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FIONA ARMSTRONG: Tottering trees and signs of spring punctuate Fiona’s week

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The chief has been lighting fires. Three of them, so far. To try to get rid of the small stuff that came down during last year’s Storm Arwen.

Five big trees were lost when the December winds roared through.

On his return from Africa the MacGregor made a start on the massive beech – but in the end there was too much to tackle, and he sent for Dougie.

Dougie is the local tree surgeon. He is an expert at clearing storm damage. Then as much of the region is covered in trees, there is always something for him to practise on.

Yes, Dougie is an old hand. Yet old hands have wise heads, and he brings a couple more youthful workers along with him.

He will need them. To get our towering – and now tottering – variegated fir down safely means attaching a rope to the middle.

Jack be nimble…

To do this, someone who is nimble and unphased by swaying heights must scale the forty-foot trunk.

From the bedroom we watch with a mix of sadness and fear. The thing is uncomfortably near the house and greenhouse, and how it falls is anyone’s guess.

We are not alone in our trepidation. The Chow Chow senses action and leaps on a chair to see what’s going on.

The Chow Chow is not amused

Our lion dog peers through the window gets very excited, if not a bit cross. Then that was her tree; the one she sat under last summer.

Her tree, now thudding to the ground.

This year Delilah will have to find another. And we will need to look for something to replace our fallen giants.

Perhaps we can call them Platinum Jubilee trees.  Because to celebrate her seventy years on the throne Her Majesty The Queen would like us to get planting.

Anyhow, Dougie and his team work their magic. It takes them two days. They then stow their chainsaws and set off to deal with other gardens.

Well-stocked wood pile

The bigger branches – the twisted trunks and limbs – they leave chopped and drying in the open sided barn.

At least we won’t have to buy wood next winter.

I help my husband by gathering the spindly stuff, and as the bonfire smoke curls over the lawn, we hope for gentler climes.

January can be a dreich time. Yet the snowdrops are pushing through – signalling a move away from winter and a hint towards spring.

Soon the drive will be a carpet of white – and the task will be to keep the MacNaughties from trampling the flowers.

Brave bulbs

They are such brave little things! The bulbs, that is, not the doggies.

The puppy pretends, but he is not yet that courageous.

It is one thing barking at the postman from the safety of the kitchen.

And quite another when you are faced with a puffed-up pheasant that won’t give way at the bird table.

This week the naughty Norfolk Terrier meet his match. Chased by an angry bird he decides that discretion is the best part of valour…

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