Thursday 27 August 2009

New things growing and some visitors...

We identified the fungus we found last week, and our friend Tim confirmed it - Chicken of the Woods (or Sulphur Polypore):
We've not tried eating any, but it is supposed to be edible. Perhaps we'll give it a go... we hear it's quite expensive to buy!

Another interesting thing growing is the big holly tree in the public footpath. Here's a picture of it during the coppicing work last winter:
As you can see, it now has a lot of light getting to its lower branches as well as the top. As a result, it is now flowering!
I assume it's been flowering at the top every year, but this is the first time we've seen it flowering near ground level. And if you're wondering why the leaves aren't spiky, it's because it has polymorphic leaves - only those lower down (and therefore at risk of being eaten) grow spiky.

The big event this week so far was a visit from some of my work colleagues from the Ashden Awards and their families:
They all had a good time, and there's a write-up on the Ashden Awards blog, with some more pictures.

Last of all, on Monday we did a bit more processing of firewood:
This isn't ready to sell yet as it needs some more seasoning. Here's a birch log that had been striped along one side only:
It's hard to tell in the photo, but you can just about see that near the stripe made on the top by the chainsaw the wood is drier (paler colour). This is why it's important to stripe birch if you're not going to split it (this log in particular has been split now, by some of the Ashden Awards people!).

We're off to the woods again this evening, this time for a friend's birthday, so I think a fire, marshmallows and a few beers are in order...


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Tuesday 25 August 2009

Actually, they were Fallow deer...

Last week I posted a video of some deer. We weren't sure what species they were, but thought they might be Roe. We know better now, thanks to people on the Wild About Britain forums - they are Fallow deer. Here's the video again in case you missed it:


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Sunday 23 August 2009

Odds and ends

There's a variety of photos that I want to post, but they're not on any specific topic... First off, here's an impressive fungi I found, I've not identified it yet, but will take the fungi ID book up to the wood later on.
Also, the other mystery tree (i.e. not the Alder Buckthorn) is now confirmed as a Crab Apple, as it has some fruit for the first time:
We think it didn't fruit before because it didn't have enough light, but since we coppiced in the area, that's changed.

Another interesting development in the same part of the wood is that heather has started growing, the seeds spread in from the wayleave presumably. Again, this would not have happened before we coppiced this area:
Initially I just saw this one plant, but as I looked around I realised there were lots of plants, this was just the only one flowering.
Here's a couple of butterfly pictures. First, an old favourite: the Speckled Wood, but this time in the coupe we cut two years ago, where I've not seen them before. Perhaps the slowly increasing shade as the coppice grows is making it attractive?
And a Common Blue, one that I've not been able to photograph nicely before:
And finally, a few pictures of people in the woods. A couple of weeks ago our neighbours John and Helen had family visiting, and the kids got a chance to fell a chestnut (we picked one that's shading the Alder Buckthorn, which we'd like to grow better):
and also see birch bark's effectiveness as a firelighter:
I also hosted the men's group form my church for dinner, cooking a curry from raw ingredients up in the wood:
That's all for now. There's another busy week ahead, including a visit by some of my work colleagues to see what the woodland is all about.


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Saturday 22 August 2009

Six wild boar, two pigeons and a fox

Here's some assorted videos from our trail camera for you... First, the largest group of wild boar we've seen yet, and the first time the male is with the others:

Next, one wood pigeon chasing another one in front of the camera:

And finally, two videos of a fox. First, in the early morning, with the camera still in infra-red mode, and then later in the day, but also with an unidentified creature running very fast the other way along the path - any ideas what it is? It's about 8 seconds in, and you'll probably want to switch the video to HQ mode to see it.

We've now moved the trail camera to the other side of the wayleave, into the wood that my friend Alex owns. It's by an animal trail and a seasonal stream (dry at present), so it'll be interesting to see what it picks up...


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Monday 17 August 2009

Wild boar - lots of them this time!

As I said, we put our trail camera back near the mud bath the boar like to use, and we were rewarded with some results! In this video you can see four boar together at one point. At the end of the video is a single boar on its own - this was actually taken the next evening. This makes me think the big boar at the end might have been a mature male, roaming on his own, while the group could be females and adolescents. Anyway, watch the video and see what you think:

We didn't just get a boar, we also got a rabbit as well. OK, not as exciting, but here's the video anyway:


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Sunday 16 August 2009

Kindling and logs

We're planning to deliver a load of firewood to a customer tomorrow, who'd specifically asked if we still had any wood from two years ago. We did, and so we spent a while this afternoon cutting it up (using the rack we built last summer), and loading the trailer.
This is our "new" trailer - it only cost us £20, and we spent £40 replacing the tyres, and now it's ready to roll! It's a braked trailer, so can carry more weight than our smaller one.

Tracy's ankles are sore at the moment, due to some inflamed tendons, so she's trying to keep off her feet some of the time. So while I was cutting logs, she was making kindling:
It's labour-intensive, but is quite therapeutic!


