29.12.03 Its been frantic before Christmas with the firewood orders coming in thick and fast . The massive pile of wood in the barn has nearly all gone and I need to proceess the pile of ash logs that have been stacked in the yard for most of the summer . We've started loading the firewood using a bucket on the front loader of Tom tractor which is a lot less tiring ( after a day doing 4 deliveries I've lifted around 6 tons of wood ) but is not overly quicker because the bucket is quite small and the tractor has to do a couple of 3-point turns to get out of the barn . We've also agreed to buy a pile of around 60 tons of wood off the National Park Authority at Craggy Wood . The wood's been there nigh on 2 years and some is going soft and the site is extremely awkward to get in and out of . We pondered long and hard about wether to touch it seen as we have a good deal of wood to cut at Sow How but the price was so cheap we decided to chance it and will now have the added complication of another site working 30 mins away from our main site . We have started now at Sow How and one of the first features to come out from under the bracken was this charcoal burning platform . I had been looking around for a another place to put a kiln so we didn't have to cart wood to far and then found I was standing on one !
04.12.03 We have now nearly completed the move to Sow How . One kiln is in there and the other is spending a holiday with Phil for a couple of months so he can do some burning before his new kilns come. This has been a bit of fraught time logistically as Sow How is half an hour away and we have had to move the kiln , the lal' tractor and Saul's caravan. The wood is up steep roads all round and the landrover was starting to overheat pulling the tractor up the steep hill to Gummer's Howe. We then had to pull the caravan accross fields to the wood and finally shoe horn the caravan into a very picturesque spot overlooking a stream with the help of the winch . We've marked up the first area to start work on ( this wood is more singeling of oak coppice rather than proper coppicing ) . Back at High Wood we need a hard frost to be able to get the last bags of firewood out , hopefully in the next few days . Tom traactor will then go to the barn to process the pile of ash from Catcrag thats there before tootling down to Sow How. Here's Saul's caravan in its new home .
17.11.03 the weather has now turned distinctly damp . The ground round High Wood is saturated and we are having to pick our moments to extract anything heavy . Luckily there is not a lot left to do and if we make most of it into charcoal that will be light to extract . Saul was struck with auction fever and has bought a caravan for £60 . He has been busy gutting out the insides and putting in a woodburning stove . We have made another recce to Sow How our next wood to work and can't wait to get going on it . We had a visit today from Martin Clark of Clark Mactavish and a group of Cypriot foresters . We showed them the little wood we had left and some shingle making and then for a treat I thought we would give them some bacon cooked by dangling in the kilns chimneys . The result was foul and I'm now worried that the Cypriot forestry service will cut off diplomatic relations for trying to poison their boys . Sorry , apparently it tastes better if you wait till the end of the burn . Barry the veteran helper has had to call a halt for the time being due needing an operation on a furred up artery which should be done fairly soon . We wish him a speedy recovery (get back to work imminent death is no excuse).
29.10.03 Its still pretty dry and we've made good progress churning through the wood piles in high wood to get the best part of it cleared by the end of October . We have been doing a steady 2 to 4 burns a week to get charcoal into store for next year and we've been experimenting with getting the firewood into bulk bags ,which is working well. We are fast getting to the point where we need to burn Saul's cabin down .
13.10.03 The fungi has been superb this autumn . Now there has been a bit of rain they have come out in force . This little meal was collected by Saul and we spent several hours trying to positively identify them before we ate them . Even so I reckon the trepidation that you might have got it wrong tends to take the shine of eating them ( the Penny Buns tasted ok but the slipery Jacks had a constency like snot).The shingles are finished now but its taken me the best part of a day to stack them on the pallets nicely .
06.10.03 It's a bit cold today with frequent showers however the shingle show must go on . We are on the last lap of the shingles and it's amazing the difference between how easy it is split the shingles out of 2 trees growing next to each other . Some are just impossible with little knots lurking inside , while something that looks knotty on the outside can split nicely .
