The story of a lost orchard – part 2
If you’re starting work on a gardening project that’s going to involve a huge amount of work and realistically take many years to complete, you face many physical problems, but the even bigger ones are psychological. How do you maintain motivation when progress seems so slow and the work ahead so enormous?
Part of the answer is simply to ignore all the work to be done on the rest of the site and just focus on the little bit of land you’re working on at the time. That way you can see some progress without having to consider how little it is in comparison to the overall task. You don’t always need a sense of proportion. Douglas Adams imagined the ‘Total Perspective Vortex’, based on the idea that if we actually understood the scale of the universe and how tiny we were in relation to it, it would drive us mad. Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to ignore the bigger picture and focus on our immediate surroundings.
I started trying to clear the undergrowth in the old orchard in early 2014, armed with not much more than a spade and a pair of secateurs. This was roughly the equivalent of trying to cut the lawn with a pair of scissors, but that wasn’t going to deter me for a while. It was a very wet winter and difficult even to get into the site past all the water that was pouring in at the top corner. Digging a trench seemed like the best way to establish some control over it and I found that once I’d channelled much of the water down the top bank, it just disappeared naturally into the soil.
That felt like a first small victory, but there was a bigger one to come when I tackled the other end of the top of the field. I knew there was an existing pedestrian access there, and there was some evidence that there might once have been steps up the bank, but it wasn’t until I started to clear the area that I realised there was actually a full set of quite wide stone steps underneath the thistles and brambles.
So now I had some steps and it felt like there should be a gate at the top of them. There are times when all the cod psychology in the world just doesn’t work. For a moment I looked up and caught a glimpse of the enormity of the project – and decided I would have to bring in some help!