It was great to see Vanessa and Lisa again, in their new home this time rather than living outside in a caravan and barn. I say in, in the loosest possible sense as there is still an enormous quantity of work to do before the house is anywhere near finished, but the majority of constructional work is complete. A lovely old farm house with wrap around barns on the brow of a hill with views overlooking the countryside and the mountains beyond. I was there to catch up, but in the main, to help with the planting of two hundred trees that they had ordered back in the summer.
The idea is to replace some of the old boundary lines with hedging, and as such, the girls approached an organisation that specialises in the replanting of hedges and woodland for some advice. a very helpful lady visited and discussed their plans, showed them possible choices of plants, helping with selection, quantities needed and explained the timescale for planting. The plants were ordered then and a couple of weeks ago Vanessa received a letter explaining that the trees were about ready and they were to go to a local collection point in a nearby town to pick up the order. We/they had no real idea of what to expect, we went in their estate car, with trailer and we even debated if there would be room for me and whether I should go or stay. It was a bit of an unknown quantity. I could imagine bare root shrubs, but their list contained over thirty trees that I imagined would be in pots just like one would find at a plant nursery.
We arrived in the town and parked up in the square and discussed what type of vehicle might be involved in distributing such trees. Were we the only ones, or were there other people collecting at the same time? How would we know who they were? It was all a bit of a puzzle. Time ticked by and nothing obvious appeared. Vanessa and I did a little tour of the surrounding streets in the hope of discovering a throng of hedge happy people gathering their orders, but nothing, the town was quieter than one could imagine on a cold winter Saturday. No one about at all. we debated going for a coffee, but decided that it would tempt fate, the lorry would turn up, see no one and head off again without stopping. We waited and looked and looked and waited.
A good half an hour later, after checking and rechecking the details, the name of the street was right, in front of the church was right, the date and time was right, but no one, nothing. We gave up hope and decided to leave. Lisa pulled away and headed up around the church to the other side and there, by chance, was what we had been waiting for all along, a throng of hedge happy people collecting their wares. They must have arrived a little late and set up after Vanessa and I had done our little tour, as there had been nothing there before. Anyway, we were welcomed into the gathering and immediately told to head into the community hall to get the tutorial on what to do. The association takes the business of planting hedges and trees very seriously indeed and provides novices with a forty five minute lecture on the do’s and dont’s of planting. Unfortunately we missed the most of it, completely in french, and got the final wrapping up summary of what we were expected to do.
They come and check too, during the following summer, to see how the plants are doing, if you have followed their mulching and aftercare instructions well enough. Impressive, but much more than any of us had expected and we still didn’t know what we were collecting. Once the talk was over we headed back outside, as Vanessa and Lisa were queueing to pay and get their order I had a good look over what was waiting to be collected, bundles of tree stakes, fibre weed mulch matting, bags of bare root trees, tree guards - protection from deer, rabbits and other predators. I spotted the order, two small bin bags with a few twigs poking out of the top, plus a small pile of guards, it would all easily have fitted in the car. The girls didn’t believe it, they asked a couple of times for the rest of the plants but were told that that was it, two bags and the guards, it was all noted on the lists and there was to be no mistake.
The organisation of the collection of plants was all very efficient in a french sort of a way. You presented your letter and cheque of payment to one person, they took the cheque and stamped the letter which was then passed to another person who cross referenced the letter with name to find another page that outlined the order, this had a code on it that corresponded to another list that provided them with what the last person had to go and look for. In our case two bin bags and a bundle of guards. Other people were collecting crates of small plants, bare root fruit trees, all sorts. The organisers were keen to make sure everyone knew what had to be done for successful planting and establishment of their purchases. If I end up settling in the vicinity I may well get involved.
We laughed on the way home about what we might have got and what we actually did. It seemed stupid to have taken the trailer and gotten ourselves all geared up for such a massive event, we nearly missed it all together. But the trailer did come in handy, we picked up the order for some friends as Vanessa and Lisa knew that they were midway back from a trip to the UK and had obviously forgotten about their order. It was a much more voluminous order, with a hundred or so planting mats, guards and trees that almost filled the trailer, we dropped it off on the way home and continued with our little sacks.