Driving on – literally at the moment

This has been a very busy and rather tiring fortnight.  We had planned to keep most of the first week free as we had booked a mini-digger but things didn’t quite work out as planned.  The digger arrived along with a very patient and helpful man who showed us the basics.  It was called a “mini” digger  as it only weighed three tons but it was much bigger than we expected.  We needed a ladder to get into the cab, for a start.  Then the fun began.  There’s all those different levers that go in so many directions.  Buttons on the floor, red switches and a locking lever are needed to fix the bucket.  And it did lurch around as we tried moving it, initially as I forgot the blade on the front.  This steadies the whole thing for lifting but drags across the floor when driving on.

We spent the whole first day trying to get the buckets changed until we gave in and called the shop.  The lovely Michael came out after work and showed me again.  I’d forgotten about the final locking on bit so all my hard work was wasted time and again.  Still, I had plenty of practise and was getting more accurate when manoeuvring the arm.  We marked out where we were going to work and locked it up for the night.

Alas, the next day I was back at the dentist, who is about an hour’s drive away.  I’ve had a long-running problem with a back tooth and was waiting for a long appointment to fix it.  Then we had to cancel that as it clashed with the NCT inspection for the car, the Irish MOT.  There’s a problem with this at the moment as appointments can be up to six months delayed and no-one has notified most drivers.  We need the car as there’s no public transport or local taxi so opted for an emergency appointment.  Yes, we had to take it or be breaking the law but it clashed with my dental surgery.  In the interim the teeth flared up again and after three courses of antibiotics the only solution was “direct intervention”.  This is dentist jargon for sticking a scalpel into the gums.

I wasn’t up to driving the digger the rest of the day but Jacqui took over and made a start.  We had three aims for the week.  Hopefully we would be familiar enough with the controls to be competent (and safe).  Then we wanted to mark out and start to level part of the path we plan around the wood.  This will allow us to reach more trees and clear some of the more feral weeds.  Finally we needed to dig out the stumps from the saplings we lost to ash die-back so we can mow in the summer and keep it clear.  We intend to leave a lot of the ground at least semi-wild so there’s cover and flowers for the animals, birds and insects that live there. 

Despite the fact it was horribly, hammering hot we kept driving on, strimming the undergrowth in layers as the grass and weeds shot up to shoulder height in the humid conditions.  We had been told it would be easier to knock the three remaining dead saplings down and Jacqui gave it a good go.  When the first one fell it left a huge hole right in the middle of the planned path.  We had to cut the sapling into metre long pieces to move it before Jacqui managed to lift the root ball out and away.  Then we resorted to digging the stumps out after that and then spent the last day trying to level the ground a bit. 

We are now pretty tired after all that.  It was a lot of fun but surprisingly hard work, especially as I had difficulty remembering which lever moved which bit.  Still, we survived with no injuries and are looking forward to the next time.

The digger may be gone again but we are still driving on.  As the soil dries out we can break up the earth and fill the worst of the lumps and holes.  The weather changed in the middle of our endeavours with rain followed by a massive thunderstorm on Saturday evening.  This knocked out everything.  We had no power and, as the batteries for the solar system and the storage tank were drained overnight by the other user we had no water either.  The wifi went, of course, as did the phone signal for some time.  It was almost 24 hours before the electricity was restored and a dark and gloomy day it was too.  Jacqui planned ahead, of course, and we had a couple of power banks to keep the phones and tablets going.  The next day we arranged a shipping order of batteries for the storm lanterns.

The weather has been erratic this last week though there have been some wonderful sunsets to enjoy.  I have been back in the wood and done a bit more clearing. As I was cutting back some bindweed (and muttering to myself) I realised the tiny oak that was barely a twig last year had leaves!  Lots of leaves, in fact.  It is leaning on a small ash sprout which I carefully cut back.  I hope that with some TLC this last little oak will grow and add to the run of eight we uncovered earlier.  The track needs to work, of course, but we have plans.  Next time we may source a smaller digger for the back.  Or perhaps we will go for a skid-steer to scrape and level the paths.  Either way, we will keep driving on.

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you back in a fortnight.

Enjoy the weather and keep safe!