Clearing a path through the docks and nettles

All clear bar the sweeping

Sometimes the easiest way forward is on your hands and knees. So it was with our two paths on either side of one of the potato patches/chicken runs. On the right side, looking out over the valley, soft fruit bushes (logan berry; blueberry; black and red currant) were once sequestered from the birds by black netting (since deteriorating). On the left side, a large cold frame, the outdoor herb bed and an emerging raspberry patch which has struggled.

The double-slabbed concrete paths were laid to accommodate easy access, but unfortunately I neglected to prepare the space with weed-proof membrane. I pay yearly for that neglect, and yesterday it was time to offer my dues.

In other years I’ve attacked the docks growing through the crack with a sharp spade, slicing them off level with the concrete. This year I opted to move forward with hand shears, from a low position. All was fine until I came to the nettles. At first they were sparse among the docks, so I didn’t bother to get my special gauntlet gloves, but just tried to avoid the glancing stings. Bad move. By the time I’d been covered in nettle welts, it seemed there was no sense in further covering up. But I hadn’t reckoned on the huge nettle banks in the second path!

My fore-arms were covered in raised nettle rash by the time I looked back at a clear pair of pathways, but I had only myself to blame. Not only was I shaking from exhaustion after my labours, but my arms and hands were tingling with a ferocity that would have pleased the Roman soldiers who used to lash their legs with nettles to keep themselves warm on bitter cold nights patrolling their emperor Hadrian’s wall. The tingling was so penetrating that an afternoon snooze was impossible! That’s serious, in my book.

Anyway, I was delighted to achieve two clear pathways, to open up the outdoor herb bed and to clear space for the struggling raspberry shoots to thrive. From a minimally tingling perspective, this morning, I’m happy with the result. But next time I think I’ll think twice and take a moment’s break for the gauntlets!

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