Friday, 25 November 2011

Post and Rails of Oak

Father liked his fencing, post and rails of oak,
These will last a lifetime, a very fussy bloke,
Usually on the boundary fence, everyone can see,
Up from where he laid his hedge, its how he learnt me.

You don't see many fences now done with cleft oak post and rails, but I still have the wedges that we always used for the job. In case any younger generation have never seen it done, it's a way of splitting the oak trunk down into the required sizes along the grain of the wood.

Sawn rails where the grain waivers, and the saw crosses the grain that rail will split and break at the slightest push, and no matter how carefully the rails are sawn they cannot follow the grain exactly like you can with a cleft rail. Posts are cleft the same, and for the corner or a gate post, they liked to have a post with a big knot where a branch had been cut off, this gave it a good anchor, with the heavy end in the ground.

When the rails were nailed onto the posts, they were fitted with the bark side down, it was like splitting an orange into segments, the narrow or pointed edge up turned the rain and they lasted longer.

The wheelwright and his brother would often split willow for rails, these did not last as long as oak, and were no good at all as posts, as in damp ground they would take root and grow on into a tree.

Willows were and still are a nuisance if they are any where near land drains, the fine roots matt up and fill the pipes for a good way beyond the canopy of the tree itself, a new willow is started just by pushing in a willow stick in damp ground or on meadows it will strike instantly.

Father's Post and Rails of Oak

Father liked his fencing, post and rails of oak,
These will last a lifetime, a very fussy bloke,
Usually on the boundary fence, everyone can see,
Up from where he laid his hedge, its how he learnt me.

Every now and then, the estate would fell a tree,
Good straight trunk, cut into lengths, for post and rails you see,
Six foot for the posts, ten for rails, wedges and hammer then,
Split the trunk each lump in half, half and half again.

No waste at all, when you cleft the trunk, all is utilized,
Looking at for what the job to do, for thickness it is sized,
Posts dug in every nine foot; rails to fit are trimmed and perused,
These are always fitted; bark side down, rain it won't infuse.

First thing to go after standing for years usually it's the nails,
They rust and go weak, to the ground it drop the rails,
New nail needed but its not green oak, nails they soon bend,
Drill the rail, and nail it up, another decade of life extend.

Owd Fred

There were few jobs father liked better than hedge laying, but he didn't always have much time to devote to it. He kept his own bill hook for that job hidden, so no one could spoil the edge that he had got on it, he had a holster that it went in when he was working. There was an axe and brushing hook that he used on that job, also sharpened to perfection, a wooden mallet, knee pads and one left hand heavy leather mitten to protect from the thorns.

If it was a roadside hedge, it took twice as long to do as everyone passing stopped to talk and natter, but the pride he put into the job was beyond description. It is only at the local Ploughing matches, that you see the older generation, working along side a few very keen youngsters, working to maintain this old craft.

I Remember Farther Hedge Laying

Father liked his hedge laying, and every winter he,
Set about a big rough hedge and stock proof it would be,
First he cut the hedge stakes, in the wood where it was code, (cold)
Then to sharpen on a block, on cart he would then load,

He honed his axe and bill hook, to cut wood as if were carrot,
Put on his holster and leather glove, took a big wooden mallet,
He stripped the long tall growers, cleft them and also mention,
Always layer them up a slope, and in the stakes were woven,

The top of his hedge was bound, like the top of a basket might,
He used long whippy willow strips, wove them firm and tight,
Burned up all the brushwood, with a great big blazing fire,
Then he cleaned the ditch out, and put up new barbed wire.

The new growth grew up through, from stools all in the bottom,
A good dense hedge and stock proof, was the desired outcome,
Not need laying now for decade, till the gaps appear,
Then the master will return his skills to make a new frontier.

Owd Fred

The Grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where its watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass where ever you may be.
Robert Fulghum

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