Woodland crafts

I’ve been splitting, sawing and stacking firewood as the weather cools and the days shorten. That task, together with mowing the meadow have kept me from the computer and given my hands a few honest blisters. I doubt that the hay will be at all useable but at least the grass seeds will have been distributed. The weather continues damp so there aren’t many days suitable for mowing and on those that are, I’d rather loaf about in the sunny yard.

Treesponsibility came back and planted six hundred trees using under-age labour from local schools. Interestingly, they remembered that some of the coppices were thinly planted or unfinished and came prepared to finish them; we thought they’d try to move on with the new areas. As a result, a lot more sweet chestnut and hazel are going in. As I process the wood from this spring’s felling, I’m keeping back interesting bits of beech, birch and cypress for my axes to play with. When the coppices come into rotation, the gentle crafts that their timber enables will be a delight. The planting continues until Christmas; we have three pallets laden with five thousand trees in the yard.

Monica returned, yesterday, from a trip to Bristol and Swindon, where she inspected the flat and called on her sister, respectively. Monica and Una are having a fine time trying to understand their relationships with their mother and how that affects their approaches to the world at large. I think they’ll both be stronger for it and are planning a week in Bath, in November, when they’ll commence their lives without that particular childhood baggage. The main objective of her journey was to collect a new old desk for herself from Malvern. Unfortunately, the dealer insisted on squeezing it into the car rather than tying it onto the roof rack with the result that Monica had to drive home all scrunched up, causing her hiatus hernia to give her grief this morning. She’s gone to lie down for a while, while I woodworm the desk in the barn (on the fold-down walls!) and then assemble it in the parlour.

With a bit more security on the barns, I’ve replaced most of the power tools and the fat-bike that were pinched. Soon, I’ll be in there building walls and powering up the workshop. First job: keep the shitty swallows out next year.

In a few weeks, I’m off to Flimwell in Sussex for a week’s training in oak framing. The barn conversion, the pig-sty bakery and a new lean-to barn (to hold all the dross ejected by the conversion) are all projects that will draw upon this training. The week before—the first week of October—I hope to be mooching about Kent visiting long-lost relatives by bicycle and also calling in at the Brogdale nursery near Faversham.

As part of the new barn, I’ve designed a swallow and bat loft; so you can defer that call to the RSPB. Monica also came up with the genius idea of making a level entrance to the slurry pit from outside the yard wall after watching the latest Batman movie. A different sort of bat cave. The idea came while Monica was gardening the external wall from end to end. A huge job: if you laid the wall flat it would be the area of the yard and every crevice had trees and brambles starting forth. Monica said if I laid it out flat it would be a lot easier to work on! The end corner needs some attention as there’s a crack moving through a few big stones; and there are lots of frost-crushed small stones that have shifted their stresses onto larger neighbours. Herself is getting in a master mason to take a look at that and at the alley wall; and to make that arch through to the bat cave.

I had to give up on the boat-builder who was to help get my trailer fixed because he was handing me off to a one-size-fits-all manufacturer and hoping that the standard parts would adjust to match my very non-standard boat. As I said to him, I was hoping to give some business to a local hero who would apply care and experience to make an improved trailer, not be left with a compromise and no-one else with any skin in the game. I reckon I’ll have to put the trailer onto the list of projects for when I’ve learnt to weld. I wonder if an oak frame would work?

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