A grand afternoon out at Parcevall Hall,Wharfedale

SAMSUNG CSCI nearly saw a magnolia today.

SAMSUNG CSCThey were just bursting their buds.

SAMSUNG CSCBet they’ll be better tomorrow.

SAMSUNG CSCGood setting – masonry to die for.  All this stone has been hauled a long way and worked by hand.  Look how those steps are laid out.  I’d like to have been there when they were laying some of these stones – like that key-stone – must weigh at least 2 hundredweight or more.  Some of the coping stones on top of the walls looked like they would need at least four strong men to lift ’em.  Or perhaps a block and tackle and shearlegs?

More masonry:

SAMSUNG CSCAh, stone, valleys and stone field walls – that’s m’Yorkshire.  Pity nearly all the chimneys are capped off.  The double ones are particularly perverse.

Some one had a good idea about wooden studs in a door.

SAMSUNG CSCTurned out in the long run that it wasn’t so good, even though split-wedged at the back, some fell out.  I think we need more tapered drill bits.

I’d like one of these in my garden.

SAMSUNG CSCAnd mebbee a little one of these.

SAMSUNG CSCBut I would have to move home about ten miles, and it’s higher and colder there. It’s outcrop limestone.  Outcrop means it is the stone of the land coming up to the surface – not laid by man.

The cherry was in good heart, “If there’s not enough room on those twigs, I’m just gunner bloom from my trunk.”

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Epicormic

Speaking of trunks, you need to watch out that some invader doesn’t choose yours as a good place to grow.

SAMSUNG CSCMistletoe growing on an apple tree.

So much wood, so many uses.

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That’ll keep those bloody sheep out. (Not the underwater swimmers mind – Ed.)

PS In case you were wondering:

Sir Perceval of the Round Table marries Arthur’s sister Acheflour, but is killed in a tournament by the Red Knight. Rejecting knightly culture, Acheflour retreats into the forest with their young son, also called Perceval, taking only some goats and a small spear. After fifteen years she explains Christianity to Perceval and, excited by her stories, he searches for God in the forest. He meets Ywain, Gawain and Kay and, seeing their rich clothes, asks which one is God. When Gawain informs him that they are Arthur’s knights, Perceval resolves to be knighted too. He mounts a wild mare, and although his mother is upset, she advises him on courtesy and gives him a ring.

On his way to Arthur’s court, Perceval enters a hall and finds a lady sleeping; he kisses her and exchanges her ring for Acheflour’s. When he arrives, Arthur recognises his uncouth nephew and agrees to knight him, but as they dine the Red Knight bursts into the hall and steals Arthur’s goblet. Perceval promises to retrieve the cup: riding out of the court before Arthur can give him armour, he pursues the Knight and kills him with his spear. The youth takes his horse but, confused by his armour, attempts to burn it off the body. Gawain arrives and helps him put it on, but Perceval decides to seek more adventures. He kills the Red Knight’s mother, a witch, then encounters an old knight and his sons, who are delighted to hear that he has slain their enemy.

A messenger on his way to Arthur’s court informs Perceval that Lady Lufamour of Maydenland is being besieged by a Sultan. He immediately sets off, and Arthur, delighted to learn that Perceval is alive, follows him with three knights. Perceval arrives in Maydenland and defeats the Saracens overnight. He is welcomed by Lufamour, who promises to marry him if he kills the Sultan. The following day he defeats the Saracen reinforcements then rides against Arthur, mistaking him for the Sultan. He jousts with Gawain but they recognise one another and are joyfully reunited. The Sultan arrives, demanding to fight a champion: Arthur knights Perceval who soon beheads his enemy. He and Lufamour are married, while Arthur returns to court.

After a year, Perceval sets out to find his mother. On his way he meets the woman with whom he exchanged rings: her lover, the Black Knight who gave her the ring (a protective charm), has accused her of infidelity. Perceval fights the knight, but spares him when he promises to forgive his lady. Perceval offers to re-exchange rings, but the knight has given Acheflour’s ring to the Sultan’s brother, a ferocious giant. Perceval beheads the giant and retrieves the ring, but learns from a porter that his mother saw the ring and, believing her son to be dead, went mad and fled into the woods. Perceval replaces his armour with goat skins and sets off on foot. He finds Acheflour by a well and carries her back to the castle, where she is cured. They return to Maydenland together and Perceval joins the crusades where he is slain after many victories.

