Monday 25 February 2008

Another newspaper article

This time we're going global - with this piece in the Toronto Star, written by Zoe Cormier, who visited us a couple of weeks ago.


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Sunday 24 February 2008

Silver birch - day 2

Today we finished the patch of birch, so now we've felled everything we think that needs to be done before the oaks are thinned. There's still more to do, but the pressure is off now. Here's the patch of birch, at the start of yesterday and end of today:
They're all neatly stacked in a few piles of 10-foot logs now:
And another felling video, this time of a bendy tree, so you'll see me get out of the way promptly as it falls, though in the end it didn't do anything unexpected:

Here's some general views of how the area is looking now. There's quite a few, so just scroll down if you get bored - after them is some evidence of recent boar activity!
With the birch out of the way, we decided to take a walk to look at what Spring is bringing. The first thing we found was new holes dug by boar, just below the second of our two ponds:
and as we wandered across in the direction of Dome Wood we saw some droppings:
Compare these to the pictures on The picture they have looks to be of fresh droppings, as they are shiny, while the ones we found were obviously some days old. They could be boar droppings, but I'm not sure. They could also be deer - any comments welcome!

A few steps further and we were approaching the boundary with Dome Wood, and saw something interesting in Colin's patch, and went to take a closer look:
More boar activity! In this case, they also seem to have marked the oak, see a close up below:
This could be territorial mark, according to
I'm sure Colin must have seen this, but if not, sorry for beating you to it on posting the photos! :-)

We saw some other wildlife too, including a Red Admiral and a Tortoiseshell butterfly, which was exciting, as they were in the clearing we've created by our coppicing, and we've rarely seen butterflies in the wood before, never mind two in one day. We also saw a bumble bee, which I eventually got a photo of, after 5 minutes of chasing it until it stayed still long enough:
Over in Sweep Wood, areas that were once brown are now carpeted with green:

a few weeks ago
Getting down to ground level, there are wood anemones just coming into flower:
And also the Lesser Celandine, which I had to look up:
According to Wikipedia, it was also known as Pilewort,

"The plant used to be known as Pilewort, as it was used to treat haemorrhoids. Supposedly the knobbly tubers of the plant resemble piles, and according to the Doctrine of signatures this resemblance suggests that pilewort could be used to cure piles."
Anyway, the important thing about both of these two plants, along with the bluebells (which are yet to flower...), as that they are all ancient woodland species, according to this list from the Woodland Trust.


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Saturday 23 February 2008

Silver Birch day

Well I'm back after my week of travelling for work, and today was the day we started into the patch of silver birch that's at the far end of the section we're coppicing.

The birch will all be used for firewood, and while some of it will probably be sold to the guy doing our oaks, we'll also keep some to use ourselves in the wood, and also in case anyone we know would like some of it in the autumn. All the logs are being striped to aid drying, and stacked on bearers.

Many of the birch are at least 50 feet (15 meters), and on the good ones we're getting four 10-foot logs out of them before getting to the branchy bit. Here's me stood next to them for scale:
We made pretty good progress, and everything went to plan apart from one which got hung up and we had to use the winch on. Still, that's only the second time that's happened during the coppicing so far. One of the reasons we're making faster progress is because we're only processing for firewood, so there's no need to preserve the bark, and I can therefore sned the trees rapidly using the chainsaw, while Tracy's collecting branches and burning what we aren't keeping.

Here's the progress we made:
And here's a video of one of the birches coming down:

We're going up for the whole day again tomorrow, and should be able to complete everything that's in the way of the oaks that will be thinned. That'll leave some bits still to do during March, but not a lot compared to what we've done so far!


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Sunday 17 February 2008

Another felling video

Another Sunday afternoon, and another few hours coppicing. We made quite good progress actually, and I found a good tree to do a video of a "boring" cut on. This is a type of felling cut used on trees that are heavily leaning and at risk of splitting. This particular tree wasn't, but it was dead, so in some ways it was still a good cut to use to fell it.

The procedure is that you cut a wedge out as normal, but then rather than making a felling cut, you "bore" in from the side of the tree to make a slot right through it. You'll notice that I start the boring cut using the bottom corner of the tip of the saw, and then straighten up - you have to do it this way, otherwise you'd get kickback and not be able to get the saw in. After cutting the slot, you can then make a final cut to sever the section at the back of the tree that's holding it up. This can be made horizontally or coming down at an angle (which is what I did in this case). Here you go:

After felling it I logged it up, as it was dead - we'll split it later and keep it for burning on camp fires over the summer.

I've got a lot of work on this week, so Tracy's going to go and get some stuff done at the wood, including meeting the guy who runs the Rother Butterfly Conservation Project. So, I've left her some stuff to do...

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Birds in flight

Not wild ones, but our cockatiels Pete and Tom doing their morning acrobatics. Pete's the one with the yellow face, Tom's is white.

