Today was the day Tracy got to try out all her new chainsaw gear!
I'd given her a bit of a safety briefing at home, and she did very well, starting the saw safely and doing a bit of logging. The main idea was for her to get a feel for it prior to doing the training in a couple of weeks, so she'll only be doing simple stuff until then.
When looking for something to practice on, we remembered this tree, which I think must have been damaged during the oak felling and ended up hung up in an oak, with the stool lifting up. Time to take it down to give it a chance to sort itself out, and also a chance for me to try out the new Husqvarna 570 we bought on Monday.
It's a great saw! The 346XP we have is good, but this is bigger and more powerful. It even has two exhaust vents! ;-) Here I am doing a bit of snedding with it. It goes through the wood like a hot knife though butter, and sounds good at the same time:
Here's Tracy doing some logging with the 570, though she used the 346 the rest of the time:
Before long it was all tidied up:
With the growing tips down where we could see them we got a good picture of the chestnut flowers:
They have quite a distinctive smell up close! (and give Tracy hayfever for a couple of weeks each year...)
We did some other stuff too. including tidying up some of the produce so it's in a fit state for customers. Here's a new log pile, with some long straight poles behind that I'm keeping for myself:
Tracy also discovered the difference a sharp chain makes to a saw, comparing the brand new 570 to the 346 with a fairly blunt chain. I was put to work sharpening it:
Tracy had a go too though, and she'll have do do the whole maintenance thing on her course in August!
We took a quick walk over to the pond, and found this under the oak tree:
Any ideas on what bird hatched from it? We've not found a good egg ID website yet...
There was also evidence of rabbits or deer on the ride to the pond. This birch stool had been growing like crazy a few weeks ago, but isn't looking so great now:Still, while they're eating that they're not eating the chestnut or oak! Suppose they have to eat something anyhow, and it's nice to have them around.
The last thing of interest was Tim's logging machine. He'd left it coupled up to a small tractor, which had been powering it:
Judging form the pile of sawdust under it, it had seen some use! By the way, the black stuff here and in past pictures from sawmilling is not oil or anything else nasty. It's caused by tannins coming out of the oak sawdust.
Friday, 11 July 2008
Today was the day Tracy got to try out all her new chainsaw gear!
In an earlier post I had a picture of a butterfly I couldn't identify:
Well, Steve Wheatley tells us that is in fact a Meadow Brown, but hiding its upper wings, and probably a female. We did have a photo of a Meadow Brown with its upper wings showing, and managed to identify it, here it is again to compare to the one above:
I saw another one of these today inside our wood - the above photos were just outside it on the wayleave.
Yesterday we were woken up by fire engines before 7am, and lots of them! The view down the road was this:
More follows in the rest of the post, including pictures of the fire itself.
Particularly concerning as there's a chemical factory down the road, but we went down to have a look and were relieved to see that the fire was on the other side of the road:
It wasn't possible to go any further in the car, for obvious reasons:
Tracy had to go out, but I went on my bike along the path behind the factory units:
I met some firemen down there, and they said it was fine to proceed as long as I didn't go near the building. They also told me it was a pine furniture warehouse that was ablaze, and that there were over 20 fire engines there. The scale of the situation was apparent as I got closer:
OK, I'll stop waffling now, the pictures speak for themselves (don't worry, I wasn't close, just using a long zoom lens). I heard that nobody was hurt in the event, and although I guess the business is insured, that won't be much consolation to the workers, who probably don't have jobs to go to now.
The story was reported in the news in various places, including the BBC and the Hastings Observer (who have a video of the fire).
Monday, 7 July 2008
Well, with Tracy doing her chainsaw training in August, we were going to need two saws anyway... so while we were at the shop getting her protective trousers and boots, we got a saw as well. Got the Husqvarna 570 - didn't see much point in having two saws the same size, so this one's bigger than the one we already have! 70cc as opposed to 50cc, and will run up to a 32" bar, compared to 20" on the smaller saw. Tracy will use the smaller one, and I'll use the bigger one - it's about 50% heavier, so I shall be building up some muscles no doubt...
There are two reasons for getting the larger saw, both in the future:
- so that we can do occasional chainsaw milling of some of the trees we fell to make use of them in various ways. (The 346 would struggle for milling, as it;'s a smaller engine)
- so that I can fell larger trees myself in future, after doing medium size tree felling training (no definite plans here, but having a saw that can run a longer bar is the first step).
More on it later in the week, when I've had a chance to play with it, doing some logging! :-)
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Well it did rain most of the day, but the sun came out in the evening, and a quick check on the radar image on the Met Office website confirmed that there was likely to be a couple of hours before the next shower, so we jumped in the car and nipped up to the wood.