From: Mary Flowers Braswell, Sir Perceval of Galles and Ywain and Gawain. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995.
Manuscript: Lincoln Cathedral Library, MS 91 (Thornton Manuscript)

Veteran oak and smoke

I’ve just done the first charcoal burn of the year.  Turned out not bad.  Half the load was pre-sold and it was a good outturn 13 hefty 5 kg bags and 20 handy 2.5kg bags, or, technically, big and little bags.

One of the trickiest parts of making charcoal in a steel kiln is judging when to shut it all down by sealing out the air.  Too early and the charcoal can be smoky when burning as all the tar hasn’t been burnt away and more brown ends are produced.  Too late and you’ve burnt some of the charcoal away into the air.  One way to judge the state of the burn is to look at the smoke.

This smoke is dirty-coloured. At the start of the burn the smoke is just about white as the wood’s moisture is driven off as steam.  Then towards the end the smoke gets dirty as the built up tar burns and evaporates away.  This is the sort of smoke you don’t want to inhale.  Next comes the critical point.  The smoke starts to clear a bit.

However, if it is left too long at this stage and the smoke turns blue, then you’re loosing money as the charcoal production starts to go up the chimneys! Notice ruined Bolton Priory in the background?  What a place to work!

The final sign to heed is what is happening at the base of the air intakes.

The tar can be seen burning a pink colour here and it’s about time to shut down.

Theo and I delivered part of the bagged up out turn to Howgill Lodge caravan site and on the way we pass The Laund Oak.  This is a veteran tree that used to mark the boundary between the forests of Barden and Knaresborough.  You can see it’s a veteran from the hollow trunk, the massive girth and the dead limbs.  There is still life in it though, its buds have not burst in this photo but there will be a modest display of oak leaves shortly.

Interesting word Laund; it means a clearing in a forest where deer can graze, and the legal definition in England is an area where deer were raised, principally for hunting by the king and his cronies, and occasionally poached by us peasants on pain of severe consequences at the hands of the verderers, who enforced the king’s law in the forests.

“…yet even from the wide tracts of forest, there was something more substantial to be gained than the pleasures of the chase. They were under the charge of bailiffs, who (in each bailiwick, as it was called) had their staff of foresters, verderers regarders, agistors, and woodwards, who collected and annually accounted for the profits of waifs, agistments, pannage … for the pasturage of hogs on the acorns, etc., … hollies, and perhaps other trees, for we have the word preserved in Anglo-Saxon, hirst, a wood), the croppiugs of which formed a principal article of winter fodder for cattle as well as sheep, and was valuable, as appears from an entry in Henry Younge’s, the forester of Barden’s book, a.d , 1437 : ‘ of husset sold to the amount of IV. iiis. viiid.’ (at least fifty pounds of our money), also of bark croppings, turbery (peat turf), and bee-stock. For in the old economy of the forest, wild bee-stocks were always an object of attention, and in France, as well as in England, officers called Bigres or Bigri (a byke was a bee’s nest in Chaitcer’s day), perhaps from Apigeri (bee-keepers) were appointed specially for pursuing the bees and securing their wax and honey. And it is to be remembered that those rugged districts, now stripped of their woods, are spoken of in the Compotus of Bolton as far from destitute of timber. The manor and chase of Barden comprised three thousand two hundred and fifty-two acres. The forest of Skipton. which comprised an area of six miles by four, or fifteen thousand three hundred and sixty acres, seems to have been enclosed from very early times with a pale, a practice indeed, introduced by the Norman Lord. Here the mast bearing and bacciferous trees, particularly the Arbutus, were planted ; and herein were nourished the stag, the wild boar, the fallow deer, the roe, and the oryx (or the wild bull), which, indeed, during the winter were fed with beans, even as the few remaining deer above Bolton are fed still. There was many a ‘ toft and croft ‘ also, as they were called (i.e., a homestead with a space of clear ground around it), where sheep browsed among the brushwood and glades. And so the forest furnished support for those who dwelt in it, either by fair means or foul.” Edmund Bogg. Extract from “Two thousand miles in Wharfedale; a descriptive account of the history, antiquities, legendary lore, picturesque features, and rare architecture of the Vale of the Wharf, from Tadcaster to Cam Fell. Three hundred and twenty illustrations.”

