Friday 31 October 2008

The coming (wet) weekend

Looks like its going to rain a lot this weekend, so our visit to a friends wood is postponed... We're still going to our own wood tomorrow morning though, as a friend is coming to collect a trailer load of firewood. Let's just hope the rain doesn't get heavy until later on...


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Thursday 30 October 2008

The Oil Crunch: Securing the UK’s energy future

Well, here's something you wouldn't have expected to see a year ago....

The subtitle is: "First report of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security (ITPOES)"

and the members of this group are: Arup, FirstGroup, Foster and Partners, Scottish and Southern Energy, Solarcentury, Stagecoach Group, Virgin Group, Yahoo!

You can download it here.


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Monday 27 October 2008

Small Woodland Owners Group

The small woodland owners group are meeting again!
The event is free of charge and open to any interested people.
For more information see the swog website...

8th November 2008, at the Woodland Enterprise Centre, Flimwell, East Sussex.

David and Sheila from Batbox:

Bat types and habitat
Echo location
Foreign bats
Leaflets and further info about bats
Info about Bat Boxes
And real live bats to look at too!

Patrick Roper on
‘To coppice or not to coppice: some conservation controversies’

Patrick has worked as a consultant ecologist since 1993 and works closely with the
Woodland Trust on management plans. Patrick manages the Rare Species Inventory for
the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre in a professional capacity and has appeared on
wildlife programmes on radio and television on many occasions including the national
2007 and 2008 Springwatch on BBC television.
His most amazing feat is that he has studied the Wild Service tree, Sorbus torminalis, for
over 30 years!!

Fiona Tooth will chat with us about
‘Bang to Rights’: Rights and responsibilities of owning woodland and Q & A

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Saturday 25 October 2008

Firewood processing video and autumn leaves

Yesterday I posted some pictures of the new way of processing firewood that was suggested to us. Well, here's a short video showing it in action (video is in high quality mode, so pause it for a bit before playing):

Before long we had a trailer full ready to deliver to a customer. The splitting will of course be easier with the stuff we've just felled, which we plan to stack in long split lengths, and saw up next summer.
Last winter we made a fire to burn some brash, and the patch left behind obviously had no plants or seeds remaining in it. It's been interesting to watch it be recolonised. It's now covered in moss, which has started to seed by the look of it:
New plants are also doing well at the fringe of the pond (no ID on this one yet):
and quite a bit of grass has sprung up where we cut the coppice last winter:
Many of the leaves are off the sweet chestnut now, except the coppice regrowth, which doesn't look remotely ready for autumn. The oaks still have many of their leaves too:
As the leaves go and the wood gets lighter it becomes easier to take photos. Tracy got this one of a squirrel:
I know they may look cute, but they aren't a native species and do a lot of damage to trees, so we're going to start controlling them soon, by shooting with an air gun. We're planning to eat the meat from them, so they won't be going to waste...

One tree that produces great colours in autumn is the Wild Service, and ours has lost a lot of its leaves now:
You'd never believe these came from the same tree, would you?

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Friday 24 October 2008

Raised beds and a new firewood method

Today was a day for delivering mostly. It was raining quite a bit, but dried up as the day went on fortunately. The first job was to deliver some logs and stakes to a customer to use for a raised bed:
Unfortunately the size of the bed had changed since we last visited, so we came past again on another trip in the afternoon and brought some more logs to fill the gaps. It works, but it's not as neat as I'd have liked - the log to the right is a bit small, so I might look for a fatter one to replace it:
Anyway, the stakes worked nicely and the customer was pleased with the end result:
Then it was back to the wood for lunch. While we were sat down we noticed this Red Admiral sunning itself high up an oak tree:
must be catching the last dregs of summer!

Tracy wanted to cut a tree down after that (I think she's missing the smell of burning 2-stroke fuel after last week's coppicing course), and there are plenty that need doing this winter.
Then she got on with loading the trailer with firewood for another customer. We cut this lot pretty small, as their fireplace isn't too big, and they were bone dry after being in the shelter for a couple of months. While she was doing that, I got to work on a more efficient way of producing firewood, that I hinted at in a previous post.

The idea is that you split the logs while they're still quite long, using wedges and a hammer. These logs were cut about 8 months ago, but this winter we'll split as we cut them, so they'll be much easier to do.
Then, having split them you stack them between posts, with rails underneath. The gap between the posts is chosen to be just a bit less than the length of the chainsaw bar:
Then, you simply saw through the whole lot in one go!
leaving them in a moderately ordered pile ready for loading into the trailer. After the first cut, you move back to the next posts and do it again:
It's quite a bit quicker than cutting the logs individually and splitting them with an axe, and it also allows you to be more consistent in the length of the logs. I still need to make a few adjustments to the position of the posts, etc., but it worked pretty well first go!