First thing we saw was a medium-sized oak branch had come down in the wind:
Also, in Sweep Wood, we had a slow wander along the path my Dad had marked out, and saw some interesting trees. There were several naturally regenerating chestnut and hazel, and also a couple of oaks, which was nice to see, though it made us want to fell the coppice there to give the oak a better chance! What was interesting was finding a young hawthorn and what I'm pretty sure was a beech - I'm only doubting my judgement because there are no large beech trees in sight, so I've no idea how a seed got there.
Anyway, we'll keep an eye on them - the beech was up to about 8 feet, racing for the light as it's overshadowed by the chestnut - the beech is known as a shade-tolerant tree. If it keeps growing like this I'm sure it will produce some lovely timber in about 100 years, and along the way plenty of nuts for animals to eat and also some offspring!
In an earlier post I included a picture of some chestnut coppice cut last winter in another wood, here it is again:
I commented that ours is less well stocked, here's an example from one bit:
and here's part that's a bit better:
There's also a notable difference between the stools, such as this poor one:
and this pollard that's growing like crazy:
I guess when we come to do the layering we'll use the stronger stools to create the "cloned" new trees.
Yesterday (Saturday) we went out for the day to visit Ben Law's place - Prickly Nut Wood, over in West Sussex. You can read more about him on his website: http://www.ben-law.co.uk/
He was having an open day for the Small Woods Association, and although it was an 80 mile drive for us, it was well worth it as we learned a lot - his wood is similar to ours in some ways, and he's been managing it for many years. It would take me too long to write a detailed article, so I'll simply put in the pictures from the day with some explanation...
The visit started with a 3-hour tour of Ben's woods, with lots of explanations and many chances to ask questions on management, wildlife and anything else.
The woods were beautiful:
One thing I noticed immediately was that the stocking rate was well above what it is in our wood:
On asking Ben about this, he thought the reduced number of chestnut stools was probably due to our oak standards not being managed for many decades - they should have been periodically felled and new ones planted. At least we've made a step in the right direction by thinning some of the oaks. Ben's advice was for us to use layering (see last section on this page) in winter 2009/10 to increase the stocking rate.
One other thing I'd like to encourage is some chestnut standards for nut production. I was amazed to see the size of some of the chestnuts in Ben's wood:
We have some larger stools that are healthy, so perhaps we can single some of them, allowing the best stem to grow into a mature tree.
Unlike our wood, Ben's is partly on a hillside, which makes extraction harder, though at least the entrance is at the bottom of the hill.
Here's a ~2 acre coupe Ben cut last winter, looking similar to our area, just a lot bigger!
And here's an area that was cut the winter before - so this is what our cut area should look like in a year's time! Apparently this is where nightjars like to nest, so it's good to always have a patch that's around this height.
Ben also showed us some areas where the coppice has been neglected. As you can see, the trees self-single and grow large, with little of the ground-level plants that so many species of wildlife need to live in.
Ben was asked why he's not cut this section yet - the answer was that he doesn't cut a tree until he knows who he's going to sell the produce too. Once the right buyer or market is ready, he'll cut this section and bring it back into cycle for timber production and biodiversity.
One of the keys to bringing coppice back into management is having a market for the wood, unless you have the spare cash to just get the work done without selling anything! Charcoal burning is one way of turning otherwise low-value wood into a high-value product, although the demand for charcoal depends on how the summer weather turns out... Here's a large kiln waiting to be emptied:
Back at his base, we had lunch in his outdoors kitchen:
We al admired Ben's house, which he managed to get planning permission for after 10 years of living in caravans and under canvas. It's largely built from materials from his own wood, with strawbale and lime walls for good insulation. It's heated by wood stoves (naturally), with solar water heating, mini wind turbines and solar PV panels for electricity, using a large battery bank to store power for use overnight. Water comes from a spring, and composting toilets are used. So the house is totally off-grid, for both energy and water. He does have a backup diesel generator that sometimes gets used in the winter though.
Next to the house is the workshop:
This is where Ben actually makes a living - turning the trees he's felled into useful products.
A highlight for me was the demonstration of a "logging arch". The pictures speak for themselves, I want one now!
I think I would also like some big cant hooks like these. Not sure about a sawmill though - perhaps hiring one for a day is a better option for now...
Another handy tool was a debarker:
Ben doesn't only produce wood though, he also grows food. We saw a stack of logs impregnated with spores for mushroom production, and also several small orchards, such as this one nestled amongst the chestnut:
That's all for now. It's been raining all afternoon, but is drying up now, so we might do an evening trip to the wood to consider our plans in the light of what we learnt yesterday...