Broken Ribs

The drop Wm


The vertical drop behind the house


It’s ironic that I’m working on the Precipitous Bank over the first anniversary of rusty duck. A little over a year ago we were working up there too. Or rather Mike was. Briefly.


Our first major job after moving in had been to fell about 30 tall conifers, most of them on this bank. They towered menacingly over the house and swayed quite alarmingly in the wind. Both the surveyor and thatcher had recommended they come down. Trees restrict air circulation and cause a thatched roof to deteriorate more rapidly than it should. The work went well, but the tree fellers left behind a large stump at the top of the bank. Mike decided to finish off the job.

I had wandered up the drive to see how he was doing. “You won’t let it roll down the slope, will you? It will damage a lot of plants… “


But with the stump cut through, Mike had tried to lift it. It was much heavier than he thought and he lost his footing on the slope. The section of trunk took off down the hill, picking up speed and heading straight for the house. Cob walls are not built to withstand tree stumps in free fall. They are only dried mud after all.

Half way down the slope Mike caught up with it but couldn’t stop it. The thing was huge and goodness knows what it weighed.

“BE CAREFUL… Let it go!”

The tree stump disappeared over the vertical drop into the gulley behind the house. Mike was still hanging on to try and slow it down. In a flurry of legs and arms, the stump pulled him over too. There was a monumental thud. And then a moan. What to do.. if I followed the route my husband had taken I would end up by the roof of the house and could do no more than look down. So I turned and ran the 100 yards down the drive, doubling back on the path to the house.

By the time I got to the gulley Mike was on his feet and leaning against the house wall. Winded. The tree stump was wedged in the gap between the bank and the house. Despite the pain in his chest he insisted on trying to move it. Somehow we managed to shove it, end over end, until it was clear of the wall of the house.


Mike had a lucky escape. Whether his ribs were actually broken, cracked or badly bruised we will probably never know. As the treatment (do nothing and leave to heal) is the same in any event, these days there is not even an X-ray. The doctor in A&E made sure that no lung was punctured and then sent him home.

He was grounded for several weeks, finding jobs that didn’t need too much moving around. But when my dearly beloved is not wrestling with tree stumps or dreaming up new challenges for the mice Mike is a bit of a computer geek. And so he hatched a plan that I’d been mulling over for a while. He had hours of endless fun setting up a website and loading it with the WordPress software. rusty duck was born.


The stump Wm