(update: there's a video of the process here)

For the wood we cut this year, we're planning to split and stack, but then leave the stacks to dry, cross-cutting them to the lengths required the following summer. There's a particular way of doing that stacking, but I'll talk about that when we get to it...


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Cockatiels that think they're eagles...

Cockatiels like to "display", either to attract attention (i.e. from a potential mate), assert dominance or make themselves look scary when they're threatened - ours often do it when they see larger birds out the window. When we first got Pete (with the yellow face) he made a chattering noise while displaying, but we trained him to say "eagle" instead, and when we got Tom (with the white face) he learned it from Pete very quickly. Here they are doing it (the video is in HQ mode, so pause it and let it load for a while before playing):

Back to woodland stuff in the next post...


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Tuesday 21 October 2008

Firewood and beetles

I had numerous jobs to get done yesterday, including visiting a firewood customer to see if we can get the car and trailer into their property. In the afternoon I went up to the wood to split some firewood, while Tracy was teaching. I found a strange thing on top of a pile of offcuts when I got there:
It's a pile of dead beetles:
I can only imagine a bird had been eating them there. Any other ideas?

Anyway, I got on with the splitting. Last year we left the offcuts until later, and they got very hard to split, so this year I'm doing them as we go along:
I split up some more birch too:
However, we have a new plan for how to process the firewood quickly, that we learned from Tim Saunders (the guy who did our oak thinning for us) of Rother Forestry. He was teaching a training course on Coppice Products that Tracy had organised. It's a bit difficult to explain the firewood plan without some pictures, so when we try it I'll write about it.

Tim also showed us how to split chestnut for post&rail fenching:
We're at the wood again on Friday to do various bits of work, including some more firewood processing and delivery.


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Saturday 18 October 2008

Coppice Harvesting course - Day 5

This was the final day, and I've got some videos of tree felling with ropes to show you. But first, I couldn't resist taking a couple of pictures of sunrise behind the Romney Marsh wind farm out of our window before we set off:
We started the day with knots, and through the day had plenty of time to practise them. There were knots for tying off to trees as an anchor:
and quicker ways of doing this:
Knots for joining two lengths of rope, such as a Sheet Bend, or Double Sheet Bend in this case:
Using a "figure of eight" at the anchor point to feed the rope through:
and how to lock the rope off, which is useful if you're on your own and need to secure the rope while you go and put the felling cuts into the tree:
Tying a bowline to attach a carabiner at the end of the rope:
We also learned a neat trick to stop the rope getting in knots. Instead of coiling it, just pack it loosely into a bag, and then when you want to use it just walk with the bag and pay the rope out:
When it comes to getting the rope attached to the tree, the most important tool is an extendible pole with a spike and downward-facing hook on the end:
Ideally you use this to hook the rope over a branch:
But if the tree has no branches within reach then you fasten the rope round it and slide it up:
Once at the top you simply pull it tight (easier with a second person):
This works for tying a pair of stems from a single coppice stool together as well, allowing you to fell them both at once:
Rather than have the rope in a straight line (with you two tree lengths away), it's often more convenient to use an anchor tree with a pulley. This is especially useful if you are working alone, as you can have the final rope anchor near the tree being felled, in your safety zone. Here's a pulley set-up, making use of the slings for easy attachment to the tree:
and the final anchor point:
For larger trees you can use several pulleys to magnify the force you can apply, although you have to be careful to ensure that all the equipment is up to the required strength. We tried out a 5:1 pulley system, which allowed you to pull a tree over with two fingers!
OK, time for some videos. I've set these all to high quality mode, so you might want to pause them and let the video load before playing, otherwise it may keep stopping.

Here's Paul felling a birch, using a single rope round a pulley and back to near the tree. Paul's felling while Tracy's on the rope:

Here's Paul again, this time felling a pair of sycamore stems together, and the rope system includes the 5:1 pulley set-up:

And finally, this is me felling a pair of chestnut stems. The first one sat back on my saw, and because two stems were roped together, it wasn't possible to pull the rope to free it. Paul came to the rescue with a pole.

Tracy felled an awkward sycamore as well, but I've not got a video of that - sorry!

As we were working in a team for these trees, clearing up was pretty rapid:
Here's some views of our work area at the end of the week. Looking from Paul's strip into mine:
and back the other way. As you can see we almost joined up, just a few small trees left for the next group to fell:and the view from mine through to Tracy's:
We were pleased with our progress, especially as we spent quite a lot of time watching, learning and talking.

All we need to do now is put it into practice in our own wood........


If you missed the other posts, Day 1 is here, Day 2 is here, Day 3 is here and Day 4 is here.

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