Now you see it… or games with power tools

What do you do on a fine but cold Monday, when the list of absolutely vital garden jobs covers two sheets of A4? (Apart from go shopping, that is.) I had the answer: you have fun with chainsaws. And ropes.

I’ve three ash trees in my garden, and I’m staying off the whole subject of ash die-back here because I don’t want to throw my laptop through the window. The one in the middle garden needed a lot of work a few years ago, but the two at the top have only really been pecked at, and have started worrying me in high winds, when they’re inclined to drop branches. Any work has to be carefully timed and scheduled in the gap following the meadow trim, but before any of the bulbs so much as sticks a tiny pointed shoot above ground. Perfect right now, in fact. Time for major surgery.

(Plus, of course, it gives some people the chance to do what they really enjoy: play with power tools. And, in a fine bit of gender stereotyping during one pause, my friend and I fiddled with the 1936 sewing machine I’ve just bought while the boys talked petrol strimmers.)

Still life with chainsaw?

One advantage of not using a tree surgeon for jobs like this is that you get all the brash and the finer branches – stuff that a tree surgeon would shred. I do appreciate the chippings after Mr Tree Surgeon Man has been round, but I’ve got four builders’ rubble sacks full from the cedar and I don’t really need any more, handy though they are. But while having the smaller stuff is extremely useful in terms of extra logs for the stove and humungous amounts of kindling, it is also a lot of work for the Support Team (when they’re not talking sewing machines).

I’d not realised exactly how sexually determined yesterday’s tasks were until I started writing this post… Hm. What would Sylvia Pankhurst, Virginia Woolf, Betty Frieidan or Gloria Steinem do? Probably not bowsaw their thumb, as I did. Bet Virginia never went anywhere near a bowsaw (though I think Vita Sackville-West could have been useful to have around, probably also fine with power tools). It’s fine, thanks. Just stopped bleeding, nearly 24 hours later. Memo to self: wear gloves. Wear gloves. Wear gloves. Ahem.

But it was worth it. My friends disappeared with multiple sacks of wood and kindling (and there’s more but we ran out of sacks, so they’re coming back); my own wood heap has been beautifully augmented,

and that’s just the smaller stuff. There are lots of good big branches, some of which were rather interesting to retrieve from inside the biggest skimmia on the planet – in the foreground below – awkwardly growing around the base of one of the ashes. This involved a lot of strange movement in the skimmia without any apparent source, as the log pushers were completely obscured by foliage. So the skimmia got a bit damaged? It can take it, as can I, and at least it isn’t going around with a stupid huge plaster on its thumb (not sure about that image; I think I need more coffee).

The disadvantage of doing a job like is that there are some parts of it that you just cannot do yourself, and one of my ashes is now extremely tall and too close to power lines.

I overruled protestations about this (though they subsided quite quickly once P actually got up in the tree and realised how high he would have to climb, and how close the branches are to the power lines – ‘does this supply all of the village?’) and called Mr Tree Surgeon Man again. So the job isn’t quite finished, but it’s been enough to delight one of my neighbours up the hill who popped round (and coincidentally offered to take some of the timber off my hands). He’d never seen the beach from his house before.

Given the speed ashes grow, I’d take the pictures now. Or maybe he should just wait until ash die-back hits west Wales. Hmm. Where’s my laptop?

PS: Just back from doc – tetanus jab. Ironic, really, that I should have spent all that time worrying about blokes hanging on to trees by their fingernails while holding chainsaws in their teeth, but the only person who got hurt was this idiot. Still, it made the nurses at the surgery laugh…. again.


20 Comments Add yours

  1. wellywoman says:

    Oh hope ash dieback doesn’t make it you. I’ve already had my ash rant on my blog so will leave it there. I’m not good with blood at all and feel quite faint at the smallest sight of it. Looks like a good day’s work and plenty of firewood. Hope the finger’s better soon.

    1. kate says:

      So do I, but I’m worried that it will. It’s not just my garden; it will decimate the woods round here. And what about Yggdrasil, the World Ash? We’re all doooooomed….. ahem.

      If it does, I’ll plant a grove of birches. To go with the one I’ve already got, er, if three trees makes a grove.

  2. Cathy says:

    Great post Kate – plenty to giggle about as usual! I’m a bit curious about your 2 A4 sheet list of absolutely vital garden jobs though…….

    1. kate says:

      The list could be even bigger, but I’ve taken ‘weed’ as a given. Also ‘tidy up’.

