DIARY November 2000 to March 2001

28.02.01 Beautiful cold and clear day , so having got Rhubarb's spare wheel back from the menders I thought how about a treat for the coppice cam watchers , a nice picture from Millerground up Windermere towards the Langdales . However Millerground is shut because of Foot and Mouth . The National Trust is not allowing people over any footpaths accross land with sheep on . Quite right too .

27.02.2001 Perishing cold , and puncture number 3 for Rhubarb the Landrover . Went to compartment 7 and having carefully kept off the track when wet decided to try it and promptly got stuck in the mud , making a big mess in the process . I feel a proper charlie . What was left of the day was spent cleaving wood down so that it seasons quicker . This should at least give me some excellent firewood next winter .Deep snow in the lakes and everywhere very picturesque . .

26.02.2001 A bleak day , snowy and cold . To wet to drive into compartment 7 so I went to the charcoal burning patch (compartment 4 ) to finish off there . There are 4 large trees left to thin , 2 oak which I will cut in the summer and peel the bark off , and an ash and sycamore that will require some help to make sure no one walks past as I fell them .

25.02.2001 Another day spent grunting and sweating (although it was snowing) winching down two hung up windblown trees . I am starting to make a bit of progress with this patch of trees and will probably be finished this week ...

24.02.2001 The days are stretching out at great rate now and all over the woods the bluebell shoots are starting to grow and the hazel catkins are out . There is now very little time left to get enough material to last me through the year . I think I will have to try cutting a lot down and leave it until I can work it up . I still have the problem of not yet getting a good burn of charcoal but it really needs to wait until I've cut more wood. With the foot and mouth desease thats broken out I will have to stay away from my storage barn , it would be a disaster for Phillip the farmer if his beloved cattle got it .

21.02.2001 Not a very productive day , went to look at a patch of coppice that needs doing before the end of March for Cumbria Broadleaves . The hazel is very scrappy and very sparse . The afternoon was spent winching (not a spelling mistake ) trees down in Rayrigg woods that are overhanging neighbouring gardens and sheds . This went very smoothly with no one killed , but the process is a bit slow . Still thats that out of the way .

19.02.2001 I couldn't resist taking a look at how the burn had gone and its as I thought . The top layer is 'torrefied' , just super dried wood (alreet brown ends !) while the lower layers are just dirty wood . At least I havn't lost all the wood as ash , but I will have to clear it all out and build up again to get the air ways clear . This will have to wait because I have a busy week ahead with thinning in Rayrigg Woods compartment 7 and due to do a days cutting oak for Ben Harris (of the cleft oak constructions) . Heres a picture of the area I'm working today , the area past the windblown birch is choked with sycamore which has to come out .

17.02.2001 Well I've managed to get the first burn lit by pouring burning charcoal down the centre of the charge . Even so it never really blazed and the only reason (excuse) I can think off is that I had the wrong sort of nice weather . There was no wind at all to induce a draught through the chimneys . Later on the faintest breeze started and the difference was very noticable . The chimneys started drawing and once started kept going when the breeze died . I think the burn was generally so slow that a proportion of the wood is probably untouched , however it should give us some good material to get the next burn going .

16.02.2001 It was supposed to be the first burn today but the charge never got going . I think there were probably two problems , not enough charcoal from a previous burn to fire the process off and probably more ventilation is needed . After a very frustrating day I have got more charcoal from an old barrel burn and I will try the 'motty peg' method of getting a burn started by pouring burning charcoal down a hole left in the centre of the charge . This can be a more risky approach as you have to manhandle the lid back on while 2 tons of wood starts blazing . I have heard stories of the complete charge of wood being lost and the kiln damaged as a result of this going wrong . Keep your fingers crossed or the whole venture will be over before its started . Try again tomorrow.

14.02.2001 A beautiful day in Windermere , and a bit of a light day having fixed yet another puncture on the Landrover . The kiln is full and ready to go first thing tomorrow morning . The first burn of the year (millenium?) . Another milestone for lakeland Coppice Products.

11.02.2001 Its been a strange week . The weather was terrible to start off with , yet I still managed to get on well . The later part of the week was glorious but I seemed to get fed up with the whole business . I'm not sure why it was as on the whole I am enjoying myself immensly . I was expecting there to be low points with getting started , but I didn't think they would be during the best weather . There does seem to be two different directions to go in , either as a coppice worker doing charcoal as one part of the business or as a full time charcoal burner buying wood in . I think I favour option 1 although the alternative is probably more lucrative .Incidentally I am hoping to do the first burn this week , probably Wednesday . If anyone wants to come and see what I'm up to all are welcome , I'll bring some potatos to roast on the kiln . Location is off Birthwaite road near the Rayrigg road end , through metal gate (which will have a warning sign on it ) and then about 300 yds down the track . I'll post pictures for those who can't make it .

07.02.2001 The first signs of spring are appearing . The snowdrops are out , the daffs are coming up and the birds are making an unholy racket . Yesterday was spent installing the kiln because it was supposed to be severe gales , here is what it looks like on the trailer. [Rhubarb and Maureen]

Incidentally Ian Kemp has identified the small red fungi as 'Scarlet Elf Caps' . These are a bit unusual in that they seem to be growing during a hard frost . They are supposed to be edible , but bagsy not try first. [Scarlet Elf Cap]

03.02.2001 The end of the cutting season is looming into view and I've not resolved how to increase the quantity of prepared wood . A possible answer is to buy more wood in from saw mills or tree surgeons . Talking to Carl Cooper while I picked up the new kiln (called Maureen after my mother-in-law) buying wood in seems to be the way to go if you are going to make larger quantities . But thats for a another year.

