Tuesday 29 April 2008

We've been blog tagged!

We have been blog tagged by Wilco at Shedblog, rules at the bottom.

anyway here are my random things about me

  • I like eating chilli in almost any food.
  • I've charged my mobile phone from a solar panel for over two years.
  • My favourite film is the Matrix.
  • I don't drink anything with caffeine in it most of the time.
  • I'm allergic to gluten, a protein found in wheat and barley.
  • I like playing Scrabulous on Facebook
and here are the blogs that I am tagging, hopefully they will carry on the tag

* Link to the person who tagged you.
* Post the rules on your blog.
* Write six random things about yourself.
* Tag six people at the end of your post linking to their blog.
* Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
* Let the tagger know when your entry is up.


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Before and after oak pictures

I just realised we did in fact have some similar before and after pictures of the oaks we had thinned, though not quite form the same angle. Here's one from February:
and here's one from last weekend:
A much more even spacing now with gaps to let the light down to the floor, which will help the coppice regrowth.


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Monday 28 April 2008

Flowers, oaks and a new camera

Hopefully I'll be getting some better photos soon, as I have a new camera - a Nikon digital SLR. Just learning how to use it today though, not got onto using RAW mode and playing with all the different settings it has.

Anyway, I had the day off work today as my family are down in Rye, so we went to the wood over lunchtime and spent a few hours there. Cath and my parents helped out with the ongoing work of clearing up:
Tracy and I wandered around and put stakes in next to the chestnut we planted yesterday, to make sure that nobody treads on them accidentally:
We also inspected our baby oak trees that we'd marked last autumn. These are important to us as they represent the future mature trees of the wood, even though we will not live to see them grow to maturity. Now that some of the existing oaks have been thinned and the coppice cut there is enough light for the younger oaks to grow up - oak is well-known for being intolerant of shade.

It's important to make some spaces and have younger oaks growing up, as left to their own devices you could end up with shading by the mature oaks. Natural regeneration would only happen when one of the mature oaks blows down in a storm, so by thinning the oaks we encourage regeneration to be a more continuous process, with a range of tree ages present, and also get some useful timber at the same time. We aim to use as much of the wood as possible for timber rather than heating, as then it can be displacing metal, concrete and plastic, so benefiting the environment and reducing our dependence on a limited supply of fossil fuel. Heating is obviously a good second best though, as it offsets the use of gas, oil and other fossil fuels.

Anyway, lecture over! :-) Here's the baby oaks, first one near our pond that's a few years old (but is in the shade of another oak, so won't actually make it):
Here's one that got nibbled last year, so has had to sprout leaves lower down:
We've got some tree protectors, so will have a go at cutting them down to size to put round them. This one's doing better:
and here you can see the acorn it grew out of:
There are several important things to do to encourage regeneration:
- plentiful seed (we've got that!)
- sparse ground vegetation (we have this at present)
- protection from animals (see above, we're planning to do it)
- low levels of weed competition (OK at present, and we will go to the individual trees and make sure there is no bramble, honeysuckle, etc. climbing them - these aren't a problem on larger trees)
- a good deal of light (with the oaks thinned and coppice cut, we have this in abundance)
There's more info on regeneration from the BTCV here.

The other big job for today was helping my Dad clear a windblown ash in Sweep Wood. Here's a picture of how it looked a couple of months ago:
My Dad had done some work on it yesterday with his friend Brian, and I carried on today with him, taking off branches bit by bit and carefully, to make sure nothing was going to fall on us. After an hour or so it was looking like this:
And we have a nice pile of logs building up - Ash is one of the best firewoods, as it has such a low moisture content that it can be burned green. Obvious it burns better still after seasoning.
We're thinking that the butt of the tree could be good for wood turning, as it's not straight enough for cutting any long sections of timber.

We saw some cool flowers. Some primrose, which we think is native to the wood, rather than a garden escapee:
also some whitebellls (hadn't realised these were around):
and the usual bluebells:
Here's a clearing on a ride in Chestnut Coppice, which we cleared by felling a few birch last summer:
Nice and light, as you can see (thanks to everyone who helped felling the birch here!). The birch are growing back now, as we expected. You can see a bud forming in the centre of the picture below:
We also came across a recently dug animal hole. Not sure what it is - a bit big for a rabbit, and there'd been several "false start" holes dug. Will keep an eye out for droppings or tracks. It would be cool if it was a badger!
That's all for now, got to work the rest of the week, though we should manage an evening trip up to the wood later on. Lots of activity planned for the Bank Holiday weekend coming up too - my brother and his family are joining us all, and we should have some friends from church come up, weather permitting.


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Sunday 27 April 2008

People, planting and butterflies

Today was one of those days when it seemed like half the population of East Sussex turned up in our wood! Good job we like visitors!

The first thing we saw when we got there though was several Peacock butterflies fluttering around in our clearing. Here's one of them:
As the day was going to include more clearing up and burning, the first job was to resurrect yesterday's fire, which Cath and I got on with:
Shortly after that our visitors started arriving, and helping with the clearing up, as well as a range of other woodland activities, such as practising shelter building skills...

