Today I went to learn hedge laying with the local Hedge-laying Society. About ten of us met in the car park of the Bungalow Inn, then drove to Nempnett Thrubwell* and set about it.
I love Somerset farmers. Politically they sometimes have an unfortunate tendency towards the Rush Limbaugh way of looking at things, but they have much more heart (and intelligence, come to think of it) than Mr Limbaugh.
My teacher worked from kin to can't. They work hours dictated by their cattle, which seems more fulfilling than working the hours dictated by Management. His son was out there to hear the management tell them that they were about to get less for their milk. Sounds as if deflation is rearing its ugly head in the North Somerset milk industry. It is incredible that the merchants pass the price cut down to the farmers who have such a tiny profit margin on milk anyway. Time for economic transformation.
I set about slashing into a hedge. You need a billhook (pron. billook) with a long handle to slash. My short one was no good. One of my teachers, Stuart, a lovely shy man, gave me some loppers, and that was fine. You have to tidy the area up, get all the ivy and dead wood away so you can see the base of the bush where it comes out of the Earth, the idea being that the spleacher (aka pleacher, splasher), the bit you lay down, has to be as low as possible so that the sheep cannot do the limbo under it and do a runner
Sheep are great escapers. Down Soggy Bottom the sheep developed a Commando Roll to get under the electric fence. My good friend Ant had sheep. 3 days later he rings up to tell me of his new friends. I' like "Have they escaped yet?" "He's like** "No, not at all. Wait a minute, what's that tapping on the kitchen window? No I tell a lie. They have escaped. Must go".
When you have cleaned it up, you get to use the billhook. Cut in util you can bend it, and shave the tongue down with the billhook, taking the split right down to the ground. Then you cut of the heel, the bit sticking up, where the stem used to be. (a) because it looks untidy otherwise, especially if I cut it, and (b)
Must go, Evan "I stepped out of TV economics reporting at the wrong time" Davis is on TV about the economy. [later] Brilliant piece, nice clear review of market bubbles, well worth a look, but I cannot find the link. Try this one instead.
Anyway I learned the first steps in hedge-laying, met some nice people, got lost on the way back in the network of lanes around Nempnett Thrubwell, and now I find that I am aching everywhere from muscles unaccustomed to hedge-laying. So I will spare you all the details.
*In the Meaning of Liff, this translates as the feeling you get when you are riding a motorcycle on a warm day with no traffic, in the pre-helmet days.
**Please comment if this iis annoying. I'm just trying it out