Chopping wood and other autumnal pleasures

Allan Jenkins
·2-min read

Do spaces have personalities? Do different gardens speak a different language, demanding you to be a different gardener?

I am not quite saying I am more of a Viking at the Danish seaside plot. I leave that to Bo, the local tree surgeon with his flowing plaited beard and hair and his missing index finger. But I wonder whether he might hear nuances in the language of the land here that I may at first miss.

I sometimes feel here in Denmark as though I am working in translation. At least until I start to tune in.

It is mid-September when we arrive, the trees are still green, the sand martins are still swooping, apples are on the trees. Luxuriant hazels loll around. There is serious work to do for the coming winter months.

A large pile of oak branches lies sullen in a stack at the back. Challenging, like tough kids in a new school. I need to clear at least half of them. Morten joins with a chain saw. We trim half the pile to stove-size logs. It is hard wood the oak, twisted and resistant to an axe. I borrow an old mechanical splitter from Bo, but it’s soon broken down, like me. I don’t speak its language.

I trim some new growth around the plot, close to choking younger trees. I cut branches back. I allow in more light. I let the edges breathe. And every few hours I return to the oak pile.

I listen to the wood. I get my axe eye in. I chop. I split. Henri piles logs carefully in the shed for next winter’s heat.

My cooler days start and end with a fire, and always a short walk to the sea. The sand martins have flown. The nut hatch harvests. The last rugosa still throws out its heady scent. Beech leaves litter the grass with the fungus. I leave the last apple for the apple tree man. We watch red squirrels swing through the trees.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com