many other so called “Potted Christmas Trees,” sold this year will be like this and perhaps people will be grateful for what they can get as they are likely to be in short supply what with the disease which is attacking, and killing, up to 1/3 of trees. However, the disease is not as destructive, or fatal, as that affecting the Ash population and which is said to be a re-run of the Dutch Elm disease that all but wiped out the population of Elm trees a few decades ago.

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