by the Rambler 14/09/2001
I AM reasonably conversant with scripture and I had to chuckle in July when one of the biblical parables was re-enacted before my eyes during the holidays.
I'll start at the beginning. When I needed pea stakes for a plot of peas I set off for 'the Feather Bed' in the Montiaghs. It is a narrow bumpy byroad where the sally, roadside, hedges have grown so wild that the highway is virtually a tunnel. Along lengthy stretches one cannot see the sky.
With a suitable tool in the boot of the car, I felt that no-one would begrudge me a few twigs. (By the way, the centuries-old road is now 'Montiaghs Road', courtesy of some DOE bureaucrat. There is another 'Feather Bed' in County Wicklow, which no-one so far, has re-christened... too backward compared with our road namers! Ours is in the townlands of Lough Money and Montiaghs, near Gawley's Gate). Sorry about that digression. I must get back to the subject.
My good friend Brendan Hannon who is an expert in the field of osier culture, i.e. growing willow rods, encountered me and kindly filled my car with green willow saplings, which I lost no time in planting among my peas.
No-one warned me about the parable of the enemy who sowed cockle in a neighbour's grain crop, long long ago, out of spite, but that was very soon portrayed before my very eyes. The willows quickly outgrew the 'Pilot' peas, smothering them. I gingerly tried to pull up a willow, only to find that I was dislodging half-a-dozen pea plants!
I was left with no alternative but to follow the advice of the Good Book and let both the willows and the peas grow till the harvest. Sadly, my crop of peas was pathetic. I have learnt a lesson. Already, I have collected a supply of well-seasoned willows (the experts term them 'wizened') for 2002, courtesy of Brendan, of course.
There's a book in local bookshops on Osier Culture, but you won't find a word in it about using Willows to stake peas. I haven't chapter and verse for the parable of the enemy who sowed cockle, but be warned. Willow saplings are best left on the brow of some sheugh, to use an 'Ulsterism'.