A Prickly Business

There was certainly a chill in the air as we awoke to our first full day at Maddocks Farm. Naturally, we did all we could to eek every moment of warmth from our cosy bed but eventually the lull of a hot porridge breakfast with yummy dark brown sugar sprinkled on top was enough to tempt us down the stairs. It was not long before we were ready to face the day, collecting our first assignment from our host.

Jan has a Christmas decoration order due by Sunday for a local large home. The customer has ordered a wreath and a 9-foot length of garland to hang above their fireplace. So, our mission (if we chose to accept it 😉 ) of the morning was to collect the components of the decoration, fir tree branches, holly and two types of ivy.

Firstly, we made our way across the property and over the fence into the woods. Beyond row after row of young oaks lay many fir trees towering high into the sky.We were to cut branches of green fir to use in the wreath and garland. Unfortunately, the branches we could reach were mostly bare, but we did our best to find those with some green needles and cut them neatly before collecting them together and dragging them back to the courtyard.

Next, we gathered ivy from near the garden shed, crawling ivy from the ground and the back of the shed itself and the second variety from a bush growing just behind. Finally, we made our way to another field behind the holiday let and pruned holly from growth there. All the constituent clippings collected, we gathered them together in one place, the empty barn. Now it was time to begin making the decorations.

Small clippings of each were taken and bunched into a pretty corsage, usually with the larger fir clippings behind, the other three plants arranged attractively in front. Then, the stems were firmly bound with wire. Too loose and the decoration will fall apart over the festivities. Too tight and the stems would be damaged and die. The stems were then finally trimmed to an angle to be ready for later insertion into the oasis foundations of the wreath and garland, and to help them draw up the water.

After several more hours, our work for the day was completed, and nearly two large trays of corsages were ready to be used for decoration making over the next few days. We briefly returned to our annex before going out onto the nearby lanes for our evening walk, the chill still seeping through us as we walked and talked. After our brief exploration of the English countryside, we returned to prepare a hearty dinner and settle in for a cold December evening.

Friday we arose to find the sun had made a welcome appearance and were particularly pleased to learn we would be spending the day outside. After more delicious porridge and brown sugar, we began our first task for the day.

The previous afternoon 60 rose plants were delivered, which needed to be planted as soon as possible to avoid damage in the cold December days. We were directed to three new planting beds at the edge of the garden that Stuart had recently half planted with tulips and where we were to alternate the 6 varieties of rose, Princess Anne, Caroline, Claire Austen, Harlow Carr, Heathcliff and Ferdinand Picard, spacing them about three feet apart in staggered rows.

We were able to fit 19, 13 and 14 plants into the three consecutive beds, having to work around other plants in some cases. So with those 46 plants in the ground, we went back to Jan for our next assignment of the day.

We were then directed to another couple of beds in order to find a home for the remaining 14 rose plants. The first bed, we needed to weed out all of the chickweed, creeping buttercup, dandelions and other thistles, working around a handful of phlox plants Jan wanted to keep there. In the second bed, we cleared all of the expired sunflowers and annuals, uncovering 11 more phlox Jan wanted transplanted into the first bed. With the second bed now cleared, we planted the remaining 14 rose bushes, happy with all that we’d accomplished.

After a brief lunch with Stuart, Jan and their part-time salad worker, Mandy, we went back out to clear a very long bed of expired sunflowers, dahlias and nasturtiums, leaving only a small pocket of holly hocks. We pushed through until we’d cleared the last of the plants, working over an hour beyond the expectation, but happy to have completed the job before the weekend began.

Contented with the two days of work in our new temporary home of Maddocks Farm, we headed into the cold early evening to enjoy our new walking route before returning to dinner and a relaxing evening, happy and warm in our new place.

Loving Simplicity