Sunday, 5 July 2009

Making kindling, and some other odds and ends

On Friday we visited our friend Fiona at her wood, and she told me a neat way to make kindling (or in this case, fuel for our woodgas stove and kelly kettle). As soon as we were in our wood, I tried it out.

You start by tying something round the log you intend to split up. I used a piece of rope with a slip-knot in it, but Fiona suggested a piece of bike inner tube - next time I get a puncture I'll try this.Then, use your froe and wooden mallet to put a split down the middle:
Turn it 90 degrees and repeat:
Then carry on making parallel splits, according to the thickness of kindling you want:
Turn 90 degrees again and repeat:and finally, take the rope off:
Neat eh?

We used some immediately to cook lunch, and I also discovered that the kelly kettle fits neatly on top of the woodgas stove, allowing you to make a hot drink after cooking without lighting another fire:
Also, because the kettle creates a good updraught, you can even unplug the fan in the woodgas stove, producing an interesting effect when you look down from the top:
We rearranged our little camp yesterday to benefit from more of the shade from the oaks, and also make it easier to get things in and out of the shelter. We took the opportunity to rebuild the fireplace and make a table beside it with a spare concrete slab I'd picked up near home recently:
While we were sat there having lunch, look what slithered by:
We'd better keep an eye out, this is the first time we've seen an adder this close to our camp - I guess they like the hot ground there on sunny days!

The heat had also brought out a huge range of insects, such as crickets and dragonflies:
and butterflies too - here's my first photo of a White Admiral this summer, and one of a Speckled Wood too:
We took a walk up into Sweep Wood (my parents' patch), and clipped back branches that were reaching into the public footpath. Along the way we saw a fungus which I'd happened to take a photo of nine days earlier. Here's the first photo:
and here's the later one, after just nine days!
We also noticed that there's a lot of honeysuckle out in Sweep Wood, it'll be nice in a year or two when the butterflies can get to it, after we've coppiced there...
Finally, we found a tree that was very interesting, mainly because it has fruit on it! I think they're plums, but we'll see how they develop over the coming weeks:

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Saturday, 4 July 2009

Trail camera: A fox and a butterfly

We finally have some interesting wildlife on our trail camera! Here's a video of a fox having a sniff around our pond:

Here's a more bizarre one. What I think happened is a butterfly landed on the camera, triggering the motion sensor, and then proceeded to crawl over the lens while it was recording. Given the colours visible, and what I know is flying around the pond right now, I think it was a White Admiral.


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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

First animal on the trail camera!

At last we have something other than people walking dogs on our trail camera! OK, it's not very exciting, but it's a start, and until now we didn't know that pigeons liked to drink at our pond. It's also good to know that something as small as a pigeon will trigger the motion sensor:

We also got these enticing but unclear pictures, which I think might be the tail of a fox, or something similarly sized (bottom right of picture). There's two pictures taken close together, for a "now you see it, now you don't" effect. They were taken at night using infra-red illumination:
More to follow when we get something interesting...

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Defensive gulls

Apparently I'm not allowed to wear white clothing on our top balcony for a while. Here's what happens if I do, especially if I put my arms up in the air...

It's a black-backed gull, and it has some chicks on the roof opposite, so gets defensive if it thinks we're a threat. Here's a video of some herring gull chicks on the next roof along:


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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Robin and the butterflies

Yesterday I went to the wood to meet a brother of a friend at 11am to answer some questions he had about buying woodland and producing fuel. We had an interesting chat, but they had to leave at 12, leaving me there in the heat of the day with my camera - so I got lots of pictures of butterflies. After locking the gate I immediately saw a Red Admiral basking on the hot stone of the track in the wayleave:
Not far from that was a dragon fly as well:
Going back into the wood, the first thing I saw was this juvenile robin, just beginning to grow its red feathers:
Carrying on through into the wildlife corridor, I saw at least four White Admiral butterflies, but they weren't landing, at least not anywhere low down, so I didn't get a photo. I did get lots of other butterflies though. This one's a male Meadow Brown:
And here's a female for comparison:With their wings closed they look like this, though you can't always see the black spot, if the wings are folded in more tightly:
There was a Comma sunning itself:
It's very well camouflaged once its wings are closed, especially among leaves:
Last but not least is a Speckled Wood, of which there were several enjoying the dappled sunlight at the edges of the corridor:
One of the reasons there are more butterflies in there is that the honeysuckle is now flowering, so there's nectar to be had. This is also the key food plant for the White Admiral's caterpillars.
That's all for now. We're going to go swimming in the sea this afternoon, and maybe metal detecting early evening, to see how much loose change the tourists have dropped!


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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Four pence and a tent peg

That was the grand total of our haul after an hour metal detecting on the beach yesterday evening!
But we also collected bits of litter to put in a bin, and had a nice walk.

We had a great time away at Jon & Polly's wedding (where I was best man), but after the hot drive back it was great to get out and wander along the beach.

There's loads of black-headed gulls around now:
They like to come down to the beach in the evening
and scavenge for food the careless humans have dropped
back at home we have herring gull chicks now:
and the parents watching over them carefully:
We're off up to the wood today, first just me to meet a guy who's interested in buying a wood for producing wood-fuel, and then later with friends from church. We had a big group up there last Saturday, many of them students on the Christian Rural and Environmental Studies course that a friend runs. I did a presentation for them on Peak Oil, then one on woodland, and we then went to the wood for lunch, a walk round and discussion.
There was about 20 people, and they all seemed to enjoy the day!


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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

It's gone a bit quiet...

Sorry for the lack of posts, we've had a crazy couple of weeks, with me doing a presentation to one group on Peak Oil, and another on what we're doing at the woodland, followed by a visit there. And now we're off to a friend's wedding... All good fun, but not much time to write on the blog!

There'll be some new stuff up here on the weekend...


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Sunday, 14 June 2009

What a lot of activity...!

A quiet and peaceful woodland, soon to be shattered by the excitement of 27 children age 10 ish! The children from the local primary school love coming to the woodland. This group came to learn about coppicing and local, sustainable forestry. They are going to compare low impact coppicing with logging.... very interesting! They had a go at felling a tree, walked around the wood finding out loads of stuff and enjoyed creating their own tasks. This young man is building a safe house around a baby oak tree to protect it from rabbits.

The children organised a shelter building competition, here are the boys working well as a team.

and the lasses, using a huge log for something!

They are all very safety conscious when they work! (note the helmet)

Here is one of the completed shelters, decorated with the foliage from the tree the kids felled earlier.

They were all fascinated by the boar leg someone hung in our tree..

Many thanks to National Trust for these brilliant guides.

We had a super day. I am only sorry I can't post pictures of smiling kids faces!
The following week we had 54 children visit, this time ages 6- 8. They all adopted baby trees and built shelters, and also did a plant investigation, looking at what grows in the light. We have been left with a variety of unusual looking shelters in the wood!

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