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Diary Article 10.

For one reason or another I have missed several weeks at Oak Tree, first it was a bad back, then the snow and last week my Great Nephew and Great Niece came visiting the family with their parents. As my mother hadnít seen either youngster since they were born, all the family made the effort to get together.
So, this week I was determined to go to Oak Tree come what may. It was raining at home when I set out and my Aunt, who my mother was talking to on the phone when I left, said it was snowing again in Birmingham, but I thought nothing of it. However, Oak Tree is a little higher than where I live and when I got there I found there was a pretty, white covering of snow everywhere with a little more coming down. No bonfire today, I thought, although there was the biggest pile of assorted Rhododendron branches, part of an apple tree, willow prunings, rose prunings and other mixed rubbish that you ever did see and it was all lightly covered with snow and dripping wet.
Several other volunteers had arrived by this time and we were all trying to decide what to do in the wet. My first job was to unload a dozen young Hazel trees and half a dozen Blackthorns that I had taken with me that had been healed in, in pots, in my allotment over the last season and the Winter. The intention is that they will be used to fill in gaps in the hedges around the site.

By the time I had unloaded the car, the sleet had stopped and the sun tried to come out. One volunteer then presented me with half a dozen whole newspapers for my fire and after a two hour struggle, just when I was running out of paper, I got it going. It was the biggest bonfire you ever did see and was very smoky with all the wet, but it burnt.

While I was valiantly tending my fire one of the other volunteers emptied a large brick cold frame. The Winter wet and frost had penetrated some of the brickwork and badly damaged it to such an extent that the whole thing would have to be demolished and re-built. Fortunately, I was told that the team of volunteers included someone who was a useful brick-layer.

There are always plenty of maintenance jobs to do around the site, apart from feeding, cleaning out and watering the animals, but when the weather is bad it is not always so easy to find things to do inside at this time of year. The other week two of the volunteers spent most of a whole day cleaning the inside glass of all the greenhouses with brushes and a pressure sprayer. There isnít much growing in them at the moment, but Spring is only just round the corner and as they fill up with plants it will be important to make the most of the low light levels in the early part of the new season.
The constant wet weather has played havoc with a lot of the older wooden doors around the site and kept our resident carpenter, another volunteer, busy most weeks. This week however, he turned his talents to replacing an old worn out carpet in one of the offices. There were a few comments made about him having a nice warm job in the dry!

Other things that have been going on while I have been absent include cutting out bit a more of the new path that will run down by the brick built compost heaps. Two of the heaps have also been dug out with some of the compost bagged and some barrowed onto the vegetable area. Where the barrows have been tipped it looks like the area has been covered in huge mole-hills as it hasnít been dug in yet, and a large wooden, raised bed has also been made in one of the poly tunnels using some more of the compost. On the subject of compost, Oak Tree have also taken delivery of 4 huge bags of compost from a commercial producer ready for the new season and all the bedding plants that they will grow. When I say huge bags I mean the size bags that builders merchants use to deliver tons of sand in, to building sites.

Oak Tree have also been changing some of the livestock around. The very wet year we have just had meant that they were struggling to keep the herd of Longhorn cattle fed. The field they were in was getting badly cut up and with the grass not growing properly they needed a lot of additional feed that was expensive. Consequently the centre finally decided to dispose of the herd, keeping a smaller number of other cattle temporarily in a barn with half a dozen calves. They have also sent some Chickens and Ducks to Penkridge market where they got a good price, but I was told it is too early in the season to guarantee that any replacement fertilized eggs bought, will actually be viable, so they will have to wait until nearer the Spring to increase their numbers again. The pig that went to a ďbetter place,Ē some weeks ago hasnít been replaced either yet as the centre want to pick a nice outdoor site for its replacement to live where it can live a more natural and happy existence instead of being inside in a stable. Oak Tree not only try to keep the trainees happy, but also the volunteers and the animals!

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