Category Archives: Our Wood

Windfalls

I’m slowly using up my store of timber from the wood, but I’m getting a bit bored with sycamore and would like a bit of variety. I’ve had my eye on a tall straight ash tree as my next source of logs and planks from the wood, but I would be quite pleased to have the variety provided by the lucky dip of windfalls.

However, our trees seem to be very sturdy, and windfalls are mostly happening in the valley next door:

Silver birch windfall

The problem is the steep slope that stolen logs would have to be hauled up – a strong incentive for honesty.

However, when we inspected the wood after Storm Doris, we found that an oak tree on the woodbank which forms the border with our neighbour’s section had succumbed, and this was very conveniently adjacent to our glade that we use for camping/brewing up/hanging out.

I was quite pleased with this, as I am wanting to do some work in green oak – particularly the sort of carving exemplified by Pete Follansbee. Even better, the oak had taken down a bough on an adjacent ash tree, so I’ll have a nice choice of material to work with from these windfalls.

There’s quite a few days of play to keep me busy here, but yesterday, Paul helped me to make a start, removing the upper branches and burning the brash:

There’s a lot of excellent firewood here to keep us warm next winter, and as Paul said, the more wood we have taken off the tree, the more seems to be left!

The task on the next visit to the wood will be to winch the trunk of the tree off the stump, and then fell the stump. There’ll be some nice planks to be milled there, once it’s on the ground.

On a beach in the wood

Access path

We went to the wood on Sunday, which was looking very beautiful in its autumn colours, with the extra depth which appears as the leaves fall and the woodland floor is illuminated by the soft light of early winter.

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Cara has left her wellies in school, she tells me, and came in roller shoes which were already wet. Good job it was a mild day. l9047

Cade was well equipped for the damp conditions, and was first to demand that food should be provided promptly.

My target was to mill some logs from a tree I felled in early spring, and this provided a nice pile of sawdust which the kids have previously identified as a suitable replacement for sand.l9049

They were soon happily engaged with the usual activities associated with being at the seaside, with the advantage that their “sand” was comfortably dry and not at all cold.l9053  Just before we left, as I had a last wander around the glade, my eye was caught by the leaves of this sapling, glowing in the failing light.l9059

Good to see new life is ready to succeed the present mature trees, and good that it is “wildlife” – a term that surprised me when I first came across it being applied to trees. But of course when trees set seed, and a sapling has found its own niche rather than having been planted by human hand, it certainly is wildlife, and all the more interesting for being so.

Tidying up

Man with axe

“Well, Lawd A’Mighty! If a man has an axe and a tree to play with, ain’t no reason to be bored on this planet!”

The quote is from Roy Underhill, who has been producing TV programmes in USA on woodworking with hand tools for 30-odd years. You can see some of his more recent programmes at The Woodwright Shop – click on “Watch Online”. I would also heartily recommend his TED talk, where you will discover why Europe has its mountains stuck on the wrong way!

In this case, however, most of the work was done with a chainsaw rather than an axe, apart from the splitting of some of these logs last weekend when Carol and Ian spent a day at the wood with us.

Log pile

My sister Pam gave me the book, “Norwegian Wood” by Lars Mytting, for Christmas – thank you, Pam! It’s all about the Norwegian way in felling trees, cutting them up for firewood, splitting and stacking the logs to dry, and I found it a great read. This was one of the many ways in which Norwegians stack their logs – there are two poles that keep the bottom layer of logs off the ground, and a pole knocked into the ground at one end to support the stack. Nice and simple.

The surface of the stump exposed by felling the stem looked unusually brown for sycamore, and when I looked closer, I saw that sap was running from the cambium. I was surprised, as I had hoped and expected that I had felled the tree in time before the sap rose.

Sap bleeding from sycamore stump

Further up the wood, however, I came across a young sycamore which was already coming into leaf.

Sycamore leaf just opening

The primroses, however, have been in flower for some time.

