Winter hop gardens and it’s wire working time once again. This mean any of the following, from replacing hop poles that were broken during hop picking, to checking all running wires, bearing wires, curbs and anchors. Sections of wire that have become slack from the weight of the crop can be tightened and individual broken wires replaced. Whilst Painting the Forth Bridge may now be complete for the next 25 years, in the hop gardens wire working maintenance is still a continually ongoing enterprise. Generally a small area of top wire is selected annually to be replaced, eventually needing to be redone once you have got to the end!
It is good to get as many of these jobs done as possible before the ground becomes too wet or the real chill of mid-winter sets in. Like most outdoor work it is simply easier to move without needing to wear lots of layers to keep warm. However, tightening the wires means it is difficult to wear gloves while doing this and chilly hands can be an occupational hazard. The obvious difference in the wires before and after tensioning is shown below.
Still the old poles but freshly tightened running wires neatly wound off.
While the ground was still dry a small area of poles were augured in place ready for the top wires and anchors to be attached later. This garden will be ready for setts to be planted out later this winter.A few winters ago while moving a pile of wood, underneath I found this perfectly preserved skeleton, by it’s size I presumed it was a grass snake. Although I am not keen on snakes, as this one couldn’t move it was fascinating to examine closely. It was flawless and I am pleased to say it eventually found a good home in a nature cabinet.
Still on snakes I was given an unusual curio by an Australian friend, I cannot really call it a gift, of a bone with individual vertebra from a snake glued around it. Once painted they look like little people singing from very large song books. I came across it the other day and could not believe I still had it!
However, the bare-bones I most enjoy are our trees in winter when leaves have fallen and they can reveal their basic structure. Silhouetted against a wintery sky and surrounded by plants laced with hoar frost, I love a proper winter.