DIARY - JULY 2001

31.07.01 Making cleft oak fencing all day . Getting fed up with it . But it looks good . I've actually just come back from a meeting with with a marketing lady at B&Q . All due to Prince Charles who told them to do something about helping the woodland producers . It was a worthwhile excercise but what kept coming up was the idea of a co-operative organisation doing the marketing and selling . Another interesting idea was a woody centre almost like the Centre for Alternative Technology , based on woodland activities and products.

29.07.01 Cockshot fair was on this weekend , organised by the National Trust . There were lots of interesting demonstrations and displays of what the Trust and local craft workers do . But probably most strange was the Punch and Judy man who wove a very dark tale of cruelty and violence . It was reminiscent of the circus on 'The League of Gentlemen' . Among the exhibits was this reconstruction of a bark peelers hut.

25.07.01 Another bitty day today collecting sawn oak for the stunning oak fence project . However the wood is doing its job vigorously regenerating where the underwood has been coppiced and the canopy opened up as this picture of Rayrigg woods shows . Congratulations to an S. Wilson who correctly identified the plant as a Landrover and trailer .

24.07.01 A day spent draw knifing palings . I may actually have enough for this fence now .

23.07.01 Another challenging day in charcoal land . Spent all day at home looking after the boys and ringing shops in North Blackpool . No takers for charcoal although a fairly large garden centre may be interested next year . The feeling I'm getting is that new customers need to be found in Feb/March .Even so the original plan is fast going off the rails and an alternative mix of products found . An avenue still worth trying is markets .

22.07.01 Back to work after a few days entertaining Mick , the kiln is ready to go but I still have loads of charcoal in the barn . So I think I need to try and sell some more and further afield . Spent Friday bagging up some more ready for a selling burst next week . I have decided to target Thornton Cleveleys to the North of Blackpool to see what the response would be . As my mother in law lives there it won't be wasted journey .

19.07.01 Yet another few days without an update , sorry you've had to look at the picture of Japanese Knot weed for so long . Correctly identified by I.Kemp of Windermere (again) and wrongly identified as Larch and 'Harry the plant ' by some others . The delay in update has been caused by Mick the accountant residing in the spare room where the computer is . Its been a bleak time as he pours over my accounts grasping his head and muttering 'this is terrible you have to convince the revenue you are running a commercial operation' . Mick finds it hard to let go his past as an auditor and described a day helping in the wood as 'visual inspection of assets ' . Anyway we got up Helvellyn.

16.07.01 a day of kiln filling and oak paling shaving (still) .

15.07.01 A bit of a gap in updating the coppice cam , its been a busy week trying to get stuff together for the Ulverston Folklore festival . I was convinced I was going to make a total fool of myself demonstrating the making of besom brooms . However all turned out ok in the end as I got children to make their own mini besoms and they all seemed happy enough running round the market square pretending to be Harry Potter . I thought I had hit the big time when a photographer wanted to take pictures , announcing she was from the Guardian , the Furness Guardian , dooo . Ben Harris' stand gets more elaborate each time and did really well selling Gypsy flowers . Here is an oak gallery and garden seat that Ben has made .

12.07.01 My son Patrick was ill today so I've been at home again . Hopefully back in the wood tomorrow .

11.07.01 Spent today at home constructing the besom-o-matic besom broom making gadget for Ulverston fair . I will not now need to do Wild Rover as one reader suggested . Here is a picture of Ben Harris making an oak beam from first principles .

09.07.01 cooler today . Dragging poles out of the far end of compartment 4 today . This is like getting blood out of a stone . Each pole has to be man handled through dense , boggy undergrowth and it's a very slow business . I have been signed up to appear at the Ulverston Folk festival/market on Saturday 14th July . So I will have to come up with something to do .

05.07.01 Another scorching day . This one was spent inside bagging up for a new order from Cumbria stores and Turning Point . Here is a Land Rover's eye view of compartment 7 .

04.07.01 Burn 8 started at 4 am this morning and started well . Incredibly hot day to be standing by an incredibly hot kiln . Burn finished (or appeared to finish ) about 3pm . Friday will tell .

3.07.01 After yesterdays moaning and groaning I've been told to stop winging and get on with it . So Maureen the kiln is ready to go with burn 8 and I also did some more cleft oak fencing today .

2.07.01 Despite the weather being warm and having a great time , I am having one of my periods of doubt about the viability of it all . This was brought into sharp focus when I calculated that if I charged my time at 8 an hour the poor burns where I only get 70 bags would have to cost 5.90 a 10 litre bag . Also sales in June have been abysmal , there is now only 2 proper months of the barbecue season left to rectify what will be a bad situation . What is really depressing is that I enjoy this job immensely and feel that I am making a worthwhile contribution to the improvement of the small woodlands that I work . But if I cannot sell enough to make a living then I will have to do something else . One improvement that can be made is the amount I sell directly , so I have been checking up on car boots and markets in the area to try that line . The first year was always going to be tough .