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Diary Article 1.

It’s several weeks now since I started my “Saturday,” job at “Oak Tree Farm Rural Project,” and I seem to be settling in nicely. The youngsters only attend the centre on weekdays, apart from a couple of them working in the café, so half of the people working there on a Saturday, are volunteers like myself. At first they didn’t seem to know how to take me because of my Schizophrenia, but they are obviously used to being around people with problems, so they soon accepted me. My usual job seems to be bonfire duty as a lot of rubbish is deposited each week by their commercial arm called Acorn Garden Services, who are also based on the site. The weeds that are brought back for disposal, from all the gardening they do, is composted along with the “Farm’s,” own weeds, but they obviously do a lot of pruning of bushes, hedges and trees etc as well which provides lots of material for my bonfires. I suppose at other times of year there will be less, as pruning is seasonal, but at the moment the pile of rubbish has become enormous because for the last two weeks I haven’t been able to get the fire to burn properly. Having made a well stacked heap last week that didn’t burn, I tried to relight it again this week, although water was literally running down the branches after all the rain! Needless to say I got thoroughly wet and stank of smoke, but try as I might the fire wouldn’t take hold. Next week I think I will suggest to the centre manager that they buy a big, heavy duty, garden shredder instead! After all, the shreddings would be a nice additive to mix in with their home-made compost to open it up a little!

The very first week that I went, Dave asked me if I would like to sort out a grapevine that had been planted in one of the greenhouses. My efforts were such a great success that I was able to, not only shape the vine up a little, but do it in such a way that I exposed all the bunches of black grapes that had previously been hidden. Afterwards, whenever anybody went into the greenhouse, they couldn’t resist picking off one or two of the grapes and trying them. With this success under my belt, a week or two later, Dave showed me to a half constructed “Willow Arch,” over part of a path that runs round the site and asked me if I had any experience. I hadn’t of course, but was eager to try something completely new and different. The arch walkway was about 10 or 12 feet long with a lot more Willow trees that had been planted, some years earlier, at the far end of it, that hadn’t been bent over yet to shape up and extend the arch. The part of the arch that had been done a year or two earlier, desperately needed a “Hair Cut,” with branches growing skywards from the top of the arch some 10 feet or more. Having never done any weaving, or anything else like that before, I just started pulling over a few of the biggest branches, tying them in place and weaving in smaller branches as best I could. Within a couple of hours I had practically doubled the length of the walkway, although there were a few bits where daylight brightly shone through. On the whole though, I was pleased with my efforts.

Next Spring, when the branches on the new part start to shoot again, the fresh growth can be woven into place to thicken the new section of the screen up. My only hopes are that the Winter winds don’t blow so hard that they undo all my good work and make the branches come loose and spring free! The Willow Arch – Walkway, is obviously a living thing, so is going to need ongoing attention throughout the future and I have already had strict instructions from the lad who looks after the animals on the site, that when I get round to giving the top of the arch a “Hair cut,” I should save the prunings for him, so that he can have a go at weaving some baskets, or panels, etc out of them.


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