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Spanish Secrets: Pain - No Gain

…Pruning trees in Galicia is not the work of a tree-surgeon but that of a tree-artist. The most common design is a five-pointed star. After pruning, all that remains are five equally spaced branches atop a thick trunk. They spread out like the spokes of a large wheel…

Craig Briggs prunes his sycamore trees then carries out a violent attack on the mother upon whom we all depend.

For more of Craig’s vivid accounts of his life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

My week started in an artistic fashion and ended with an unfair and unprovoked attack on a proud mother. It has been a week of extreme contrast requiring mental dexterity and physical flexibility.

The icy chill that typifies Galician winters has moved away bringing milder temperatures and scattered showers. There’s a distinct feeling that spring is in the air. Daylight hours are gradually creeping into the early evening. Tiny green shoots of hardy annuals have begun to arrow through the barren flowerbeds.

My work began by pruning the two sycamore trees at the front of the house. To make this job easier we had the larger of the two cut to a height of four metres. All the branches were removed leaving a tall, stark trunk protruding from the ground like an ogre’s club. That was last winter and by the middle of summer it was once again looking like a healthy tree. Young, thin branches formed a deep-green leafy canopy.

Pruning trees in Galicia is not the work of a tree-surgeon but that of a tree-artist. The most common design is a five-pointed star. After pruning, all that remains are five equally spaced branches atop a thick trunk. They spread out like the spokes of a large wheel.

Some of the most intricate designs run either side of public pathways. These artistically managed groves form a web-like avenue of interlocking and inter-growing sycamores. They create an unusual and interesting masterpiece throughout winter and a symmetrical, almost child-like image of a tree during the summer.

Last spring I made a tentative start on my own lumbering art. Twelve months on, my tree designs are progressing at a relaxed and sedate pace. It is certainly not a pastime for an impatient, year-round hobbyist. Within the day my work was completed for another year.

This task was followed by a far more serious and taxing affair – grape vine pruning. Last year’s major trimming has paid dividends. The main trunks are now better-mapped, making directional pruning a far easier choice. After last years fairly stable harvest I’m looking forward to a bumper crop this time around.

The week ended with my attack on the mother - Mother Earth that is.

I was charged with digging a hole. Its dimensions needed to be at least 60 cm square and not less than 1 metre 40 cm deep. Quite a difficult task at the best of times but this cavity had to be chiselled out of solid bedrock. To assist me in my endeavours I hired a jackhammer. It was my first meeting with jack and one I’ll remember for some time to come.

The repeated hammer blows and explosive air blasts from this mechanical pneumatic woodpecker shatters thoughts and feelings. A squeeze on the triggered handle sends this bucking bronco bouncing into life reducing body and soul to a vibrating physical wreck.

Days later every muscle in my body was aching from my exhaustive efforts. Lactic acid pumped through my muscles creating the physique of a bodybuilder and a torturous, total-body pain normally associated with visits to the dentist.

As for the hole – after a morning’s arduous effort my mate jack and I have created a hollow 4 cm deep. Needless to say our friendship ended abruptly. I’m now looking for a new accomplice, Mr J C Bamford, known to most people as JCB.

email address
craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs


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