29.09.03 The lovely dry weather is starting to feel like a distant memory now as it has hammered down all today while Saul and I tried to empty 2 kilns at High Wood . We need to have the timber in here processed by the end of October so we can't really pick and choose when we burn . To this end we've built a temporary hut to look after the kilns . We are getting towards the end of the shingle order now , the daily record now being 130 by Saul . The news of the shingle order is spreading far and wide and the National Trust are interested in roofing a new straw bale building with shingles . Here is a picture of the charcoal burners pitstead at High Wood.
09.09.03 Shingles,shingles ,shingles now up past 1000 . We aslo took the opportunity while it was dry to get some more wood up the greasy slope at Catcrag and one of the kilns is now set up in High Wood to start burning through the major pile of wood up there . Saul is making a re-appearance from France at the end of September and Barry has recovered from high blood pressure so things are looking up .
08.08.03 Yet another big delay , its been newsletter time and charcoal sales have been going bonkers . The new kiln has finally arrived now I'm on the last few cords of wood in Seatle woods and these need burning quick as the Wildlife Trust has started making noises about removing the piles of wood in High Wood before 31st October . This is combined with a big order for shingles , the need to get firewood prepared and to keep the charcoal wholesaler happy for the last few weeks of the season .Just when you need a trailer with crane the grant is turned down and Barry the aged helper is suffering from high blood pressure and having to take a rest. The insurance company is talking about putting up my employer liability by 5 times and the mother in law has had a mild stroke putting her into hospital . But besides that everythings fine . Saw a green woodpecker last week . Very nice , and the roe deer in Rayrigg woods have a lovely russet coat at the moment . Here is a picture of the first ever double burn with Margaret and Maureen in full smoke .
04.07.03 There has been a steady 2 burns a week at Seatle and I've now started making progress towards the big shingle order with a couple of oak trees felled and the bark peeled for the tannery , with the peeled poles for rustic furniture . I've been helped this week by a chap wanting to learn how to manage woodland . I'm not sure I'm teaching him much about woodland management but he is doing sterling work moving piles of wood and today he's been helping to make shingles . This is turning into a bit of a nightmare as we've spent most of the day splitting off 16inch shingles which are a harder work than 12 inch shingles and you don't get so many from a disc because they have to be thicker to avoid running out to soon and making a short shingle . Oh well a bit of perseverance and we will soon be up to speed.
24.06.03 Maureen the charcoal kiln has now moved to Seatle woods to finally convert the 20 piles of wood that I bought back in Jan 2002 . On the whole the wood is in good nick and being alder should make good charcoal . The first burn went ok but I could of done with more sand to seal it off . Its nice to be in a different wood but its got problems in that the wood is scattered all over a marshy area and needs man handling with a barrow to get it by the kiln . I've also got an order for 4000 oak shingles so I'm running around trying to organise the wood for that , luckily there is still some of the excellent Rayrigg cleaving oaks left .Here is the kiln down at Seatle (pronounced sea-tul) .
04.06.03 the updates are getting sparse ,but I seem to be getting overwhelmed with office work . Amongst these are answering emails from every corner of the globe trying to sell me charcoal . The list now is China,Bolivia , Eygpt and Australia (spot the odd one out ) . All this stopped anyway as the Cray supercomputer at the heart of Lakeland Coppice Products was hit by a persistant virus that started sending out hundreds of emails to people I'd never heard of and casually went through my directories giving files different extensions so the operating system didn't recognise them . Eventualy managed to get rid of it . Whats this got to do with coppicing ? Well the latest from the cyber pitstead is I spent all yesterday taking to a nice girl from BBC North West tonight . She took massive amounts of video , presumably for all the different options on the digital channel(press the red button to pat the kiln with the left hand ) . She also came down to Lancaster with us and filmed me delivering charcoal to E & S . If this is ever relesed it could give 'Take the high road' a good run for its money . Whats this got to do with coppicing , well I also took the gazebo to the Silverdale wood fair where there was lots of positive comment but no one with the pockets deep enough or garden big enough for it . The Landrover has detected money coming in and decided to have a new cross member and steering box . How does it know?
