Sunday, 28 March 2021

Coppicing, snow and mushrooms

February brought a week of cold weather, giving us the first proper snow in the woods for a few years:

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With temperatures staying below zero for several days, the ground was rock hard and we took advantage of this to get a few loads of logs processed for customers and ourselves:

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Here's how cold it was - an icicle formed on the corner of the trailer, from road spray!

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It's nice to see the log store at home beginning to fill up again, ready for next winter.

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Alongside the snow we had some murky days in the woods, but the coppicing is now completed!


We were saved some work at the end because our neighbour wanted us not to coppice some border trees in order to retain a screen for privacy, so they paid a tree surgeon to pollard them instead:

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We were left with a pile of logs for firewood, and that was all we had to deal with! 

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On the final day coppicing I had a small stem do a 'barber chair' - this is why you don't lean round the back of a tree while felling it, even a small tree like this can give you a bit of smack, and a larger one can kill.

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By mid-March, Snowdrops were emerging at the top of the hill:

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And the Bluebells were steadily growing, we're looking forward to them flowering!

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The Wood Anemones were also starting to come out at this point, here's one of the first ones I spotted. There's more now, photos to follow in my next post...

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We did have a bit of time to relax with a hot drink too, but a fire was certainly necessary as it's been quite chilly most days!

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A different project I was working on was mushroom production. Here's some sections of oak branches soaking for 24 hours - interesting to note that green oak doesn't float!

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The logs were them drilled and mushroom spores inserted, with a plug of wax melted in on top of them. The logs are now down at the Community Garden in Rye, and we might start getting a harvest towards the end of the year...

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The mushroom logs came off an oak tree our friend Rich had felled. Here's a short video of him using his Land Rover to haul the butt of the tree into place for later sawmilling:

And finally, back at home our cockatiel Pete is keeping a careful eye on the outside world. Probably a good idea, the way things are at the moment!

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Saturday, 6 February 2021

Starting 2021 in the woods

2021 has been fairly wet so far around here, but we did get some sunny days and made the most of them in the woods.

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Although Spring is some way off, especially with a snowy week about to hit our part of the UK, the plants in the woods know that change is coming. Dog's Mercury is getting going:

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Lords and Ladies plants are pushing up leaves that are gradually unfurling:

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And the Bluebells are poking out of the ground again:

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While we've been coppicing we've saved quite a few chunks of wood like this to pass on to Dengate's Farm Shop, where David is drying them and then turning them into beautiful wooden bowls.


Here's David with a bowl made from some Ash we passed on to him a few months ago:


We have of course been coppicing too - we went back to the top of the hill to fell a few small trees we'd left earlier, which needed a rope to stop them falling into the yard next door:


And yes, I ended up working in a water-filled ditch again...


Further down the hill, here's a few views of how things look now, we're not far from the end of this winter's work:

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Just beyond the point where we'll be stopping this year's cutting are a couple of trees that we didn't fell last time round, and they've grown on nicely. First is an Ash:

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And then a Sweet Chestnut:

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Both are taller than the surrounding coppice now, and I hope to leave them to grow into large trees. Here's the Chestnut just over 10 years ago, when it was looking much more slender:


And finally, a friend was asking how to make stakes using a chainsaw, so I made this short video to show how it's done:

That's all for now!


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Sunday, 3 January 2021

Final days of 2020 in the woods

December 2020 brought colder and murkier weather, but it was still good to get up to the woods, especially as pretty much everything else around is closed as we're in Tier 4 restrictions here due to the (mis)management of the pandemic.

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The weather did also allow for some atmospheric photos. I tried processing this one two different ways in Lightroom:

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You may remember in my last post I talked about the Hornbeam we'd been felling. Well, I'd not got round to splitting it, so that occupied quite a bit of my time in December. It's a tough wood to split, especially in long lengths, so I tend to use a chainsaw to put a slot in one end and then drive steel wedges in with a sledgehammer:

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As well as the coppicing, we've also done a few firewood loads for customers:

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We spent Christmas Day in the woods - not just because we were in Tier 4, it would have been our first choice anyway! Fortunately we had a nice sunny day:

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It was of course chilly, but a fire dealt with that

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and we cooked dinner using the rocket stove made by Greenway Grameen in India.

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We got straight back to work after Christmas, felling the final stem of a large Holly tree that was overhanging a neighbour's barn. I'm pleased to report that our battery electric chainsaw, a Husqvarna 540iXP, had no problems dealing with it:

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We had one more larger tree that was also near the barn, a Sweet Chestnut, and as with all the others we used the Tirfor winch to safely fell it, as shown in this video:

Before long we had it in pieces, some of which will be used to make outdoor furniture for the Community Garden in Rye.

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There's still more to do, and we've both spent time staring up at trees wondering where to start!

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Once some more coppice is cut, these Holly trees on the border with a neighbour's garden will need to come down, as behind them is a larger Sycamore that will have to be felled. That's a few weeks away yet though...

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Finally, on New Year's Eve I went to work in a friend's woodland nearby, and we had a great day for it!

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The main job was dismantling some windblown coppice stools, and a bit of winching too.

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That brought the 'interesting' year of 2020 to an end. More coppicing and other woodland activity to come in 2021, and hopefully better news on the pandemic front...


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