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Diary Article 4

It was a cold start this morning after the first, real, country wide frost and I was early as usual, but one or two of the other volunteers proved to be a little bit slower getting out of bed and getting there!

Unusually, the animals hadn’t been fed and got very excited when they heard me about with the calves shouting out with their very high pitched “MOOS,” and the young porker grunting and squealing for England as well as pacing backwards and forwards. That is they made a lot of commotion until they saw me and realised who I was, and that there was NO food coming!

More often than not I am on “Bonfire Duty.” That is to say the main job for me every Saturday is to burn the tougher prunings and branches that can’t be composted. This week I had the fire going in about 10 minutes flat as we hadn’t really had any rain since the pile was made and I found a nice little pile of some very dry stuff which, with lots of Holly leaves, soon had the fire crackling well. At least, it did when I got the damp matches to light that had been kept in the boot of my car! As I stoked the fire up from the pile, I threw out and onto a separate pile, some larger logs that other staff could cut up with a saw, to be bagged and sold as fire logs. Being a country area, a lot of people still burn logs on their fires and “Log Burners,” seem to be all the fashion now.

The centre manager was doing his usual site inspection for jobs that needed doing and I had a quick talk with him about an idea that I had had concerning a small piece of wasteland on the site. My idea was to landscape it with some of the sites, own, homemade compost and plant it up. Some time ago the charity had an old septic tank replaced and dumped the waste soil from the excavating, under some big trees at the bottom of the site. Previously, other rubbish had been put there as it was out of sight, but a nice path has since been laid round the site and through the spinney area. The path winds round from the garden and fruit beds, through to the Willow Walkway and the Mini Orchard, before coming out by the greenhouses. With the “Hair Cut,” nearly finished on the Willow Arch and the site generally being made much smarter, Dave agreed that the small “Dump,” area needed tidying up as well, so he gave me the go ahead to start.

After fetching my fork from the car and getting stuck in I found that a lot of the soil bank was clay that I quickly and roughly, levelled off, burying some large rocks and brick rubble, but removing some old branches and plastic that went on to the fire.

At 11 O’Clock I was ready for my usual coffee break that consisted of a very welcome cup of hot chocolate and a lovely chunk of lemon cake from the Café. Naturally, I removed my very muddy Wellingtons outside before going inside, in my socks to get my 11’ss. Then I went back outside and sat at one of the wooden benches to eat. Everyone else in the café must have thought that I was crazy, sitting outside, on a frosty morning, to eat, but I had been working hard and was more than a little hot and sweaty!

Five minutes later and refreshed, I went back to work and finished moving about a dozen or more barrows of compost, that made a nice, rich, 5 or 6 inch layer, over the poor soil in the mound. Hopefully, next week, I will add another layer of compost from another and older pile, that had been spoilt by some gravel getting mixed into it. The two layers should mix in nicely to form a decent planting medium.

Being under a Holly and other trees, the soil bank is very shady and it is also very wet with a spring running across it at one end. Hopefully I will be able to plant it up before the Winter sets in and the charity will probably want most of the plants used to be native types and not too invasive. Ferns spring to mind, along with Primulas. They grow Bergenias on the site that would look very pretty with their large leaves and red flowers, although they are not natives. English Bluebells and Fritillaries would also be nice additions, and although expensive to buy, I may be able to collect some seed from plants that we have at home. However, they will take 2 or 3 years to germinate and mature to flowering size. This project will be another on-going one I think, like the Willow Arch Walkway!

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