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Friday 14 August 2009

And now some deer videoed on our trail camera!

We're really pleased with this - we only put the camera in this location, actually quite close to our little camp in the woods, yesterday! At about 8pm last night these deer wandered through! You can see that the first is a male, the second a female, and the third another male, but with an antler missing - presumably lost in a fight. The fourth looks smaller, perhaps a younger one?

We've already moved the camera back to where we got the boar earlier in the week, but lower to the ground. I think it was pure chance that we got deer at the spot near our camp so quickly, but we'll try the camera again there at some point.

UPDATE: we're not sure now what type of deer these are - any more opinions welcome!

UPDATE 2: The consensus is that they are Fallow deer, thanks to people on the Wild About Britain forums.


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Thursday 13 August 2009

Wild boar video!

At last the trail camera has paid off! We got a film this week of a wild boar in the "mud bath" they use in my parents' wood, next door to ours.

I've started the video with a few seconds taken during daylight (with nothing there) to set the scene, and put the same clip at the end as well. This helps because the footage was actually taken at around 2am, so the camera is in infra-red mode. You can see the boar wandering around looking for stuff in the mud, and also make out its eyes reflecting the infra-red illumination from the camera.

Next time I'll position the camera a bit lower down, and hopefully get a better view that way, as the main area of illumination was above the boar in this video.


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Tuesday 11 August 2009

Access, access, access...

If there's one thing that's important in managing a woodland it's access. If you can't get your products out of the wood, then there's not much incentive to produce them, and the woodland may become neglected. So, today's job was all about improving access to the wood we cut last winter.

Here's where the public footpath crosses from the track in the wayleave to the corner of our wood, where the stile is:
We have a right of way through here and along the footpath to get to our wood, but at the moment you would struggle to get a vehicle through. So, I got to work with the chainsaw cutting back the trees at the edges, while Tracy cleared the brash to the sides. I also used the saw to cut any stumps off low to the ground and round off their edges, to prevent damage to tyres.
before long we had the trailer in there and loaded with logs (the fence by the stile can be unhitched):
after which I backed the Defender in (reversing in low ratio is great!), and towed the trailer out:
Hopefully walkers on the path will appreciate it not becoming too overgrown as well.

We'd been working in the same area yesterday, with Tracy cutting up and splitting some logs that had been there drying over the summer:
I'd also been filling racks of lengths of birch and chestnut, to cut up later on:
One other job we did yesterday was preparing some 6ft poles for a customer to use at their allotment. Rather than measuring each pole individually, you normally measure one, and then hold it next to other poles and cut them to the same length. This time though, I came up with a neat idea to make this easier. I often use an off-cut with a "V" cut in it to raise a log off the ground for sawing - this time I made one with two "V"s, one for the measured pole, and the other for the pole being cut:
Then the poles are exactly parallel, and it was easy to cut accurately to length.

That's all for now. We're up in the wood again later in the week...

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Monday 10 August 2009

Mysteries solved...

On our Moth Survey a couple of weeks ago, we were fortunate to have Phil Sansum, of the High Weald AONB unit there. His job is to identify and map ancient woodland in the area, so he is of course an expert in identifying plants! We showed him our mystery trees/shrubs:
and he immediately identified this one as alder buckthorn! We were sure we had this somewhere, as we get a lot of Brimstone butterflies in the wood, and this plant is the food of their caterpillars. We'll be cutting the chsetnut around it this winter to get a bit more light to it - at present it is shaded and doesn't fruit.

Phil also identified the other mystery tree as crab apple, which some people had tentatively suggested. Both this and alder buckthorn are ancient woodland indicators.

He also identified some other plants for us along the way. Our 7-foot high thistle is a Marsh Thistle (sorry, no photo), apparently they don't just grow in Marshes!

This is Wood Sage, which we have all over the place:
And this is Common Figwort, with a drunk wasp drinking from it:
These are all growing in the coupe we cut 18 months ago, where there are now patches of ground alive with plants:
We're up at the wood quite a bit this week, tidying some logs into racks ready to cut up in the winter, and doing various other odd jobs.

More to come on that later...


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Sunday 9 August 2009

The Defender has arrived!

We collected our Land Rover Defender on Friday! The 25 mile drive home helped me get used to it, and on Friday evening Tracy drove it out to Dungeness to get some practice on quieter roads. While out there I thought it would be get a few photos...
There's quite a bit of space in the back, either for stuff or for people:
and if we run out of space there's always room for one more on the front:
I took it up to the wood yesterday, and found it drove very nicely there, even round the sharper bends inside the wood, and was easy to reverse, as the low-ratio gearbox lets you creep along and take your time. I didn't get any pictures up there as I was busy re-tuning my chainsaw, after dismantling and cleaning the carburettor - it hadn't been running too well, but rather than take it to the shop and pay them to fix it, I thought it would be better to spend the money on a workshop manual for it and a digital tachometer. Seems the decision was right, as it's running nicely again now!


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