In the first picture, you can see Tom twisting his head so he can look out of his left eye while turning left. I also find it neat that while they're banking to turn, they still hold their heads upright.
You might notice a few gaps in their wing feathers - they're moulting. We're saving all their feathers - we reckon after about 10 years we'll have enough to stuff a small cushion! ;-)


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Saturday 16 February 2008

Lop and carry

Tracy chose the title, as that's what we did mostly today... somehow there was a backlog of felled trees, needing lopping, chopping and carrying, so it was nearly lunchtime before I got to fell a tree!

Someone else had been in the wood while we were away, and they left evidence on the chopping block:
Looks like it was a squirrel eating acorns - I imagine it made a good lookout point.

We had yet another beautiful day, I think there's only been a couple of days all winter when we wanted to work that have been too wet.
Today we remembered to take "before and after" shots of the area we cleared (after the lop and carry...)
Doesn't look like a lot, but that's about 3 hours work for two of us - it's the lopping,
copping and carrying that takes the time...

We left as the sun was setting, lighting up the birch in the wayleave:
and the moon was preparing to take of the role of main source of light:
We're hoping to go up again tomorrow, as it should be sunny again :-)


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Friday 15 February 2008

Sunset on the beach

Wednesday evening we popped down to Winchelsea Beach at sunset, to have a walk and take a few photos, so here they are.

The beach is finally looking a bit more normal, after the work to rebuild the groynes there, which are looking pretty solid:
All but one of the diggers has gone now:
As the sun went down, huge numbers of birds passed by, all heading along the coast towards Rye. I assume there's somewhere in that direction that they like to roost:
We left as the sun went down below the horizon:

Oh, and for anyone who would like to see the latest antics of our cockatiels with a bell and a rope ladder:


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Sunday 10 February 2008

Even MORE visitors!

Well if we didn't have enough visitors in the wood yesterday, we had even more today! Good job we like having them there!

After church in the morning and lunch, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and get a few hours in at the wood. The extra daylight really makes a difference - a month ago it wouldn't have been worth going up after lunch.

Friends from church (Paul, Penny, Emily and Charlotte) joined us for the latter part of the afternoon, and they were keen to get involved in some coppicing work. Paul and Emily felled one tree:
while Penny and Charlotte did another:
although Emily discovered that you don't actually need two people on a bowsaw:
The tree was soon down, and Harvey the dog wanted to get in the photo, as he helped too, honest!
While all this was going on, the owner of one of the other woods dropped in - so we've now met all but one of the neighbours!

Paul demonstrated his skills with a side axe
and Emily chopped up a load of wood, so we owe her a visit in the summer when we'll be burning it to cook stuff! Charlotte and Penny weren't slacking though, Charlotte lopped all the branches of the larger of the trees felled earlier, and Penny used them to fuel the fire.

Paul also examined the tracks in the wayleave - he thinks they could well be boar rather than deer, and suggested we leave some apples covered by bits of wood - boar will go and take them, but deer and other animals are less likely to, especially if they are covered up.

Oh, and Richard (who was helping yesterday) dropped in again to say hello, so once again we had quite a crowd!


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Saturday 9 February 2008

Sunny Saturday!

Well, today was beautifully sunny! Just to prove we got up early, here's the view from the small bedroom window this morning:
It was still frosty when we got to the wood, shortly after 8am:
and there was mist drifting around:
I thought the oak trees look a bit lonely now, with the chestnut felled around them:
Inspired by a neighbours recent bird photos, I went to spy on one of his bird feeders, and managed to catch a great tit feeding:
OK, so it's not perfect, but I didn't have a tripod, was quite a way off on 12x zoom, and only had the patience to wait for two minutes... I got some more bird pictures later though, see below...

After getting that pic, the next job was to light the fire, and as it was a pretty calm day, we had the usual side effect of strange patches of smoke lingering around:
Before long Richard turned up to give us a hand, and after a cup of tea we put him to work!
There were quickly some trees on the ground and all kinds of sawing and lopping going on:

We also had a visit from Zoe Cormier, a journalist writing an article on people buying English woodland, for the Toronto Star. We'll post a link when its published. She was really into environmental and energy issues, so we all had a good chat, in between posing for photos!

On top of that, Richard brought his mother back after lunch to say hello (we'd met her at the church near our wood a few months ago), and the owners of Grist Wood, which is down the hill from ours, also turned up. Tracy had been in touch with them through her work for, and they were coming to see the coppicing we were doing. They also have plans to work their wood, so we are hoping to see some possibilities for future cooperation.

As you can imagine, we ended up with quite a crowd, as at one point they were all there at once! However, we still got a lot a done, largely die to the help we had from Richard!

Now, for those bird photos I promised. After Richard left for lunch, and while Tracy was going to pick up Zoe from the station, all was quiet in the wood, and I noticed a crowd (yes, lots of them!) of blue tits hopping and fluttering around at the edge of the area we have cleared.
I have no idea what this one was doing, he's hanging upside-down from a stick!
They were also spending a lot of time on the ground:
although this one was high up a tree:
I think they were probably males fighting over females, or something like that. I took a video of them to give you an idea. Apologies for it being a bit shaky, but I was at 12x zoom with no tripod. If the camera didn't have an image stabiliser I think it would be much worse!

We're planning to go up again tomorrow, and Richard may join us again if he can.


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