12.05.03 Another week of charcoal burning . Its getting to be routine now . Empty and fill the kiln on Monday , burn on Tuesday , Wednesday do craft stuff , Thursday empty and fill and Friday burn . Chill on Saturday (oh no that's getting a bit Craig David ) . Looking at a new wood on Sunday up near Gummers Howe thats so big I could end up there for three years . Lots of nice coppiced oak , but the down side is they want paying ( if only a nominal sum ) for the wood extracted .
01.05.03 April was pretty eventful . It started off badly with a depressing day trying to sell charcoal to shops in Blackpool ( "well it will have to be cheap to beat this stuff I've got" ). This was followed by a phone call from a place in Lancaster that wants as much as I can make . This was quickly followed by a trip to Ireland looking at woodland management , coppicing and crafts there . The sad thing is there appeared to be very little , though looking at some of the woods there was obviously quite a bit done in the past .This is the other members of the party looking at a playground in Mount Shannon with a hut which has shingles made out of pallet wood . They might not last long but they look good.
05.04.03 The good weather continues except for a brief blip on Tuesday when it chucked it down for most of the day . I've at last started on the deer fence round the willow patch with some expert help from Barry . Today I've been making 2ft long tent pegs to anchor the railomatic chainsaw mill that I'm getting from Richmond . I quite enjoy making tent pegs its seems to be quite therapeutic .
26.03.03 Its been a couple of weeks of ups and downs . I had a visit from the Ethnobotanist of Kew gardens who came to take pictures of the kiln in action . She actually bought the first bag of charcoal of the year . I also heard that Cumbria Woodlands were aproving a grant towards a chainsaw mill . However on the downside I took the two adzed beams to York Auctions and got less than the cost of the trees that went into making them , which is very dissapointing . I might try some at a Kendal auction and see how that goes .Anyway the weathers nice .
17.03.03 The weather is superb at the moment . Better than all of last summer . I've had the first charcoal burn of the year , which unusually didn't start very easily . It was quite late on before it got really going and the result was only about half the usual amount of charcoal . Saul is heading off on his travels , but before he went we traveled over to Brian Crawley's woodland to convert a couple of oak trunks into beams . Its good being able to go somewhere with no power tools and produce nice looking beams .Here is a picture of the Crawleys and Saul manouvering a large oak trunk down the Queen's highway .
02.03.03 As usual February has sped past and the weather has been glorious . Its been full tilt to get the gazebo finished and it looks wonderful . We've been cutting a few of the Rayrigg oaks for shingles and long lathes . Unfortunately the man at Ackenthwaite has decided the corner of the garden where it was due to go is too nice and sunny to put a gazebo there so if anyone wants a hand hewn and cleft gazebo ( could be made into a lovely shed ) let me know . I've also had to vacate the firewood barn while the cows are calving and thats taken quite some time . Its amazing how much rubbish you can generate in 6 months . I also had my enormous ash burr taken away for a short time as the garage it was seasoning in was demolished and carted away . I've also been back into Catcrag to finish off the felling there , still about 30 trees left to go . Must try and update more often .
03.02.03 Dorothy Farrers wood was cleared in time for the volunteers to come in and plant the hazel saplings last Sunday . It was a miserable day with snow and sleet but around 40 people turned up to help and achieved a lot between them . Today was spent back in the barn doing jack rafters for the gazebo . We finished those early and headed up Borrowdale for a bit of sledging .
11.01.03 Clearing up the felled wood is progressing at a pace and we are quickly running out of space to put it all in . The l'al tractor has been doing a wonderful job winching up all the stems but started playing up on Friday when it got an airlock in the fuel line . This was cured by sucking up diesel from the tank , but it tastes horrible . Here is a big pile of oak for beams .
08.01.03 Happy new year to you and yours . We've now finished the felling in Dorothy Farrer's top wood and today we started clearing up the trunks that are littering the woodland floor . This came to an abrupt end when there was loud hissing and the tractor tyre went down . Saul and I spent about an hour trying to pump it back up with a footpump and I was convinced that the tyre was getting harder . Saul was sceptical and when I turned the tyre over and there was a half inch gap between the tyre bead and the wheel so was I . Ended up taking it ATS to be reinflated and checked for punctures . Luckily there was non . Weather has been brilliant , cold and clear and the mud is frozen solid .