It’s a bit quieter in the forest today, and there seem to be about as many wooden deer produced as live ones.  Here are two people, Jo and Andy,  who came on a woodland course this week.


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But always at my back I hear / Time’s wingéd charriot hurrying near.

Spring is well under way now in Strid.

The bluebell leaves are everywhere, and where they’re not there is wild garlic:

Most people will see these two easily, but if you look more closely there is an abundance of other plants shooting up.

Wood anenomy, one of my favourite Spring flowers:

Dogs mercury, as it’s name suggest, poisonous and very thickly spread in Strid:

Even the wild strawberries are back:

Down by the River Wharfe the butterburrs are sprouting through. I think they look pretty alien, I assume they are of a very old genesis:

The dipper now is separate from its mate who is presumably nesting. You maybe able to make out the white spot of his breast feathers at the far side in the river, standing on a semi-submerged stone:


Detail:

I’ve not just been idly snapping photos either. Yesterday I made this bowl (not quite finished yet):

And today I need to get more felled wood back to the woodpile and sheeted before, the plants are too tall, the birds nest, the wood starts to spoil … and people start making shelters & bridges with it or chucking it into the river. Cleared most of it now with the help of some asylum seekers from all the trouble spots in the world.

On with the work; load of logs to make, shift wood, get ready for the Knaresborough Castle medeval do on Saturday, edit bowl carving video (watch this space), chop, chop!

Fire burns hotter in the cold

Especially if you use petrol as a fire starter.  Lovely smooth hands now, and no bobbly bits on my fleece.

I took a spare length of stainless flue liner in today to improve the draught on the new bodgery stove.

The difference it makes it very noticeable.  The stove now roars.  The firebricks are steaming out the summer rain, hot enough to dry more wood and gloves round the outside.  And the added luxury of a wooden door (soak before using!).

OK, so now it stacks up like this:

1. A large stone half buried in the ground.

2. Rusty old wagon wheel.

3. Centre hole covered with the flue blank from the new RC wood burning stove.

4. Firebricks, dry walled, air ingress where they do not sit tight to the wheel.

5. Wooden door.

6. Flue liner.

7.  At the base of the flue liner an old chain to weigh down the flue.

8. Drying fire wood.

It is a really good hand warmer.  Standing with your back to it it also warms the parts other stoves are too civilised to reach. Possibly the best stove in the word.  Definitely carbon neutral.

And when accompanied by fine food it completes an abode of bliss:

Also featuring in the picture is my lunchtime work.  A new small ladle from the silver birch we took down at home.  Safely stowed in a plastic bag so it does not dry between times working on it.  I know I should have taken a photo of the fantastic crook I’ve taken it from, but then …

Being snowy it was surprisingly quite in the woods, I guess people are busy getting festive.  They certainly don’t seem to want to buy Christmas tree decs anyway.  It was rather cold:

I had rather a lot of snow shovelling to do as the NE wind had brought a lot of snow inside under the short tarp.  I spent some time doing a Winter solstice clean up.  The off cuts and failures accumulated over a year had become an unmanageable pile leaning against the  back of the sycamore tree.  In fact I had to walk round it to get into the workshop.  OK so now it’s all reduced to logs and sitting in the trailer waiting to come home for the ever hungry  RC stoves.  It’s surprising just how much there was.

The new Landy is becoming a more familiar tool.  Needs WD40 in the locks to stop them freezing up.  Back window heater is bust, needs to be fixed under the guarantee, along with a couple of other niggles.

It takes me great places though.  Look at this.  The view’s been featured before, but it’s worth it:

What a commute!

Commuting

Strid Wood is about 10 miles from home, so every morning I get into my Land Rover and join the throngs on the road:

Strid is under the mist here:

I’ve been making bowls recently, practicing for when we take the big Birch tree down in our garden.  I want to make a dough trough to commemorate the tree and my father who planted it some 30 years ago.

I made a carving block yesterday that holds the blank whilst gouging out the inside .

Doesn’t look much, but it makes the job much easier, especially if you sit down to work.

I’m also experimenting with a new knife,

it’s actually a hoof knife for farriers, but the pattern is much like a crooked knife used for carving inside bowl shapes:

The above isn’t really a fair test for it as the timber is casualty Balsam Poplar, supposedly no good for anything but matches, and very fibrous.  It was also just about dry by the time I tried smoothing down the earlier cuts.