Charlotte, Lauren and Emily made a good start here:
But succumbed to the temptation of a tea break...
leaving Paul, Jason and Cath to finish the job:
It did the job, keeping off the odd shower, though a gust of wind did blow the cover off!
The other neat thing that happened today was that Alison and Charlie popped over from Fantail Wood - they'd been given some chestnut whips (young trees) by someone who had a few spares, but didn't want them themselves. So, they came to offer them to us. It's getting late for planting, but hopefully most of them will make it. Here they are, about 20 of them:
Paul and I got busy digging holes:
while Tracy (having been on a tree planting course) directed Charlotte and Lauren in the planting
We planted them wherever there were larger gaps between the other chestnut stools, to fill the gaps as they grow up and encourage them to grow straight, to make them more useful to people next time they're harvested. There's plenty of info on the BTCV website about the appropriate densities for different species:

We saw another interesting thing on BTCV about the history of coppicing on this page:


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Saturday 26 April 2008

Summer is here!

...or at least the weather says so! We got sunburnt in the wood today - forgot that now we've coppiced there's not much shade!

Everything is getting very green now. The oaks are coming into leaf:
The thing we can't quite figure out is where on earth the 15 oaks we had thinned fitted in, because it still looks pretty crowded:
It's nice to have it sorted - the oaks that are there now will stay for decades, if not longer.

We spent the day continuing to clear up the brash and logs that are left from our mad effort to get all the felling complete by Easter. There's still quite a few piles of oak and chestnut brash dotted around:
We got to work burning the chestnut and the oak twigs, while separating the thicker bits of oak out to pile up so they can rot as a wildlife habitat. We're not including any chestnut in these piles as it doesn't really rot and nothing seems to live in or on it!
It's important that we get the brash cleared up and sort out the logs and other produce now, before the regrowth on the chestnut really gets going - the last thing we want is to do is drag stuff over stools and rip off the buds that are growing.

Someone came to watch me sorting the brash out, and came closer than two metres!
I've always found that robins love to watch people work in the woods, I think they are hoping you'll disturb or uncover some bugs for them to eat. Hopefully I provided some dinner for this little guy.

Later on in the day my parents turned up with my sister Cath - they're staying in a self catering house here for a couple of weeks, and my brother and his family are coming next week too (it's a big house). Cath got to work helping cut up branches for the fire:
Things are getting interesting out in the wayleave. The birch is almost fully in leaf now:
and there are bugs about:
Something very interesting has happened too. Remember the ruts that the tractor left extracting the timber? Well, as we've not got around to fixing them yet, they have filled with water:
And it looks like we have inadvertently created a new habitat, albeit temporary, because stuff has moved in, including pond skaters:
and this lizard, who was sunning himself on the hot dry earth before scampering off into the heather when I came to take a photo:
We're now thinking that we might hold off on filling the ruts until they have dried out naturally, to give a chance for any creatures that have moved to to head on their way.

And finally, a bit more on butterflies, which are becoming ever more common in our clearing. I saw a Peacock butterfly today, but didn't get a photo, as I was holding a chainsaw instead of a camera - d'oh!

Tracy however did better, getting a picture of this Small White:
That's all for now. We may go up tomorrow too, depending on the weather.


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Friday 25 April 2008

Finding a Freecycle group

Nice to see Yahoo have created a page where you can easily search for Freecycle and similar groups:

If you've not heard of Freecycle, check it out here:

"The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,343 groups with 4,969,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free."
I used to run a group when we lived in Wheatley, and am a member of the Rye group.


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Butterflies and sheds

According to this story from the BBC, British butterflies need a good summer to recover from last year:

Data from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme showed that eight species were at an all-time low as a result of an unsuccessful summer in 2007.

The main reason behind the decline was an above average rainfall, which meant the insects, such as the common blue, had fewer chances to feed or breed.


The data, which was collected by thousands of volunteers, also revealed that species that were already declining, including the high brown fritillary and the Duke of Burgundy, suffered another bad year.

And down at the allotment - the shed is finished! No photo yet, as it was getting a bit dim last night when we finally locked it up.


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Wednesday 23 April 2008

News round-up: oil, rice and clothes

Sorry if you're here looking for stuff about our wood - I promise there'll be a post over the weekend, after we've been up there...

In the meantime...

The strike at Grangemouth refinery is all set for next week now, the talks broke down last night, as reported by the BBC. What amazes me is how it is not front page news - you have to dig down a bit to find it. I get the distinct feeling the media is under instructions/pressure to keep things quiet! Anyway, what certainly hasn't been reported in the UK media is the wider impact on oil supply: the Forties pipeline brings 700,000 barrels of oil a day (a little under 1% of global supply) in from the North Sea, and it needs services from Grangemouth to keep running. The same applies to a gas pipeline too. So when Grangemouth shuts, it's not just the 200,000 barrels a day it processes that is missing - it's much more! Full details on the expected closure of the Forties pipeline here. If you want more technical background, you can find it at TOD.