Primroses in woodland

This is how our glade at the top end of the wood looks now. This is where we brew up, light bonfires, camp when the weather is warmer, mill logs and chop firewood.

Landrover in woodland

It is at the end of the access path, up a steep slope. It was an unpleasant surprise when we first bought the wood and found that the landrover could only get twenty yards up the path before stopping with wheels spinning ineffectually. It’s a Landrover, dammit! Unfortunately, it still needs traction, and it didn’t have any – the ruts were full of soft mud as they are the drainage path for our small valley.

However, after filling the ruts with hardcore from the ruins of Jim’s 17th century mansion, the path is good to go (for a Landrover) all year round. I’ve always been able to drive up the path, even in this miserably wet winter.

I’ll finish with a little problem. Here are a few logs from the felled tree, tastefully arranged. Anyone know what could be the use of it?

Logs from felled tree

 

Spring is on the way!

A beautiful cold day, ideal for working in the wood. I wanted to fell a tree for both firewood for next winter, and milling for useful timber. It needed to be done soon, before the rising of the sap put more moisture into the wood, and I had decided to cut a stem with a slight lean which I hoped would guarantee the direction in which it would fall. However, I was due for a surprise.

It was difficult to see exactly what direction gravity would pull the stem, but I made the directional cut to point in a convenient direction which I expected gravity to agree with. However, as I made the felling cut, shortly before I expected the tree to topple on its hinge, there was a loud crack and the tree fell about 45 degrees leftwards, leaving about 6 feet of standing wood where the trunk had split.

Split sycamore trunk

Ah well, a bit less timber to mill, but a bit more firewood for next winter ..

Felled sycamore trunk

In the bank behind the felled tree, primroses were flowering, and while I was preparing to fell the tree, I heard a woodpecker drumming for the first time this year.  Later, as we sat eating our lunch, my eye was caught by a tiny movement near the ivy on a tree. I went over to see what it was, and there, basking in the sunshine falling on an ivy leaf, was a Red Admiral butterfly – and this on February 23rd!

Beauty in Firewood and Fox

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I cut the branchwood from the sycamore felled last autumn into long logs, and stacked it under a tarpaulin to dry. It is now suitably dry for firewood, and recently I have brought three trailer loads home, the last one just before Christmas, and I expect that will keep us warm for the rest of the winter.

I had cut up some of the larger boughs into rings, and when I got home,I broke them up into chunks with my felling axe, which seemed to cope better with knotty rings than the maul. After swinging the axe for some time, I took a break, and looked at some of the pieces of newly split firewood. On a whim, I took a piece into the garage, gripped it in my vice and started planing a surface, just to see what it looked like.

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As I flattened the surface, the grain revealed itself, showing the subtle swirls and dramatic knot structures that trees construct during their life. There were also areas where the surface of the wood shimmered as it was rotated in the light in a way which seems to be typical of sycamore.

When I visit the wood, whatever else I am doing, I go around the camera traps and replace the memory cards with empty ones, and at home in the evening, I go through the cards on the computer, seeing what the wildlife has been up to since my last visit.

I have set up one of the cameras to look along a massive oak log lying in the northern boundary hedge. It has probably been down for decades, mouldering away, as there is no sign of the remains of its upper branches, just the massive trunk. This is a hot spot for wildlife. During the day, it is visited by rabbits and squirrels, as well as many different birds, while at night, wood mice scamper over its surface, with the occasional shrew.

We have a fox which regularly patrols the wood by day as well as by night, which has appeared on my cameras in many locations around the wood. However, it appeared on the oak log in November for the first time, at night, but as I scanned the images after my last visit, I was delighted to find this daytime shot.

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Usually, the camera traps produce images which are useful as a record of what is around, but no more.  Very occasionally, they capture an image which is a gem pictorially, and this is one. In focus, in beautiful light, and a typical foxy pose, gazing down into the valley through the gap in the hedge, on the lookout for a possible lunch.