THE AUTUMN FEDGEROW UPDATE

Before I get started on this subject, I have to tell you what a very , very strange, weird and exciting week we’ve had here at ‘The Willows’. We have been contacted by a major, international media company, based in London, wanting to run a story about our lives, and our way of living, because we are completely off the grid, with our own alternative energy, water supply and almost all our own food ( we are still sorting out the last one !). I had a really nice, hour long telephone conversation, with a lovely lady, just talking about life at ‘The Willows’. After a few days she contacted us again and said that even though there’d been a very good response from newspapers and magazines, and even though we are both British citizens, the papers would prefer to have had  UK based people. So, oh well, we can only wait and see if the newspapers come to their senses ! But, at the end of the day, thank you so much to Hannah and the publishing company for recognising our little story and making us both feel so proud of the acknowledgement.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.

Now, the willow fedgerow is one of our constant and favourite blog stories for the simple fact that it was this subject that started us off on our blog journey, when a couple of our friends visited us and took some photos for their own blog. www.fromacountrycottage.wordpress.com  and they received a good response to it.

Willow is so easy and versatile to use, it almost makes the perfect planting material and my goodness, it grows so quickly! With every year it grows, the more rods it produces, providing ever more planting opportunities. We have literally fenced our whole land with willow, which is why when I said that we had planted lots of trees, it really is quite impossible to count but it must be getting towards 1000, possibly more, but hey, who’s counting?

The only problem with willow is that Bowie and  Floyd, our donkeys, love to eat it, so in many areas we have had to put an exclusion zone with a wire fence as well.

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Wrapping the rods in this way holds them in place.

Willow really is so easy to use, you literally just push it into the ground, walk away and watch it grow. I would say that we have had around a 95% success rate with many sizes from 2 feet in length, pushed in to ground about 9 inches, to 12 feet that we wove into  archways ( hence our name!)

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Fallen arches. The wind will always catch anything that’s top heavy. This archway is about 6 years old and our willowarchway picture.

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This is it after a straighten up and a haircut !

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Weaving not only looks pleasing but strengthens the structure.

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This fedge is around 3 years old.020

This 100 metre long fedgerow is  6 years old and was the first fedge to be planted on our land. It goes from the house all the way down the driveway to the lane. This willow was originally sourced from the roadside and all other fedgerows on our land have been created from this  We have plans to lay another fedge on the other side of the driveway and in time we’ll join the two together to form a tunnel.

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Willow fedgeing being used to create a pathway through the garden.

Happy fedgeing, any questions and you know where we are.

Enjoy

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AUTUMN FEDGEROW SUMMER WATCH.

We are just taking another opportunity to bring subjects up to date and as you know last autumn we planted a willow hedgeway. This wasn’t just for the sake of it, but because all we really had was an empty field that I had strimmed and mowed. So, knowing how good and fast growing willow is, we thought that this was the best way to try and develop a garden structure, because like we said before, we bought 6 acres of empty grazing land and had to try to create an existance from this. We didn’t really have a lot of previous knowledge of alternative living, just snippets of information and glimpses of what could become possible from chance meetings of people from around the world, and then us trying to form an idea. Now, obviously the house had to be built first, we all need a roof over our heads, but trying to do everything all at the same time, build the house, sort out alternative energy, sort out a water supply, well, it all takes time.

Our land is also wet, not sodden but wet ( well this is Ireland!), so willow was an obvious choice as this plant helps to dry out the land and gives an instant structure.

Planted as bare rods in late October, these started producing catkins in late February, so after 8 months from planting  and 4 months from sprouting they laid root and have grown 2 feet.

This is the previous years growth which is 3.5 feet tall, which goes to show that once first planted it puts on a rapid spurt of growth, slows down for a year and then once again takes off at a massive rate.

This is 4 years growth and is at least 10 feet high and 6 feet thick. Because we coppiced this very heavily last autumn it has produced a very thick hedge. The cut rods were then used to create the fedgerows in the previous photos and any pieces that we didn’t think were long enough to cut were incorporated back into the hedge to carry on growing.

Once these have grown to a suitable height they will be joined at the top to form a willow archway tunnel.

Creating a garden creation through the simple medium of willow.

Even though I was bought up next door to a plant nursery that my stepdad owned, and I’ve always been around plants, this sort of technique isn’t  new to me but I didn’t actually have a name for it until a good friend if ours Bridget www.arignagardener.wordpress.com called round one day and took some photos and called it a fedge. It was then that we decided to set up this blog, thanks Bridget!

We have found it strange that once we started to write this blog it has put the whole project into perspective as we really spread ourselves thinly with what felt like a million projects all at once. It can make your head spin, but then all of a sudden all of those little bits start to come together and show themselves individually and also as a whole collection. It’s a strange thought that as you are trying to do all of these different projects all at the same time, even though you try to give 100% to each thing, you don’t always appreciate what has been achieved at the time. Well, I think that writing about it on this blog puts things into perspective and makes one look at what has been achieved.

We would both like to take this opportunity to say a big hello and welcome to all our new followers. It’s not always possible to reply to you all at the moment but we really do appreciate you all and will try through our next blog meetings to do so. We hope that our site can be helpful and informative for everyone. Also, to our older constant followers, thankyou for staying with us, we are so glad that you are part of this with us and can witness the changes of life at’ The Willows’.

‘BASKET CASE’

A few weeks ago our old woven basket that was used for holding our peat briquettes,( and we had actually rescued from a skip!),fell apart and couldn’t take being mended for an umpteenth time! LJ (hubby) decided on the spur of the moment, he would have a go at making another. We had some willow left over from our fedge-making last week and so, without further ado and absolutely no idea or previous experience of basket weaving, the task took place…..

I was pretty shocked to see that already the base was taking shape from a small idea he had.

And within a couple of hours already it was standing up.

Looking down into the base.

He was so engrossed in his work that even the rain couldn’t stop him and I had to clear the kitchen to enable continuation!

Look at the weft-work on that!

This wasn’t easy because the willow is supposed to be soaked for a couple of weeks prior to weaving to make it supple.

Because we have such interest in willow,( hence the house name and blog site!), it’s amazing the information that you find out such as willow is the traditional material used in basket-making and is also known as ‘osier’. It seems to grow best in an area that has a high content of water, which suits our land just fine! Each year the osiers are cut as coppice shoots that grow up as permanent ‘stools’. They are then cut by hand usually during winter months. We also found out that there are three types of rod, white, buff and brown.White rods have their bark removed manually with a V shaped tool. Buff rods are boiled so that the tannin in the bark stains the rods a buff colour and then they are peeled. Brown rods have the bark left on as in the case of what we used.

Taa Daa!! Not bad as a first attempt eh?