Sunday, 31 August 2008

Pete sings to Tracy's eye

Pete often likes to step up on a finger when he's singing, and if you bring him close he'll sing into your eye. We think he likes the echo!


p.s. it's raining today, we we're not up at the wood...

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Friday, 29 August 2008

Slow worm, mushrooms and plants

We had a visit today from our friends Alex and Sarah, who are in the process of buying a wood near ours, which is very exciting for us and them! We had a walk round our wood, and also round theirs, and on the way saw our first slow worm:
It was a male, as it had some blue spots, although these are not always present:
One of the differences between a snake and a slow worm is that the slow worm's tongue is notched rather than forked: Like some other lizards the slow worm has the bizarre ability to detach its tail if it's caught, growing a new one later. This is called autotomy.

We saw a huge variety of fungi in the woods. Sorry, no names, just some interesting pictures:

Tracy also took a quick photo survey of some of the new plants growing in the cant of coppice we cut last winter in addition to those already covered. These are all new this year, since we cut the coppice - we may ID some of them when they flower.
This last one's interesting, as it's moss growing on the site of one of our brash fires from last winter. I guess the fire killed any seeds in the ground there, and the moss has been the first plant to move back in. The new plants have also brought new insects with them, such as dragonflies, and this ladybird:
We also delivered the firewood we'd split and loaded yesterday:
The customer was only just off our route to the wood, so that avoided any extra fuel use. This is always important with wood fuel as it's bulky, so energy used in transport can quickly offset the energy value of the wood.

We're up there again tomorrow to do a bit more work and also have more visitors. It's meant to rain from Sunday, and I'm working five days next week, so we want to make the most of tomorrow!


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Thursday, 28 August 2008

A productive day

We started out promptly yesterday morning, and called to see Jenny, who lives near our wood, on the way, just to catch up about the various goings on in the wood and the village. We also helped her cut down a pollarded sycamore that was growing into the road.

The first job when we got to the wood was to cut down a small fallen tree between Chestnut Coppice and Sweep Wood. On the way we spotted yet another mushroom. I've tried to ID it, but do to so I'd need to pick it and break it up I think, so I'd rather leave it there:
Tracy dealt with the tree - she wants to get more practice in with the chainsaw, having passed her course using it. Here's her working:

It wasn't long before it was time for lunch. For cooking, we use the BBQ, but the pan sits where the charcoal would normally go, and you make a wood fire in the belly of the BBQ.
Tracy made us a yummy potato and veg stew, and it tasted all the better for not being cooked using fossil fuels! :-)

After lunch I got on with logging and splitting more birch, while Tracy dealt with a pile of chestnut trees that we'd left full length, producing a pile of poles for garden furniture:
and another pile for burning in stoves:
We were pleased with what we got done, so took the morning off today to catch up on jobs. We're about to go up now with the trailer to get our first load of birch to sell...


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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Bank holiday weekend - Monday

On Monday we had to be at the wood to meet a customer, who was collecting chestnut poles or making garden furniture. We went up a bit early and Tracy tidied and sorted some of the poles while I split the birch we'd sawn on Saturday, stacking it in the drying shelter:
I've worked out that once the second part of the shelter is full, we'll have almost 2 cubic meters of firewood in there!

After our customer had visited, I took a few pictures of the things that are growing. We're certainly going to have no problem with regeneration in the wood. Here's a birch, of which there are hundreds around. Many will be eaten though, so not all will grow up into trees
Here's a chestnut. There aren't as many of these self-seeded, but they don't seem to get eaten as much, so I think more will grow up to full size trees.Here's an oak. These are the ones we're trying to watch, as they seem to struggle when they're small, getting eaten and shaded out. We tried small plastic tree shelters, but they didn't seem to work so well, so we're looking for another approach...
While we're on the subject of oak, we've found a number of acorns on the ground that have had gall wasp eggs laid in them. This one's a Knopper Gall. Apparently the insect requires both Pendunculate and Turkey oaks to complete its lifecycle.
There's also lots of new wild flowers coming up in the cant we cut last winter. These were not in evidence last year, so seem to be a direct effect of the work we did. We're not great on flower ID, but we think this is a Black Nightshade (which is poisonous):
and we think this is a Common Calamint. UPDATE - it's not, it's a Lesser Skullcap, which is somewhat rare.
There's also a lot of this, but we have no idea what it is. Hopefully it will flower and then we'll have a chance to ID it.

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Bank holiday weekend - Sunday

On Sunday afternoon lots of our friends from church came up to the wood. We split roughly into two groups - the boys making a cleaving break, the girls making blackberry jam:
As you might expect, jam making requires lots of boiling of water for sterilising, and also boiling the fruit and sugar mixture for quite a while, so doing it over a wood fire seemed a nice low-carbon alternative to making it at home using an electric or gas cooker. The end result was several jars of tasty blackberry and pear jam (a bit of pear juice was added), enough for each family to take one home.
Meanwhile the boys we're getting started on the cleaving break. There are apparently many ways to make one, here's the one that Paul had seen done before. First, we cleaved a short thick pole into two pieces, using the side axe to straighten the ends out so they were perpendicular:
Then make two thick stakes, long enough to go a fair way into the ground and still leave 4ft or so above. Here's Jason and Dave using the side axe to put a point on the stakes:
Next, stand around chatting about where to put the stakes...
Then bash them into the ground with the post driver:
After that, nail or screw the two cleaved rails across the stakes:
If it helps, stick your tongue out while drilling holes ;-)
The last step is to put one more stake in, to the side of the break, then it's ready to use:
As you can see, the break can grip poles of various sizes, and they are lifted up onto the third stake, which puts them under some tension. They are then steady and at a good height for cleaving.

Many thanks to Paul, Dave and Jason for their help with the break, and to Joy, Penny, Emily, Charlotte and Lauren for working on the jam!


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