And in the world of food, rice prices hit another all-time high yesterday, and Wal-Mart has started rationing customers to four bags per visit after people started rushing to stock up. UPDATE: Happening in the UK too, apparently.

Finally, the price rises we've seen in food over the last year or two are now spreading into clothes, due to high cotton prices: The end of cheap clothes is near.

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Tuesday 22 April 2008

Shed nearing completion, and another oil record

We went down to the allotment again after dinner today, and got to work putting the roofing felt on:
Yes, I know I look a bit precarious up there, but Tracy was steadying the ladder apart from when she too the photo!
OK, it's a bit wonky, but it's an old shed and we had no instructions! It should stand up to the wind and rain I think.

We almost managed to finish the roof, just one row of tiles and then the strip along the top. The only job left after that is the doors, and a few repairs to the edges of the windows...

Meanwhile, in the energy world, oil hit another new record price, $119.90, before settling at $119.37 at close of business. Probably see $120 tomorrow, unless something changes dramatically, in which case we'll still probably see $120 by the end of the month.


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Monday 21 April 2008

More bad news on rice

Well, the world has finally woken up to one of the things we have been shouting about at PowerSwitch for more than three years now - global limits being reached in the supply of food.
Of course there's more factors in this than rising prices of fertiliser and fuel, and biofuels (all driven by peak oil), such as climate effects and increasing meat consumption in China.

Wheat was the first to be hit, with drought in Australia, and the USA busy turning it into ethanol. But now rice has moved to centre stage, as it is the staple food for 3 billion people and is now in short supply. Here's the latest news:

Drought hits millions in Thai rice region

More than 10 million people in parts of Thailand's rice bowl region have been hit by drought, the government said Monday, causing further concerns as prices of the staple grain soar. Thailand's Disaster Prevention and Mitigation department reported that 55 of the kingdom's 76 provinces were struggling with drought, mostly in the central, north and northeastern regions.
Australia: Farmers fail to deliver on rice
Australian rice growers used to proudly boast that they fed almost 40 million people one meal every day of the year. This year, Australia will produce its smallest rice crop since 1960 and exports will collapse. Until 2002-03, Australia exported, on average, 620,000 tonnes of rice a year, or 80 per cent of what it produced. But figures compiled by Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics show the 2007-08 export crop will be 70,000 tonnes, with no improvement the following year.

Mr Helou said the world rice shortage, and price rises, had been driven by climate. "There has been a run on drought and negative weather patterns across many parts of the world, all happening at the same time."
Rice Approaches Record; WFP Warns of `Silent Famine'
Rice futures rose to within 0.2 percent of a record on speculation that more exporters in Asia may curb shipments to safeguard supplies and contain inflation, potentially exacerbating a global food crisis.

"If you're making $1 a day, $2 a day, somewhere near the bottom of the economic scale, a sudden doubling of the price of rice or of wheat is going to make it impossible for you to put food on the table,'' Risley said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. "There's a risk of a silent famine.''
And these are the reasons we're seeing rising food prices in the UK, which will make it hard for the Bank of England to drop interest rates, as inflation will be zooming ahead. Not great for me and Tracy as we can't eat wheat.... so we went and stocked up yesterday, buying a couple of 20kg sacks of rice at a Indian wholesale shop. Should keep us going for more than 6 months.

But what's the answer for the people in the world who can no longer afford to eat? The only thing that would really make a difference on a big enough scale would be if all across the world we ate less meat that has been fed on grain. It take about eight calories of grain to produce one calorie of beef - not the most efficient way of feeding people. Chicken is more energy efficient, but still a net loss. Wild game is obviously a good choice, as it's been busy eating stuff we can't eat in many cases, but you clearly have to be careful not to wipe out any species!

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Progress on the shed, and another oil record

Another day, another oil price record ($117.76 peak, $117.48 settle) - at least that's what seems to be happening this April. BBC reporting on it here. Why? Because we've on the plateau, production can't go higher, but demand is there. Just think how much fuel's going to cost when we hit the decline!

Anyway, that's what's going on the big wide world. In our little world in Rye, the shed is making progress, as part of our preparations for a post-peak-oil world...

We went down early evening, before dinner, and set about fitting the roof. this thrush was very interested, and watched us from a nearby shed, singing his little heart out. Tracy was able to get very close for a picture - I guess the birds are quite tame around the allotment, bring used to seeing people working

As the shed is old and somewhat warped, and rotten in places, things didn't quite fit together like new, and a little trimming was required...But before too long it was coming together:
The next step is to put the felt onto the roof, which will cover the gap you can see in the above picture.

We're hoping to get the shed finished in the evenings this week, so on Saturday we can get up to the wood and make some more progress on brash burning, log stacking and making piles of dead wood to leave for wildlife.


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