Sunday, 6 December 2009


Nigel and Bertie have been laying the hedges around our house. They were in pretty desperate need of doing. Hedgelaying is both a skill and an art. I had to lay hedges as part of my gardening degree but I can't profess to have much skill or artistic flair for it. I remember as a general rule to lay the hedge uphill and work with someone who is the same-handed as you, whether right or left, or you can get in a muddle with your cuts. And I remember it's bloody hard work.

Nigel had to call it quits Friday when the rain was making his billhook too slippery; he would take a swing at a pleacher and the tool would fly out of his hand, mostly missing Bertie. Not wanting to go home and explain to Mrs Bertie why her husband had a billhook sticking out of his leg, they had a quick cup of tea and promised to return Tuesday. Here's the pre-laid hedge:

Very spindly and not very stock-proof.

Here's the hedge after laying:

It's still not stock-proof yet, but the view is much improved.

The hedge will double in height each time it's laid. When spring comes its shoots will grow vertically and we'll be back to a spindly hedge ready for laying again. Eventually it will be thick enough that the fence behind can come down. With the screen gone, I expect we will have a lot of cattle hanging over the fence to watch the activity in the garden - cows are nosy creatures, but I find their bovine placidness relaxing. I'll have an audience when I'm hanging out the washing.

Surprisingly, Nigel and Bertie didn't find any hidden clutches of eggs in the hedgerow. The hens haven't been laying in their houses and my egg supply has dwindled. I thought maybe they were hiding them in the hedges. I stumbled across a fresh nest in the greenhouse but that was less than a dozen. C'mon girls, Christmas is coming. I bristle at the thought of paying for eggs when I have over 40 chickens in my garden, a few of whom should still be providing even now. No matter. I will salve my soul with our new and improved view.


Paula said...

Wouldn't they lay more if they had lights? Could you run lights to their coop?

Poppy Cottage said...

What a massive difference. I now am sporting 3rd coldy fluy thing in 3 months!!!

Are you knitting tomorrow?


Tamar said...

I have a confession. I don't know what a 'hedgerow' is. I know what a hedge is, but I get the sense that hedgerows are different, partly because you have to 'lay' them, and partly because people always seem to be foraging berries out of them.

I also don't know what a billhook is, although it sounds dangerous. And a pleacher must be the part of the hedgerow you operate on in order to 'lay' it.

I don't think we have hedgerows in America. Do we?

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - That's true, by using artificial lights you can keep them in lay. But I always figure nature gives them a break for a reason so I respect that. Just personal choice.

They are still laying enough to keep me in cakes but it's finding them that's the problem. I could keep them in til late morning to be sure they lay inside but we're gone to work early so they're out and ranging by 8am.

Colette - Will see you tonight at knitting for a catch up, but you can keep your cold!

Tamar - I should really do the UK to US translations when I post. A hedgerow is essentialy a hedge. Each part of England has their own local version and design, but it's simply a natural divider and fence. It's great for free food and wildlife habitat.

A billhook is a hatchet-sized tool loved by men for its inherent danger. It's got a sharpened hook one side and a flat blade the other; if you manage to avoid catching yourself in the leg with the hook, you still have a chance to plunge the flat blade into your shoulder on the upswing. Apart from the self-mutilation it is a useful all-purpose tool for clearing brush.

A pleacher is any upright stem that you cut and lay on its side.

I don't think we have the same reliance on hedgerows in the US but I expect there are a few examples in New England. I noticed that stone walls replace hedges in England where the ground is very stony. I guess you use what you have handy and in abundance.