The year of the last major UK drought.  It’s happening again.  In Strid Wood the fern leaves are dying:

There seems to be a big reaction to the very hard winter: flashback:

And dry Spring.  Seeds seem to be setting very early,

and disease is rife:

Notice the epicormic shoot growth at the base of the diseased twig.

I think the regeneration is very heay this year, look for all the ash seedlings in this patch, I think there are may be 14:

And there are the shy little oak seedlings in ones too:

Holly too, which is good as this is understory, or shrubs, which are dreadfully absent in Strid:

Even the slash and burn sycamore is coming back from two years ago’s felling:

Ok so I’ve been making things too as well as loking at them. Some of these:

And three of these:

Oh well nearly Autumn!

A wiggly balustrade

So finito benito:

It’s now ready for collection and erection at a forest school outdoor classroom.  Rather a challenge and like all things got easier as I went along – the one meter stretch was a breeze.

Still working on the small charcoal kiln, and getting ready for making Bedouin tents with some school children (cue making mallets, tent pegs, buying tarpaulin etc.).  And worrying about a day with 28 Saudi students coming up after that, just realised I need some chairs, well I guess it will have to be logs on end!

Very dry still, driest for 40 years apparently, doesn’t make it easy to choose nice wet sycamore for spatula carving practice that I’ll be doing with the students.

Confuse a visitor

Look what I let myself in for!

It’s a project for a shelter in a Forest School.  It will become a balustrade to stop children falling off the veranda. Thus so far:

Today I’ll be fitting the top rail (he said simply!). It is causing quite some consternation amongst passersby.  Someone asked whether it was the beginnings of a ladder (Heh?).  Most just stare distracted.

Anyway, for relaxation, and as I couldn’t progress any further without a tape measure which shows those incredibly small invisible measurements from The Continent, I decided to have a go at making some small carved bowls in quick time.  Cutting two at once with both hands, made rapid progress:

Already starting to colour up as the timber is alder (that accurséd tree).

Then I took out the saw and hey presto!

They took about two hours in all, which should just about squeeze down to £20 each, as my larger bowls seem to be meeting price resistance.

The mini charcoal burn was a failure.  Just closed it down too early so the kiln was full of brown ends and hardly any charcoal.  Just have to fire it up again and leave it a bit longer with a higher burn rate I think.

A little smoke in the woods

Today I had a mini charcoal burn … in a 50 gallon drum.

Starts up with the lid off, getting some heat up to dirve off the moisture from the rest of the wood.

Once well alight I put the lid on.  Here it is well alight and smoking nicely:

After three hours the smoke was thinning and going slightly blue, so I closed down the ait intake and the ‘chimney’  …

fenced it off, and wait for it to cool.  I’ll be opening it to have a look at the first result from this small kiln tomorrow.

Dressing up

I don’t usually dress up to go to work, but I was at a medeval day at Knaresborough Castle on Sunday. This is me and Tom, a young standard bearer from the local reenactment society.

He was very keen on the pole lathe, at one point wanting to give up his standard bearing duty to finish a spurtle! He also made a sturdy spatula at the shave horse for his father who reportedly is always breaking them.

It was a glorious day and I was glad I had my full tarp on the shelter proving deep shade for the lathe. Rather strangely I’d mis-marked the poles for the shelter and built it back to front – a very novel shape, but I think only I was aware of this gaff. Still worked anyway.

I was initiated into the dark secret of the whimmy diddle by the jester as I can make ’em but have trouble getting the propeller to whirl (picture follows).  Sold a few bits including a special ‘wave-handled’ rounders bat made on the spot.

Bust the pole lathe pole coming out of the castle whilst avoiding a load of birds of prey in their cat boxes.  Never mind, plenty more where that came from.

The sign up and have a go on the pole lathe worked well, two people on the hour, gave me a bit of a rest, but then I seemed to be doing the treadling, doh!  I did manage to eat the odd apple etc however.

So today, unload the trailer at home, unload the rest at work, light the mini charcoal kiln and make a ballustrade for a forest school.  Oh yes I picked up an order for a mallet on Sunday, and a customer is coming today to collect her squirrel-proof bird table.

Oh no! Not more hand tooled finish … oh yes!

Today I have mainly been doing this:

Then I did this one:

I just replaced the slats, here’s a poor before and after shot:

It was strange working in a suburban setting, in the client’s beautiful garden, and not as cool as in the woods. Other tradesmen were busy digging holes and using exciting-sounding power tools.

Also delivered three re-shafted bill hooks and a three-legged stool (Yes, another one). Also packed the trailer for the medeval day at Knaresborough Castle. Noticed at tea break that the paper in the Vietnamese photocopied novel was glowing violet, oh dear.

Mini hurdles

As I was propping up a recalcitrant row of wonderfully flowering chives yesterday morning, I thought quite a few people must be having this trouble at this time, and not everyone has a ready supply of birch twigs for propping plants up with. I thought there might be a need there to be exploited.

Co-incidentally, my wife has been tidying out her school cupboards and came home with an English Certificate text book dated 1965 and delightfully illustrated with engravings (do we get engravings on t’internet?). Here’s one of them that caught my eye:

Spot the shaved tenon in the fence? Good huh? I think we are starting to miss somethings, these engravings are fabulous, I’ll maybe post a few more once I’ve had a chance to browse through the book. The illustrator was Tony Dyson, who sadly seems to have disappeared before the internet found him.

Anyway, I decided to give some mini-hurdles a try and here’s how they turned out:

They are 1 foot by two foot, surely worth £15 of anyone’s money?