With my mother about to arrive to stay with us for a week, we had our work cut out with preparations. She is a great help, always ready to head out into the garden, dead heading, collecting weeds and making things look good, but there was some heavy digging that I wanted to do before she arrived and we had a clear day with dry skies predicted. Ox eye daisies has spread themselves into a flower bed where they were not supposed to be, buttercups were rambling in to join them and cranes bills were poking their noses into the fray. Jay still had terminal plans on the hod weed.
He did battle until tree roots foiled him, creating a huge heap of mop headed weeds that had yet to cast their seeds, but loosing a prong. I, meanwhile, minced my way between smaller plants, rooting out the daisies, remnants of forget-me-nots and putative bindweed, guarding the day lilies and roses and throwing balls for Hoover to chase behind me.
I am not the best thrower of things, despite Jay and Hoover’s regular training sessions. Balls do not always go where I intend, even when my mind is on the task. But my mind was fragmented, darting between weeds, lingering on my Mossy’s dilemma and the construction of water wheels; anything but ball throwing. Hoover and I spent some time dredging the pond looking for the cause of the splash. Alarmed goldfish lurked under the lily pads, popping their mouths at us to remind us that they needed feeding. No balls was forth coming, though we did find an old frisbee that had been lost in there several months before. Hoover isn’t interested in catching frisbees, as far as she’s concerned they are for chewing. Despite months underwater this one still had a frilly edge. Hoover settled down to work on its further decoration.
Essential gardening completed we decided that chopping wood was our next crucial task. A summer that has spent its days in fancy dress, disguised as a chill wet monsoon, means that we have used every single bit of prepared wood, instead of having the odd remnant of the stack to see us through a slight summer nip. This summer we haven’t simply been nipped by summer chills; we have been thoroughly chewed and then spat out. So, following our policy that preparation usually means that we have no further need of what we have prepared, we decided that a bit of summer chopping was in order.
Whilst Jay wielded the chainsaw I got cracking with the axe. I have always particularly enjoyed chopping wood. Even as a child I loved chopping kindling, sneaking out to the woodpile and having a go with the hatchet. These days I like to go for it with the biggest logs I can manage. Not having the strength of men I have developed an odd chopping style – hanging the axe down my back and then swinging it in a great arcing circle over my head. The logs bounce apart, chips flying in all directions. It is so satisfying. And as the log pile grows I am warmed as well. We weren’t making a winter stack, just something to keep us warm in emergencies, but it was hard to stop once we had got into the swing of it.
Hoover kept well out of the way, lurking in the peripheries, darting in when I went to collect more wood to select small pieces upon which she could devote her attention, until the yard was covered in small shards of splinted wood.
And then we made a bonfire, cremating all the hog weed, the hedge clippings and providing potash for the vegetable garden. As smoke crept up and the first crackles made themselves heard, Jay and I reflected on a day of rest. Teamwork is good.