Roast owl was the perfect finish to a hard day’s tree pruning!

Owl: Definitely not for serving with Sunday dinner.
Owl: Definitely not for serving with Sunday dinner.

It’s that time of the year when we give the trees a haircut at Shoogly Towers. Although there is only about an acre of garden ground here, there are about 250 trees on it. Treetastic.

250! Really? Yes, really. I know because I counted them one day. I gave up at 250, with only a few uncounted. Must have been one of those rare days when I had bog all to do. So rare and so long ago that I can’t remember exactly when that was.

I discounted the shrubs, of which there are also plenty, and counted all medium (crab apple, flowering cherry, pear) to gigantic-sized (oak, Scots pine, chestnut, sycamore) trees. To add in the shrubs would have doubled the total, I reckon. Let me put it this way, flowers are in short supply in this garden - I dream of wandering the borders, leaning in here and there to cut a flower or two, just like Lizzie and Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. But without the lovely Georgian frocks, ringlets, special wee scissors, trug and, most crucially, the actual flowers.

I couldn’t believe how many trees we have. But they aren’t just decorative. They also do a great job. The ones at the back - forestry trees mostly - provide a great shelter belt and chop up the bitter winds that roar downhill from the north. The ones along the roadside and farm lane which form two of our boundaries cut down road noise (which is pretty minimal anyway) and blend the surrounding scenery into our garden. A lovely effect which Victorian gardeners were fond of when designing great estates’ parkland - not that I’m in any wat comparing Shoogly Towers to somewhere like that. Far from it.

Our fourth boundary has a very tall, privet hedge running along it with a row of medium-sized pollarded trees in front of it. They would probably be the size of sequoias if they hadn’t been pollarded for many years.

So at this time of year the biggest job in our garden - once the endless leaf-raking has been finally completed - is pruning. We are well-equipped, with three pairs of loppers, a couple of pruning saws and countless pairs of secateurs.

Everyone gets stuck in and the YMs are useful barrow-fillers too. There’s nothing like a bit of free child labour. On a cold, bright day it’s a great way to keep warm, cutting and barrowing sticks. And once it’s all done and dusted, Gamford starts burning it in the incinerator. Another good way to keep warm on a cold, winter’s day.

As the incinerator is in the chicken run, curious chooks gather round and also seem to enjoy the heat. Butch the turkey, in particular, likes to warm his bahookey when the incinerator’s on.

It reminds me if a day, a few years ago PC (Pre-Chicken), when an owl flew into the lounge window and unfortunately killed itself. Stone dead. Very sad.

For some reason, and I have no idea why, it was tossed on the cuttings pile. And a few weeks later, yep, you guessed it, brash was being burned and it was hoofed into the incinerator. Mr E stood there for a few minutes and realised his mouth was watering. He could somehow smell roast chicken. How odd. Then he realised with horror that what he was salivating over was long-dead, roasting owl. Eeeeee-yeeeeew.