Progress on cutting the boundary hedge is coming along nicely, partly because it is such a sad and spindly hedge that there isn't all that much growth to cut off. With secateurs, loppers, pruning saw, bow saw and the long handled cord operated lopper that I somehow managed to carry back from Hampton Court Flower Show on the train, I'm facing it up into a level, hedge-like surface. A thin, see-through hedge, but a hedge. Its constituent parts, hawthorn, hazel, field maple and spindle, seem hell bent on making long growths that shoot as far away from the hedge as possible. I can see where I've cut them in the past, and instead of making bushy growth in response to tipping back like a reasonable plant would, they have regrown with a fresh supply of long shoots.
The long handled cord lopper is a bit of a brute to use. It is still pretty sharp, but not so sharp as when it was new, and although designed with a mechanical advantage that must compare favourably with a badger's jaw, you still have to pull the cord extremely hard to get through the thicker branches. I found myself alternating between gripping the thick string as tightly as I could, and wrapping it around my hand, which rapidly became painful. Note to self (and others), never, ever, ever wrap any cord or rope round your hand if the other end is attached to anything that could suddenly pull away from you. I thought that I was pretty safe with nothing but a set of outsize geared secateurs at the end of a lightweight pole.
Even a thin hedge produces a surprisingly large pile of prunings, which mysteriously shrink to become very small once they have gone through the shredder. After all my labours this morning and yesterday I ended up with just three small bags of shredded twigs to use as mulch round the compost bins, much less than a wheelbarrow of firewood, and a couple of big bins of thin, rubbishy stuff for the bonfire. I'm working on the middle section of the hedge at the moment, which runs across a particularly light band of soil, and there'll be more to take off as I reach the stretch by the blue summerhouse, where the soil is better. It's sod's law that, to judge from the relative growth of the boundary hedge along its length, we seem to have managed to choose to lay the concrete for car parking and site the sheds on what was probably the best area of soil in the front garden.
By mid day the slight overnight frost had melted, helped by a brilliant winter sun, and after lunch I let the chickens out for a run. Cue the skies to darken and the wind to get up. I switched from hedge cutting to weeding, thinking that I'd better take advantage of the thaw, and the hens performed their current favoured circuit of the front garden, along the eleagnus hedge, scratching around for a while in the awkward shaped bed by the entrance, and back past me through the railway garden to a final session scraping around outside the sheds. The bed by the entrance ought to be the most pest free in the county at this rate, after the going over the chickens are giving it. They are doing quite a useful job on the concrete, since a lot of moss has grown in the grooves that our builder marked it with to make it non-slip, and the hens are busily scraping it all out, so I'll be able to go round and sweep it up later.
By half past three it was so cold I couldn't feel my feet properly, and at five to four I went and loomed over the chickens as they stood grooming and pecking at blades of grass outside their run until they went to bed. I think I need some thicker gardening socks for the winter, or maybe sheepskin insoles to go in my wellingtons.