      It includes such joys as ‘do something about the veg beds’ (I’ve forgotten what I had in mind, could be liming them), ‘teasels’ and ‘apples’. I do vague.

  3. paulinemulligan says:

    Lovely pile of kindling there, ash is about the best for burning, gives off so much heat. We have 6 ash in the garden here so are hoping the dreaded disease doesn’t get here, will have to do a post about it soon!!

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it a joy to burn? I shouldn’t really be thinking like that, I suppose, but it does burn very well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that our prevailing winds might afford our ashes some protection, but I think I’m fooling myself.

  4. Christina says:

    It is satisfying to have a fully stacked wood pile! Looks like the boys (and the girls) did a great job. Christina

    1. kate says:

      They did – and they had fun too. Didn’t cost me much in cake, either!

  5. jan rushby says:

    Ash trees are swine aren’t they? When we lived in York my partner decided to fell an ash at the bottom of our garden early one Sunday morning. It all went horribly wrong and he spent the rest of the day mending three neighbours’ fences (physically) while I did the same thing metaphorically with tea and cake and copious apologies. Mmmmmm more gender stereotyping!

    1. kate says:

      They are, but I don’t want to loose them! It’s the grubbing out of seedlings all the time that really gets to me, but I can forgive them that because of the privacy they give me…

      We have a damaged ladder to deal with. Borrowed the wrong one (builder’s rather than friend’s, due to monetary identification confusion). Oops.

  6. Dobby says:

    I was going to ask if they got cake, but you have answered that one with Christina.
    You have reminded me that I ought to go and get a tetanus jab. Am pulling loads of brambles up from a friends garden and always manage to get spiked whatever gloves I wear!!

    1. kate says:

      Two sorts of cake, even. Spoilt, that’s what some people are. Just plain spoilt.

      I thought I was either up to date with tetanus, or that I’d had so many I’d had enough. Turns out neither was true. Rats.

  7. elaine says:

    I don’t know what we would do without ash for our wood burning stove, it seems to burn well wet or dry. As for power tools I simply won’t go near them any more – I once cut the top of my little finger off with a hedge trimmer – never again! Our willow needs a good haircut this winter but when the beloved powers up the chain saw I retreat indoors envisioning bloodied limbs strewn about the lawn.

    1. kate says:

      It’s wonderful stuff, isn’t it?

      I’m with you on the power tool front, 100% – except I’ve never done anything so dramatic. It puts years on me, too…

  8. Juliet says:

    Ouch – I hope the thumb has recovered. I daren’t risk tetanus jabs (due to allergies) so it’s wear gloves for everything, and two pairs for anything really prickly. And I’m still forever taking them off and forgetting to put them back on again …

    I really hope you are spared ash dieback. I’m guessing you’ll have seen this already, but I keep getting info. from the woodland trust about it. Scary.

    1. kate says:

      Thumb is a lot better but will obviously scar – oh well, what’s another nick? I think I’d better get more gloves, and of a distinctive colour that won’t merge into compost / sticks / bonfires / hedges. Hm.

      Thanks for the link. Cases are getting closer…. ooooo

  9. I have resigned myself to gender stereotyping since the days when I used to go up my own ladder and paint the eaves of the house. I was a lot younger then and I didn’t have a husband who is so much more practically minded than I am that it seems a total waste of time for me to do a job badly when he can do it well. Inevitably I am also better at baking and knitting and sewing machines. My seventies feminist self would have a heart attack! Despite this realpolitick my feminist ideals still burn!

    1. kate says:

      I fight against it, but I do have to give up occasionally!

      (Plus, there’s no way I’m going anywhere near a chainsaw, given the damage I can do to myself with a simple bowsaw. Sometimes you just need men. In the absence of Vita Sackville-West, who would probably have been up in the trees hanging off branches with her fingernails.)

  10. By “gloves” I presume mean the kind that come with a suit of armour? Not that I am suggesting you garden in armour, the list would never shrink…

    In theory I get really cross about the whole “boys toys” thing, since I regularly fought with TNG over who got to use the circular saw when we were laying flooring in our old house. In practice I was delighted to leave the conifer felling to TNG and BIL, since I just didn’t have the energy and they were so boyishly happy to do it, it would have been cruel to muscle in. And sewing machines are fun – I still miss my Nan’s old manual singer.

    I have my fingers crossed for your ash trees…

    1. kate says:

      I just am not safe with any tools, so it’s just as well I that fail to hear the siren call of the chainsaw. No, they don;t do it for me at all….

      The old Singer is cleaned and oiled and purring nicely!

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