15.12.04 Firewood season has started and very soon finished again as the massive pile of wood we had has seemingly disappeared overnight . We seem to have picked up a couple of hotels and they chew through large amounts of wood . We have also been hired to do some firewood processing for a house near Winster . They had a huge stack of 5ft long logs which they had stored some years and were bone dry . In 3 days we got through about 12 chords (about 18 tonnes) of wood leaving it all nicely stacked but we were knackered by the end of the three days as each bit of wood had to be pulled out of the woodpile taken to another pile nearer the processor and then moved from the conveyor to the stack . Anyway a happy Christmas to you and my new years resolution should be to do more updates and make it more interesting . Any suggestions . Actually my new years resolution is to make a timber framed tool shed .
28.11.04 We have now managed to finish the coppicing of the coup that needed cutting in Catcrag , we now need to thin out the standards as they are still too dense . We have also been on a 2 day coppicing course with Rebecca Oaks , always helps to get another view on these things .Here is a view of us looking at some nice coppice in Silverdale.
17.11.04 There has been a bit less rain and we have managed to get some more firewood out of Catcrag . We have also been doing some proper coppicing in the other section of Catcrag . This is a second cut with most of the rods going up to Dumfries for a round house thats being built up there . The standards seem a bit thick for decent coppice so we will be thinning them out and we are going to layer the hazel stool to get the density of hazel back up . We have also noticed that the deer are nibbling some regrowth despite the deer fence so we will have to find out where they are getting in . We have also been doing a fair bit of chainsaw milling , including the large cherry tree butts that have ben down for a couple of years now. The planks produced are stunning we will have to be careful to stack them right to season .
01.11.04 the handrails for the fence have now been delivered , these turned into a bit of a nightmare . The rounder didn't work very effectively so we ended up sawing 2inch square blanks , rounding the edges on a router table and then going over them with spoke shaves to get them smooth . Not very cost effective but it gets them out of the way . The firewood season is in full swing now but we've had a lot of trouble getting the good ash out of Catcrag due to the weather . Its been dry for a few days now so we've been busy hauling trailer loads up the slippery slope with the tractor winch . We've been wondering if firewood is actually worth the bother , its heavy , knackers the landrover and trailer hauling it around and brings in little money for the amount of grief involved . The only good think that can be said for it is that it brings in some money during the winter . On a more positive note Brian Farraday turned up at Orrest Head with his truck to take the oak bark down to the tannery in Devon . Brian has been doing this trip for 30 years back to the times when he collected full lorry loads from Bill Hogarth . What else have we been doing ? Well I had a very nice trip down to Dorset to see the Dorset Coppice Group nice people well worth visiting .
04.10.04 A bit sparse on the updates , sorry about that but I appear to be running around in ever decreasing circles achieving not much . We've delivered the first part of the cleft oak fence for the Forest of Bowland visitor centre but we've still got to try and produce hand rails to go up the side of the fence for disabled visitors . This has proved to be quite awkward and I've had to cobble together a rounder by cutting an old wooden plane in half and then bolting the bits back together . Saul has been making another living hut for the winter (after elephant house at High Wood , its now Leviathan house at Dixon heights ) , the ribs have been made from one branch lopped off a cedar in Sow How . Its amazing how quickly the nights have closed in and the weather gone downhill since the last update . Its been so consistentl wet that we must be in for a dry spell some time . Actually we had quite a nice week while I was doing a first aid course a couple of weeks ago. The instructor tried his best to make it realistic and my practice casualty had cut his fingers off with a bow saw , to make things interesting he had an asthma attack , but we soon sorted that out and bagged up his plastic fingers . Hope I don't have to do that in real life! I have just started a weeks teaching at the Woodland Pioneers course , the first time I have done any serious instructing with more than one or two people and its pretty nerve wracking , interestingly the 8 novices managed to spend all day using razor sharp axes and adzes with no problem and then three of them cut themselves with the ordinary hand saw .
