We just finished one of the last three-day-weekends of the year here in Ireland, and one of the last days we can spend the weekend working outside. Soon it will be raining much of the time – it began as soon as we finished today -- and the darkness will spread across the day until, at Christmas, we will have almost eighteen hours of country night.
So we had much to do. On Saturday I took The Girl to a birthday party at a child’s play centre that opened up in an old warehouse nearby. Then the power went out for a couple of hours, and while the sun from the skylights allowed the kids to keep playing, it meant no food or drinks – for they were all made by electric machine, and no one could make food any other way.
I also filled the last garden bed of the year – each one is about five metres by one metre, so filling it with three tonnes of earth takes at least a day. We also planted a chestnut tree at the back corner of our land, in front off where the beehives are to go, and we hope the tree will bless us or some future resident with its protein.
On Sunday we planted another tree, a plum, near our house – but when we started digging for it we hit a mass of builders’ rubble left over from our house construction. We fished out about twenty bricks, blocks and stones, and under it all was a broad concrete slab we could not fish out. I finally took a sledgehammer to it, and it came out in pieces.
Today was Chainsaw Day, the day to take down the lilandia evergreens that ring our property. My late father-in-law planted them when he moved here 20 years ago, and they grew quickly and gave him the privacy he wanted. For us, though, they make the sun-facing side of our property a thick four-metre-high wall of dark green, and yield no fruit, nuts or other productive material -- except, now, firewood.
Lilandia put out many side branches that must be removed one by one to even see the trunk, much less tie it in rope or begin cutting it, so it was slow going. But we got several trees down, with several more to go – and then to replace them, one by one, with apples, hazels and other productive natives. It will mean suddenly being exposed to the winter winds that sweep across the Bog of Allen, but we hope the extra sun will make up for that, and our new trees will grow in time.
We only cleared enough today for a small gap in the dark evergreens, but it was enough space to plant our little rowan. As we retired for the evening, we left the sapling, its autumn leaves a glittering orange and gold, with the sunset flooding in behind it through the gap. It looked like a burning candle, keeping the darkness at bay.