Monday, 28 March 2011

Willow Weavers We

Sunday morning. Having being partially scuppered by the rain on Saturday, Chief Willow Worker, Andy, steps into the sunshine and takes up his weapon. Which, as you can see, is as tall as a house. Or a bunch of willow. (Also, please remember that Malarkey Manors garden is starting a complete overhaul. That's why it looks like a building site. That's our excuse anyway.) Deputy Willow Worker, Denise, is sent up the wibbly wobbly ladder (which is probably where she belongs). The ladder affords her a jolly good view into the neighbouring gardens. Deputy WW tries not to look too conspicuous. Note that on Saturday Chief WW Andy had prepared the site by measuring out and pegging down weed suppressing membrane and wheedling some very deep willow-width holes into the ground via a metal pole and a sledgehammer. This activity rendered him red of face and sore of shoulder. You can't go around just shoving willow into the ground you know. Not if you want it to grow. Preparations are precise and thorough. The uprights are in place, temporarily tied with string. This allows for tweaking and twanging. In the accompanying instructional DVD, willow workers are encouraged to take regular 'steps back' in order to assess symmetry, angles and curves. This concept works well in the early stages of 'let's do it properly' and less so in the latter stages of 'that'll do, it'll be covered in greenery in the summer, who's going to notice if uprights 3 and 4 are every so slightly wonky anyway?' Deputy WW still clinging to top of wibbly wobbly ladder. Sorry about the hair. When one is clinging to a wibbly wobbly ladder, the only reason one lets go is to tie willow to willow at the correct angle without kinking it (for kinking means death to willow), and not to faff about with one's hair because Chief WW insists on taking a photo because Deputy WW apparently looks 'cute.' Also. being up the ladder puts Deputy WW in vague flight path of Malarkey Manor bees flying southwards to local park. One has to cling onto ladder when being dinged in the back of the head by a bee on a mission.
Whilst Deputy WW makes quick foray to shop to get cat food before cats start gnawing off their own legs, Chief WW sets to work weaving base of arch. Deputy WW is allowed to weave other side on her return. Weaving involves making more deep holes, knowing your fronts from your backs, your ins from your outs, and no shaking it all about because of the aforementioned death-to-willow kinking. If your willow is a tad stiff, and needs coaxing to take on a more gentle arc, then you rub your hand up and down the shaft with long, firm strokes in order to 'soften the fibres' and make them more pliable. This looks and sounds rude. It also roughs up your hands - wear gloves. But doesn't the end result look pretty??


Chief WW ascends ladder to show he isn't scared of heights either. Note that temporary (bright orange) string has been replaced with light and heat resistant (brown) rubber tubing ties which grip the willow together whilst it grafts onto itself and expands as the willow grows in girth. Chief WW is cutting back the excess length on the uprights in case they should take out the eye of a passing pigeon. We have several off-cuts. All those over 38 cms in length are going to be planted at the allotment in a willow bed so we can (hopefully) grown our own supplies from the cuttings.Chief WW goes 'TA-DAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!' The living willow arch is complete! By mid-summer it should be resplendent in willow greenery, a cool oasis from the scorching English sun.

We think we did a darn good job. What a fabulous way to spend a Sunday. Can we build another one? Eh? Eh? Cor, I should think so!!And finally, Mrs Pumphrey takes a promenade through the new living arch. She says, 'For beginners, they did a reasonable job. Next time, a little more attention to detail and a little less faffing about up ladders and peurile giggling over the Carry On -type innuendoes, please... B+, big tick, silver star.

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