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Archive for June, 2009

Strawberry Vodkin


Despite emergency purchases of more hobnobs and creme fraiche we’ve still not got through our glut of strawberries fast enough. There are some spare, not enough to make jam unfortunately but enough to make a bottle of strawberry vodkin,

I created Vodkin last year when I ended up with the remnants of a bottle of both vodka and gin and enough raspberries for another bottle. The raspberry vodkin was much appreciated at the bodgers ball and so this year I am extending the idea to strawberry and loganberry.

We bottle the fruit with the spirit. Often filling upto a third of the bottle with fruit which is more than many recipes suggest and simply leave it for a suitably long period, normally at least 6 months and often a couple of years. Once ready, and I’m never quite sure if its the spirit that’s ready or us, we pour it off the fruit and then add sugar to taste. You need enough sugar to balance the harshness of the spirit but it’s important not to add so much that it becomes syrupy or hides the delicate taste of some of the fruit, particularly the summer ones like raspberry and strawberry.


I like to reuse old single malt bottles for these experiments, the corked top seems to be appropriate somehow. These two bottles will now be forgotten about until next years bodgers ball.

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and on a sweltering day like today I would have much preferred to be hiding in the shed and turning some wood but time constraints meant I ended up driving the Case (posh) tractor and clearing encroaching scrub from a section of the Serpent’s Trail long distance path that passes through Lynchmere.

The aim today was to clear a alongside the path for a short section between Marley common and Lynchmere commons where scrub is growing fast and overshadowing the heather and bilberry. Swiping the scrub will not completely solve the problem but it will knock back the growth until we can maually clear the section.


This picture taken after the work is starting to look more like a heathland corridor but clearing was a hot and slow process partly because of the number of stumps hidden in the undergrowth , partly the uneven ground and partly because of the size of the saplings.

The undergrowth makes it hard to spot any obstacles and this is just the gorse, the saplings can be much taller


I wouldn’t normally post on such a mechanised activity, let alone one that destroys so many young saplings. but the Serpent’s Trail is a both a path and a wildlife corridor to join the remaining fragments of lowland heath in West Sussex. The serpents trail is 64 miles in length and winds sinuously from Haslemere and Blackdown down to Petersfield along the way taking in many of the remaining areas of lowland heath. You can find out more here from the South Downs website.

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Went to mow a meadow. Two of us, one of us, and our scythes, and a bottle of pop, went to mow a meadow. It seems the scything bug is catching. Yesterday Alison and I went to do some weed control along the edge of a meadow called 9 acres field.

I was quite pleased with the result, we got quite a lot of the edge cleared and we plan to continue the work later in the week (temperatures allowing).


The thistles (and nettles and dock) are starting to flower so they need to be cut to prevent them from seeding and spreading.


It would be great if all the work could be done by hand, but without enough volunteers its impracticable. So I switched to a larger form of mower to deal with some of the larger beds of nettles and thistles.

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Tidying up in the yard I decided to do something about the cleft halves of a birch trunk I’d been planning to make into the base of a half log lathe. I don’t need them for a lathe right now as in the end I made a lathe from oak offcuts. Before cutting up for firewood it occurred to me that the clefts might be the right size for bowl blanks.

To my surprise it appears that I’ve accidentally managed to spalt the birch quite well. by leaving it standing on end for a year or more. I didn’t know how well it would turn as some parts will be quite seasoned and hard whilst others will be slightly rotten and softer. There is only one way to find out.

Not exactly what was in my list of urgent tasks for the day, but then the important things always seem to get left behind so this makes a pleasant change.

The outside of the bowl turned much more easily than my first bowl. Probably a combination of things, as I made a better blank, improved the tool rest and followed Paul Atkins excellent hints for locating the centre of the blank on the lathe.


The inside proved much harder to turn than the outside. To turn the insde of the blank you have to remove a lot wood which was from the middle of the log and I think this was more seasoned and less spalted which would not have been the case if the log had been left in one piece rather than cleft.

I was pleased that I had less trouble with the end grain fluffing up, possibly because the wood was harder so less likely to fluff and partly because the hardness forced me to keep the tools as sharp as I could.

The end result is satisfying, I wonder if I’ve got the bug? Time will tell. I think I might need a demonstration bowl lathe, damn I’ve just used the logs!

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….went to mow a meadow, one man and his scythe, went to mow a meadow. Oh two men went to mow……

Well actually I started on the lawn this morning. An adjustment of the handles has done a lot to improve the quality of my mowing, the rest is all down to sharpness of the blade. Time to throw out the strimmer, I won’t be needing that again. Again saving money and reducing carbon footprint are the same thing. Well it made me feel good.


Then I went to mow the meadow. Or in this case a small paddock owned by friends as a test for the blades on the new topper. I managed to avoid the orchids,


and also set the topper high enough to leave the mass of birdsfoot trefoil and other wildflowers whilst taking off the nettles, bracken and docks.


Finally a visit to do some weed control in 9 acres field on Lynchmere ridge, back to the scythe. Working on the ridge overlooking the Weald with the South Downs behind is always good for the soul.

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I’ve had strawberries with my homemade muesli every day this week and today I picked another bowl of them from our little strawberry patch and a few raspberries as well.


John the blacksmith came round for tea after working at his forge at TIlford and obviously I was thinking strawberries and cream, or at least creme fraiche. But Alison was thinking Hobnobs. After she had an inspirational moment, Alison decided on strawberry Hobnobs. Simples!


I may need to go out and buy some more creme fraiche and Hobnobs tomorrow.

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Some time ago, back in January I think, I spent a day introducing polelathe turning to some of the practical habitat management course at Merrist Wood college. I always think it a success if the day generates enthusiasm for greenwood working and it’s a real bonus if I can start people down the path of building their own shave horse and/or lathe. So it was with pleasure that I learnt a couple of weeks later that John had already built his shave horse and would soon finish the lathe.

He kindly sent me some photos of the shave horse and the lathe.


All that beautiful clean wood. Very nicely built John. They always look better than mine, but then I did raid a skip for my timber. But that lawn looks suspicously like it’s never had a shaving on it in its life! That was some time ago now, so hopefully your borders and lawn, not to mention the carpets indoors, will be suitably mulched with wood shavings! I know from experience that this is an inevitable but not universally popular consequence of taking up polelathe turning.

I Look forward to catching up with you soon, and if you are coming to the Coppice Group open day, next weekend, bring it along.

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