Saturday 23 July 2011

Building a firewood store - part 1

Last winter we just kept our logs under a tarpaulin, but this made access awkward and didn't allow a free flow of air so the wood could continue seasoning. However, it was all we had time for at that point. This summer we've been building a proper firewood store (or log store, if you prefer), although it has progressed quite slowly for various reasons. It's roughly based on the most recent store built up at the wood.

We started out by laying out a tarpaulin we'll use for one layer of the roof, to get the shelter about the right size:

DSC_7799 Building a firewood store

We already had some 8ft Sweet Chestnut stakes ready, so we brought them home and peeled them using a draw knife, which should make them more durable. They're a bit unwieldy to peel though!

DSC_7802 Building a firewood store

They're a lot harder to peel when they've dried out like these ones, but the upside is you create a huge amount of kindling!
DSC_8052 Building a firewood store

That old familiar tool, the post driver, came out again to start putting the stakes in their places.
DSC_7805 Building a firewood store

and before long there was one wall ready:
DSC_7807 Building a firewood store

Onto the next wall...
DSC_7911 Building a firewood store

After that, we'd used up the stakes we already had at home, so it was off to the wood to collect more, and also to look for a couple of long straight Sweet Chestnut stems to fell for the cross-beams.
DSC_8036 Building a firewood store

DSC_8038 Building a firewood store

We managed to reuse a lot of stakes from the past winter's cutting:
DSC_8042 Building a firewood store

Here's the cross beams. It would have been better if they'd been felled in winter, but we'd not made our plans for the store at that point. Chestnut felled in the summer can be less durable, but as these parts will be under cover once the store is complete I'm not too worried about that.
DSC_8043 Building a firewood store

In addition to the six main stakes to hold the roof up, there are shorter stakes in between them - this will allow us to weave branches between them to make walls that will keep the rain out while letting air pass through. We've also put a row of shorter stakes along the middle so we have two separate bays in the store - this comes in useful if you have older wood you want to burn first.
DSC_8049 Building a firewood store

So here it is with all of the stakes in. Looks a bit like Woodhenge might have done, only smaller!
DSC_8050 Building a firewood store

Next step is the cross beams, walls and roof, in Part 2.


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Monday 18 July 2011

I'm doing the London - Brighton bike ride to raise money for charity

In September 2011 I'll be cycling from London to Brighton, along with hundreds of other people raising money for charity. I'll be doing it for Christians Against Poverty, who provide free debt counselling. They say:

"Christians Against Poverty is a national debt counselling charity working through a network of centres based in local churches. CAP offers hope and a solution to anyone in debt through its unique, in-depth service."
Their services are provided free of charge with no restriction on who is helped. They have helped literally thousands of people through one-to-one debt counselling and also money management courses, saving lives, marriages and homes and giving people hope. I've been volunteering with them to support the debt counselling work in our area, but I know they need to raise more money to expand their services to meet the pressing need as more people fall into debt. So that's why I'm going to cycle 54 miles - please sponsor me if you can!

You can do this at my JustGiving page, or in person if you're nearby.

Thanks, Mike

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Tuesday 12 July 2011

Wasps, trees and flowers

This weekend we discovered a wasp nest in the wood, built under the oil drum we use for making charcoal:

DSC_8219 wasp nest

DSC_8240 wasp nest

DSC_8244 wasp nest

DSC_8245 wasp nest

I admit I did provoke them slightly to get those pictures, by gently throwing a small stick against the oil drum - but from a good distance, and then using a zoom lens to take the photos! I got some nice ones of wasps in flight:
DSC_8222 wasp nest

DSC_8220 wasp nest

There were plenty of other insects around too, lots of butterflies and I also disturbed a moth, no idea what it is though:

Dragonflies are also in abundance:

Underneath our new firewood shelter are loads of Harvestmen. I'd always assumed these were spiders, but they're not. Apparently they are Arachnids, but their order is Opiliones, and they're more closely related to scorpions than spiders!
DSC_8215 Harvestman spider

I did some bracken removal with a scythe near our camp, and uncovered some fairly healthy oak saplings. I'm wondering about putting a bit of wire mesh round them to protect them from rabbits this winter...

There were also some oaks growing up in one of our fruit tree enclosures - I weeded round them to give them more of a chance, but we'll have to relocate them away from the fruit tree in the winter.

In Grist Wood, which borders ours, we saw some Ash seedlings growing in an area which was coppiced last winter. Lots of them in fact, and I've checked with Roy and he's happy for us to take a few of them to plant in other parts of our wood:

Sweep Wood is growing happily - the following photos are all taken in the area we've coppiced over the past two winters.

The Ash coppice there has really taken off!

And the Alder I pollarded last winter is doing well too:

Here's a mystery one, more like a shrub than a tree at the moment, and with berries on it. Any ideas?

A bit higher off the ground, Honeysuckle is flowering nicely:
DSC_8283 honeysuckle

and lower down we saw some Deadly Nightshade, or Belladonna:
DSC_8277 deadly nightshade

DSC_8281 deadly nightshade

Obviously this is very poisonous, which makes it all the more strange that it is closely related to potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and chilli peppers!

There's several varieties of thistle present in this area now - this one's new this year:


There's Ragwort there too (not a problem, as there's no horses), and it seems to be popular with insects:
DSC_8263 ragwort

Finally, another new one is Rosebay Willowherb, or Fireweed. This is a common pioneer species, so not surprising to see it growing in a freshly coppiced area:
DSC_8256 willowherb

DSC_8257 willowherb

That's all for now...


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Monday 11 July 2011

An improved fire pit

I went to the woods to work yesterday after church, as it was a beautifully sunny day and there were jobs to be done. One of them was a fun job though - improving the fire pit at our camp site ready for use over the summer. Some time ago I'd tried burying a metal pipe to allow you to blow air in to the base of the fire to get it going, but it never really made a lot of difference as it was too small. Well, now there's a bigger pipe:


To help avoid it getting clogged with leaves and other debris, I've put bricks round the intake:

From there it slopes gently uphill into the fire:

The plan is that this will deliver a lot of air so that the fire will be less smoky - we'll get to test it out soon I expect, as we have various friends visiting over the summer. I've still left air gaps in the bricks round the edge as well so there's air from the side too:

I was doing some other jobs too, such as collecting materials to continue with the firewood shelter back at home:


and also processing some firewood for this winter:


Pics of flowers and a wasp nest coming up in the next post...


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Monday 4 July 2011

Cleaving chestnut

We popped up to the wood on Saturday to collect some materials for the roof and walls of the firewood shelter we're building at home (pictures will come soon, I promise...). It's not the usual time of year to fell trees, but we need some wood of a certain length for the roof and we're certainly not going to buy it! Felling in the summer means the wood is wetter, and therefore may not be as durable, but these pieces will be under a tarpaulin once they're up, so we think it'll be OK.

Tracy got stuck into cutting some of the regrowing chestnut along the footpath - we want to keep this region as a kind of shrub layer, as this will be more beneficial for the wildlife.




It's also of a size now where we can use it to weave the walls of the firewood shelter:

While she was doing that, I felled a few selected chestnut stems which were beautifully straight - I got five 2.8m logs out of one of them. I then used a froe and mallet to cleave the logs:

DSC_8154 cleaved sweet chestnut

DSC_8158 cleaved sweet chestnut

The wood has a really nice grain, very straight:
DSC_8155 cleaved sweet chestnut

It was also dead easy to peel with the wood being so wet - after cleaving I was able to peel the bark off the whole log in one go for some of them. Then home they go to be bolted onto the roof of the shelter...


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