As raw material starts to emerge from our efforts we are exploring a few traditional crafts, for example:
• our first willow harvest was overseen by Todmorden’s basket weaver who took most of the ossiers and coloured withies in return for lessons later in the year. However, I have a lot of goat willow rods that shot from the coppiced wild trees in t’Other Bit and I’m already making brooms and baskets from those.
• my bowl carving is improving: they now take only hours instead of weeks and the results are far more pleasing.
• I have learnt that our back field—the forest garden—is exactly the right slope for an anagama kiln. I was looking for a location and will now reserve one side of the bodger’s yard for such a machine. When the New Barn has completed its role as the timber framing workshop and the Mickle Barn is open for business, I’m thinking of creating a pottery and a basketry in there.
• the Smithy now has its forge and just awaits warmer weather so that I can rebuild the external chimney. A new recruit told me of a cast iron jobbie on Arran Isle, ex Glasgow docks, that we could get cheap. May looks like a good month for elbow injuries.
The joinery is still going strong, of course. A big new wood turning lathe will allow me to make balustrades for the barn as well as experiment with recorder-making and other esoteric crafts. (This year I’ve made clavé sticks, renovated an accordion and started to tweak a banjolin so I fancy myself as an instrument maker!)
The second area where our craft base is developing is in the strategy for getting others involved. As none of our relatives have shown much interest in our project, we’ve decided to lease the craft facilities—joinery, smithy, bodger’s yard, pottery, basketry, bakery, art studio etc—to a co-operative, for which we will write the charter. The main aspects will be to manage and protect the environment, teach their skills, collaborate artistically and share the food production (so that no-one starves). When we have that working, in ten years or so, we’ll also lease them the accommodation and look to appoint one of them as a manager while we retire; in return, the co-op will be responsible for looking after us in our dotage. Finally, when we shuffle off, we’ll leave the whole shebang in trust for the co-op for eighty years which should ensure the survival of the woodland and the craft school for a long time.
Obviously, we need to progress with great caution because co-ops are at great risk from subversion by strong characters. By the end of this year there’ll be enough work in progress for prospective members to see the potential and I’ll start a blog and a Youtube channel to raise interest (I hate FaceBook!). When the time is right, we’ll recruit the first core members and give them a year’s lease; then two, five, ten years with more facilities going into the lease and more core members. There will also be other classes of membership for folk who want to support the school but not take on responsibilities. Fingers crossed.
So, we’re still looking forward to good times though this year will be hard work. The rewards will be seeing the woodland and orchard trees growing in size and their produce multiplying. I can see many fruit spurs and catkins so I hope we’ll have plenty of apples and filberts. A big new strawberry bed should provide summer treats.