09.08.04 It's been a bit of a poor summer for charcoal sales with the weekends being a bit cool and as a result our wholesaler has quite a bit in stock . Luckily there has been a very warm spell and Booths have started ordering again so we may just get a burst at the end of the season . We have now enrolled as a Bioregional supplier and taken on five B&Q stores but it remains to be seen if this is a good idea or not . I still have a sneaking suspicion that we will be charging down to Bolton with smallish amounts . Our peeled oak order for renovating a Black house on Tiree is now finished thanks to Saul and James felling and peeling the 48 thin poles that we needed while I sunned myself in Dorset with the family . We've now started on a large cleft oak fence for the visitor centre at Beacon Fell in the forest of Bowland . As mentioned James has started with us now and it is possible to get through quite a lot of work with three people. Last week however I left them on their own while I went delivering charcoal , when I got back James had been stung by a wasp and Saul had sliced into his finger with his axe ( not seriously though) . The wasps are a bit of a problem in Sow How with 2 nests that we are aware of , and these particular wasps are quite agressive.The same day Saul cut his finger he also got stung twice by the same wasp that flew up his shirt.
11.07.04 The Royal Show went very well and we met up with a bunch of friendly folk from the Green Wood Trust . The other demonstrators were doing some great chairs , hurdles and baskets and we were hewing logs into beams . We had lots of positive comments about the gazebo and we've sold it to a village neat Bicester . We also managed to sell the bench to a very nice couple from Chipping Norton . The last night of the show everything closed (surprise surprise ) and we couldn't get anything to eat or drink but Saul managed to rustle up a vegetable concoction . A storm then rolled in and it chucked it down and blew through the night so we ended up packing up and getting off for a tour of the Cotswolds and surrounding area delivering gazebos and benches .Incidentally we are now producing charcoal in Whitbarrow woods and we are back to producing 220kgs a kiln , this makes a considerable difference from Graggy wood where we got 120Kgs a kiln load.Here's the first burns starting off.
23.06.04 Its been a bit of an extended period in prime barbecue time not producing charcoal but its given us a chance to get through some other orders and we have been busy peg making , hewing a beam and making a rather nice oak bench . Saul has also been up to the Royal Highland Show demonstrating coracle making as a stand-in for Rebecca Oaks and did a roaring trade selling coracle rides on the lake for £1 a shot . We are off to the Royal Show at Stoneleigh next Sunday demonstrating beam hewing if the logs to hew have turned up , could be a tent peg demonstration otherwise .
10.06.04 After a few backward steps we are now making good progress . The last burn has just been completed at Craggy Wood and we have managed to buy 50 tonnes of wood from Forest Enterprise at Whitbarrow . Buying wood in will become an increasingly common activity I think due to a couple of reasons . The main one is that we seem to have trouble cutting enough wood to satisfy all our commitments to charcoal and firewood , also FCS certified wood has enabled us to start selling through Bio Regional to B&Q . We have also got quite a lot of craft jobs on at the moment which we should be able to get a bit more done while we have the brief break between sites (waiting for the contract from FE) . It makes a nice change to be not covered in charcoal , making shingles or tent pegs . While on the oak shingle front , we have been peeling the trees we take for shingles ( the bark goes to a tannery in Devon ) and strangely the bark hasn't been peeling very easily this week . It's a bit early for it to have stopped but we are wondering if its due to the very dry May . Here is a picture of some tent peg making .
20.05.04 It's a funny old game this coppicing , one minute everything is going great and then in the space of a couple of days you seem to be back to square one . We have been chewing through the big pile at a phenominal rate however we have now had the farmer stopping us going up the field in the landrover as he reckons that contractors don't have access . He is now getting his son to take the bags of charcoal down the field with his tractor and trailer where upon we transfer the charcoal to our trailer . Not particularly onerous , but we now start a day of manually lifting 3 tons of wood and 300 kgs of charcoal with a stiff walk up a steep slope with all our equipment . The second bit of bad news came when the wholesaler told us that the charcoal we are producing from this wood is so light that he is having difficulty getting 3kgs in the bag , so we are now busting a gut making something that the wholesaler doesn't particularly like. Its not all bad news however as Alex Todd the head forester for the national Park has managed to get the woods FSC certified so we can now start selling to Bio regional as well . The brown bags have been going particularly well as we seem to be picking up outlets that Chris Jefferson used to supply ( Chris having now gone to France ) .