31.01.2001 Rhubarb is back at last , with lots of new bits and feels a lot tighter and business like . Today was spent visiting Brian Crawley at Sales wood to look at his coppice re-growth and to meet with Steven Miles of Landmark Environmental ltd about possible co-operation with supplying larger customers . If I don't get a move on with cutting wood there won't be enough charcoal for smaller customers let alone big ones ! It's now 2 months since I embarked on my new career , and it seems to have flown by . For the first time I haven't regarded December and January as dark depressing months , which is quite a suprise .

25.01.2001 A bad week for progress . The saga of Rhubarb the Land Rover drags on taking up valuable woodland time . Hopefully his brakes, steering and engine will be repaired for next week . I have also been held up by the dreaded lurgy .I thought you didn't get colds working out in the woods . There have been some highlights to the week , I saw a pair of buzzards very close to the wood on Tuesday and the Coppice Association North West AGM which turned out to be very enjoyable with lots of faces that I now recognise . Keep your fingers crossed for cold weather next week and I can extract some of the wood out of compartment 7 .

22.01.2001 Well , last week was spectacular with clear blue skies and hard frosts . When you get going you don't feel cold at all . Tuesday was hard work as I did a day for Ben Harris felling oak trees near Newby Bridge . These are part of a thinning operation for the Fisher trust , and Ben is splitting the oak and then adzing the clefts into beams for a barn . Wednesday and Thursday were back in compartment 4 which has now got most of the underwood cut . There are some larger trees to come out to thin down the wood including some oak , birch and some big alder . The first charcoal burns of the year should start in early February .

11.01.2001 A days cutting today helped out out by 'big Al' . The quality of the sparse hazel is miserable , with considerable damage being done by deer .

10.01.2001 This has been the first week in Rayrigg woods compartment 4 . Its been a fairly eventful 3 days but productive . I spent Monday cutting the Hazel and Sycamore saplings and then Tuesday and Wednesday 'working up' the sticks into either nice straight ones for hurdles , big ones with nice V's on the end for progs , and then wibbley wobbly bits and sycamore for charcoal . I've also prepared a load of hazel tops for pea sticks . Tuesday was foggy all day in Windermere only to find out that everywhere else was bright and sunny . Wednesday has been spectacular though with a bright icy start so I took some photos from Miller ground over the lake towards Langdale ( see the coppice cam!)

04.01.2001 Happy new year to you . Sorry there hasn't been an update lately but I have been doing a grand tour of the country visiting relatives over the Christmas holidays . Just to make things worse everyone keeps telling me how great the snow was in the lakes , this makes a change because there wasn't any to speak of last year. People have said to me why don't you have a picture of the day on your website . Well I will try and have at least a picture of the week but it could get boring trees look much the same where ever you are . Here's the first one , its what the entrance to Rayrigg woods compartment 7 looks like mmmmm

[Woodland entrance]

17.12.2000 the swill basket course is finished and we've all got spectacular baskets thanks to Owen Jones . Many thanks to him for an excellent course . Owen has said I can post his detail description of how to make a swill basket , so when I've got the details sorted I'll combine that with the pictures I took , although this seems to be one of the green woodworking crafts that is complicated and skillful . Here are some more pictures from the course .

[dressing the boole] [daft as a swill] [group photo]

14.12.2000 This week I have been doing some more thinning of Rayrigg Woods , and the body is starting to get used to the exercise . Monday was actually dry and bright and I spent the day felling 3 largish (well 15inch accross!) sycamores. Despite the noise I looked round to see 3 Roe deer charging towards me which was a bit alarming . Suddenly they realised I was there and bolted off whence they came . The deer have done an emmense amount of damage in this wood . Their favourite pastime being ring barking trees . Wednesday I have been doing an oak swill basket course with Owen Jones at High Nibthwaite . Owen is a master craftsman at swill baskets , which he has done for 20 odd years , single handedly keeping the craft going . Here are a few pictures of the course

[selecting oak] [cleft oak ready for boiling] [preparing a taw ]

06.12.2000 First three days in Rayrigg woods and I am knackered . Monday and Tuesday ,Big Al (the people's pal) tore himself away from his backinblighty.com website to help out with a bit of stacking and shifting . The trees being thinned in this compartment are a bit big on the whole average 12 inches accross and a bit big for charcoal . The cut up logs are also heavy , and after 3 days of lumping them about I'm having a day off in the shed to whittle bird tables and try to get the steam cabinet off the drawing board . Total cords cut so far : about 2 which is behind schedule , but early days yet .

2.12.2000 Well the first day in Rayrigg woods didn't go very well as I ended up with a large hangover in the morning from my leaving do , where I also managed to leave my coat with the company cheque book in Bootleggers in Kendal . Happily the coat was retrieved , and I spent the afternoon wittling bird feeders out of cleft oak . This material could be particularly good for bat boxes , giving a rough texture for the bats to hang onto and being extremely durable .

16.11.2000 We have managed to find a wood with some half decent hazel in it , although the wood is desperately in need of harvesting . There are large amounts of firewood quality hazel to clear to get a only a few decent bits suitable for hurdles . The leaves have just about all fallen off the trees and I am preparing to harvest wood for the coming years products