Thursday, 24 March 2016


By the time it started to rain this afternoon I'd reduced two of the piles of branches lying around the garden to bags of shredded twigs and stacks of dewhiskered branches.  I quite enjoy shredding, for there is a kind of satisfaction in starting with a big heap of mess and ending up with smaller heaps of something useful, in this case weed suppressant mulch for the area around the compost bins and future firewood.  It is not the most skilled gardening task, though, and it takes a fair time. I lamented as much to the Systems Administrator as I trimmed the smallest side growths too thin to be worth shredding off the branches destined for firewood, and the SA pointed out that tree surgeons have machines to do it.  Ah, I have a pair of secateurs.

The branches are rather wet to be much use at the moment, but come the autumn they will have dried out and will be splendid for getting the stove going.  In the meantime I am stacking them out of the way on a pallet by the compost bins.  While I was fiddling around with the small stuff the Systems Administrator spent some time heaving lumps of tree trunk out of the wood, and splitting it.  The saying goes that wood warms you three times, once when you haul it, once when you split it, and again when you burn it, but nowadays we have a log splitter.  The SA originally bought it when we had a fallen poplar tree, finding the axe simply bounced off poplar wood, but when you have a splitter it's tempting to use it.

Film maker Debra Granik does so to brilliant, nerve racking effect in her 2010 feature Winter's Bone.  Jennifer Lawrence splitting wood, her menacing and sinister uncle Teardrop played by John Hawkes padding lightly towards her, and the splitter grinding away.  You really don't know whether the scene is about to erupt into horrible violence.  Granik directed and co-adapted the screenplay, and the film received four nominations for Oscars.  Why hasn't she done more since?  There was a 2014 documentary about a Vietnam veteran who loves small dogs, but that seems to have passed the UK by entirely.

Once the rain arrived I went and bought more fish, blood and bone, and some John Innes No. 2 compost which I need for the reckless plants, and was pleased to see on the bag has a pH of six to seven, so I can use it on my gentian 'Strathmore' which needs ericaceous compost and which I want to move into a bigger pot so that its stems don't dangle over the edge like they did last year.  I was able to get grit as well, to mix with the John Innes.  There seem to be an enormous number of recipes for compost for potted auriculas, but trying to reach a consensus opinion it looks as though a mixture of JI and grit should do it.  A bit of grit probably wouldn't hurt the gentian either.  The Clacton Garden Centre was the source of all these useful things.  They are very good at gardening sundries, and stock blood, fish and bone in 25 kilo bags, which is the most economical way to buy it.

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