09.05.04 Another busy week , we seem to be generating a lot of work at the moment , which is nice . Last week we only had four burns going due to the bank holiday and we had a couple of days making spoons , bowls and oak trellis for Sauls weekend demo at Heron Corn Mill in Beetham . The squirrel man is trapping grey squirrels in the wood in the hope that the reds will reappear and prevent damage to the trees ( a group of greys can strip huge amounts of bark off trees killing the trees ) and let us have a couple to try barbecuing . There wasn't much meat on them but they tasted very nice ( a combination of chicken and pork) .
01.05.04 Spring has well and truly sprung now , there are huge swathes of wild daffodils at Sow How woods . They are nice little dainty numbers and ordinary daffs look a bit brash by comparison . We have moved the first kiln into Craggy Woods which was no mean feat . The woods are very steep and the kiln had to come in uphill through a steep field and then over a wall . We experimented with pulling the kiln up attached to a washing line sized bit of very long rope , the other end was tied to the Land Rover which drove slowly down the hill . This worked pretty well and I was amazed by the strength of the 6mm polyprop rope . it did stretch a fair bit though especially when the kiln got stuck behind a stump . The rope stretched .... And stretched until the kiln finally got enough energy to get over the stump , it then set off up the hillside like a polo mint on a bit of string . On the subject of rope I was at the selection day for the B.H.M.A.T. ( Bill Hogarth Memorial Apprentice Trust ) and the afternoon was spent at Walter Lloyds doing amongst other things - rope making . Besides making rope out of herdwick wool , Walter also started pulling straw rope out of straw bale . This was quite a bizare thing to witness , no tools were needed and the resulting rope would make a good festoon at Christmas . Talking of the BHMAT selection day I somehow ended up with not one but two apprentices . It seemed like a good idea at the time but I'm now wondering how we will survive on the pittance that coppicing provides . However they are good people so its worth perseveering with. Also on the business side Lakeland Coppice Products is now a partnership , one small step towards coppice domination .
13.03.04 The sawmill ( an Alaskan Mk3 chainsaw mill ) has arrived and last week Saul and I went up to High wood to plank up the sycamore that we felled last winter . After a bit of practice we soon got into the swing of things and were able to plank up some short ash and oak and produce a 6inch square 8 foot oak beam in a couple of hours . This was with using the standard cross-cut chain that came with the beast of a chainsaw that we use with this mill . Other developments have been a series of meetings to try to start a charcoal co-operative amongst burners in the area . Trying to come up with something that will suit all concerned is looking tricky , but with lots of grant money around ( especially for groups ) we have to try . Also the wild dafs are finally out at Sow How .
26.02.04 Another glorious day in the wood , although hard work clambering up and down this bank all day . Woods in Cumbria tended to grow where the land was no use as pasture for sheep , ie steep banks and crags I've yet to find a flat woodland here . Luckily the compact tractor and winch is invaluable to drag the wood up this slope .
24.02.04 Sorry for the delay in updating the diary , the coppice cam finally gave up after another soaking in my top pocket from the flooding that we had a couple of weeks ago . The good news is I've now got another digital camera , about the same price as the original and three times more sophisticated . What's happened in the last month I hear you say . Well a fair bit , most of which I've forgotten , we are busily cutting our way through the first area of Sow How and we've had the first burn this year today . Lancaster man has taken away a ton of charcoal that we burnt at High Wood last Autumn ready for the new season and after a very wet spell with lots of flooding it is now very nice and sunny and every where is coming to life .
23.01.04 The Christmas break seemed to be never ending this year partly due to us going away in January in an attempt to keep the children occupied during their never ending holiday . However we are back in earnest now felling at Sow How . Saul has been doing his chainsaw course and has now changed his tune from ' I only want to fell trees with axes and bow saw ' to something akin to the Texas chainsaw massacre . This is a bit of a slack time of the year as far as income is concerned , most of the firewood is finished now and there is still a couple of months before the charcoal season starts up . I've got an order for bird boxes but that is being effected by someone taking all my shingle off cuts from Rayrigg woods , presumably for firewood. Trying to make the best of the remaining bendy bits of cleft oak has driven me close to insanity . I could do with a design that is more forgiving of the warping . While talking about firewood the firewood processor has developed a big split in the conveyor which is needing some welding doing but the blacksmith doesn't seem to be getting on with it .
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