hurdle --a portable rectangular frame strengthened with willow branches or wooden bars, used as a temporary fence. The Oxford Dictionary. There is one place in our garden, perhaps in most gardeners' gardens. Its the storage area. Our storage needed badly to be hidden from the public's eye, as it is unsightly at the best of times. No matter how organised the things are, it still looks like a gathering of tacky rubbish. Yeah, it was rainy, cold and a tad windy...but it's hard to keep a good gardener down, don'tcha know. Ach, the conditions were indeed deplorable, but we found that just getting out of the house was not enough. A hurdle had to be built, and now with absolutely "tropical" weather conditions (9°C) here-- it was a carpe diem opportunity. If you had been present, I think that you would have had us sectioned and called in the boys with the white suits and butterfly nets. Who; in their right mind, would work out in this sort of weather.There was no mid-day sun, so it was 'mad dogs and Dutchmen', shall we say. Right then, after the bike ride out to the lottie, we put the bikes away and opened the garden house. Whilst my partner began gathering tools, I went down the way and picked up several heavy bundles of willow switches recently pruned by a couple of fellow members. I had spoken to the chap day before yesterday and he offered me some of the switches. It was a good deal for him because the more I used, the less he had to take all the way up front to deposit in the chipping yard. A win-win situation. Time to pull on the Wellies and thick gloves, peel-off a clothing layer and begin the work.I went further down the path to the willow-man's garden to see what was on offer, in terms of willow switch bundles. When I looked at the bundles, I saw that they were of varying colours. Hey, it would only be a simple little hurdle to screen-off the storage items, but that didn't mean that it couldn't be attractive (colour-wise), eh? I was already developing a mental image of irregular yellow and green bands of colours. While I was procuring the switch bundles, my bride was formulating the work schedule. She had researched the art of making willow hurdles on the internet. Apparently it is still done seriously on the British Isles and that info is what we used, with our own twist, of course. We did not have all the items necessary to make an artisan's hurdle ...so as we say here--" You have to row with the oars that you have", and that is what we did. I have often thought how nice a coppiced fence row would look around the lottie, but that isn't possible either. A real pity, that...but then maintaining a coppiced hedgerow really IS an art form that takes some time to get the knack of. The hurdle would be so small and placed out of the way and thus there was no REAL need for fanciness; however, with two colours of willow switches.....well, we could not resist. My partner had the last word on this; "her" project, but I could play with colours and do the switch prep. -1- First things first--we gathered all the tools, switch bundles and created a row of poles. We did NOT construct this hurdle at the site where it is intended to stand, because of the soft, muddy earth there...so we built it on the edge of a garden plot and we could stand on the paved path to work. Note: If you use this technique to make a fence, like between you and the neighbours, or an enclosure for pets, it is a good idea to secure the top of the upright poles with a plank or double weaving so that the hurdle/screen can be kept as straight as possible. You clamp, screw or tie it into place. Two fruit tree poles either end and five of the thickest willow boughs to be stuck in the ground in-between. The real willow weavers use a "mold" on the ground, which is a thick and heavy length of wood (like a railway sleeper) with holes drilled in it on the upper side. One places the upright poles in the sleeper holes for stability. Here the uprights are being placed in the ground, for I did not have a sleeper or any other heavy thing that I could use. -2- Normally the upright poles (ships) are some sort of hard, dried and sturdy wood, like hazel, or perhaps chestnut. We would have had to buy these parts, and so we just used the thickest willow switches (after I removed all the side twigs, naturally). I had no mold, so I just stuck them into the ground. **Note that if you leave these upright switches in the ground, they may well take root, so, after the hurdle has been made, lop the bits that are in the earth off...unless you want to have a "living" hurdle or fence. -3- Next, you make a strong bottom row of switches to help hold the upright ships in place. Then the fun can begin. -4- The work is pretty simple, really--you just take a switch (the weaver) and weave it in and out of the upright poles...in front, behind, in front, behind etc. You want to always alternate your weaver switches in such a way that if the already placed switch under the one that you are working on at the moment goes in front of the upright, then the next one goes behind it. Tip: Always use willow switches that have been just cut, as they are much more pliant. If the switches are too old they may have to be soaked in water (heated in some cases). Here you can see that the hurdle is beginning to take shape, and of course the colour bands are noticeable. Tip: They may already be apparent to you, but after weaving each switch--pound it downwards so that it lies flat on top of its predecessor. Do this each time. Tip: If you have a length of switch left over at the end of the the last pole, you can bend this (while twisting hard) back on itself, going around the pole and then weaving it back in the direction from which it came. Here is a foto to illustrate what I am talking about. You will see that some ends stick out, and some have been wound back on themselves. The ends sticking out will be squeezed together and tied, then lopped-off later (maybe-- I sort of like how they look stuck out like that). Some hurdle weavers do all the ends this way...and it looks very tidy when you do it, but this out-of-the-way hurdle goes on a lottie, not in the back yard of one's house. It therefore, does not have to look fancy. Most hurdle weavers begin with the thick end of a weaver switch wherever the preceding switch finishes, then tucks the thick end into the weave, thus hiding it. You may need a crowbar to pry your woven bits apart in order to do this. Tip: Do this after just 2-3 rows, otherwise it may be impossible to pry the switch length apart. Perhaps this sounds impossible to you, but do not forget that this type of woven hurdle is extremely strong and durable. A word to the wise. -5- The final thing is, when you have gotten your hurdle as high as you want it, you then need to finish it off with 2-3 layers of double twisted weaver switches. This makes a stiff and stabilizing finish to your project. Here is a pic of what I am talking about. The finished product: Well, I say, "the finished product", but that isn't entirely true. The long bits on both ends need to be tied and/or clipped off; and in this case, the hurdle must be pulled out of the ground and taken over by the stored stuff and placed. It is the end of the weaving, though. BEFORE. Here is the unsightly storage area before the hurdle: AFTER. And here it is with the hurdle in place: Here is the placed hurdle from off the main path. Not bad-looking, I think. ....an extra bit to show now: The first sign of snowbells or crocuses. They are planted in front of the bee hives to provide that first snack of the early spring. Can you believe that they are already coming up?! Well, it had begun raining seriously by this time, so we had to clean-up the mess in a hurry and take in the tools. This is where I stood and de-twigged the weavers, which I handed on to the architect. I called this area "the barbershop floor". If you are thinking of trying this, now is a good time to do it. Anyone trying this, please send pics and write about it. It really IS easy to do, and can look so nice.