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Archive for November, 2011

I am certainly not a fungi expert but I can’t resist taking a good look and at this time of year there are loads of fungi to choose from. So if anyone has any identifications to offer please feel free to comment.  But yes,  you are right this is just an excuse to post some colourful pictures of the Lynchmere Commons.

Here a Fly Agaric has just appeared from it’s bed of moss. At least I think it’s a Fly Agaric as they are common in the birch woods, but there is no sign of a veil on this one, so I may be leading you astray already. Just shows how difficult it is to follow the identification books.

Very few of the woodland fungi are edible and you really do need to know what you are doing to pick them as a mistake can be highly dangerous. The Fly Agaric is well known for it’s toxic and hallucinogenic properties. It’s one of the Amanita family which include our most toxic fungi so one to beware of.

With a heavy dew the cobwebs glisten in the low angle sun light which seems to give everything deeper colour at this time of year.

These fungi were nestled on the old stump of a birch tree. They look quite similar to Honey Fungus, but then again…maybe not quite.

This one is suspiciously white and clean. I have to say that I don’t know what it is, but as the most toxic fungi in the UK, the Destroying Angel, is also white and clean I tend to leave anything similar well alone even though it’s very likely an innocent pretender (it’s deadly cousin the Death Cap is also similar in appearance though with a greenish tinge to the cap).

The Birch trees are now in their winter plummage and it’s already time to be thinking about harvesting the next crop of bean poles, pea sticks and broom heads.

No idea what these are and even after a quick look through a book I am non the wiser.

Likewise these very small, almost blue ones were just by a beech tree. Even though I couldn’t identify them I did find a Bay Boletus which we took home for tea, but forgot to photograph! Very similar to the Cep or Penny Bun which are also in the Boletus family the Bay Boletus has yellow pores instead of gills which stain blue when touched

Must be about time for a gratuitous Landrover photograph. Surely that’s far too shiny to be one of my Landrovers? Yes we took Puff out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon run as a part of the running in the new engine. The aim is to treat the engine very gently until all of the moving parts have had time to wear in.

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Now it’s starting to get dark by about 4pm and earlier on dull days I need to use the few daylight hours outside. I don’t get out too early, besides it’s too cold in the shed for turning in the morning and before I know it the light is fading.  I am becoming accustomed to turning by lamplight, though it doesn’t make the shed seem any tidier unfortunately. Amazing how quickly the pile of partly finished and just started projects forms a chaotic pile of pile of debris. I’m told the word is amorphous!

I’ve been working on some small pots this week and after some thought (but not too much) decided to turn them like goblets, using fat blanks and hollowing from the ends. As it’s all end grain turning it’s a bit like hard work – and therefore not much to my liking. Really need to keep the tools sharp. At least it’s good practice for goblets.

These are turned using quite fresh Birch and I quite like the way that they have come out. They are supposed to have lids, but I’ve not really thought that through yet. Any suggestions?

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Do you like the view from my new office?  It was nice and quiet until someone opened the lid and let me out. If I’ve been a bit quiet recently it’s not for lack of things to post on, more a lack of time to post. The restoration of my 1961 SII landrover Puff hit a milestone earlier this year when he passed the MOT Test with flying colours but it soon became obvious, to anyone following at least, by the smelly pall of blue smoke that the engine needed some serious work.

But one thing leads to another and a quick swap of heads was always a bit optimistic and an afternoon job stetched out for weeks and then months as a replacement engine was found (about 20feet in front of our door, strange that!) which then also turned out to need reconditioning. Ho hum. But the engine is rebuilt and ready to go in so time to paint the office ready for it’s new occupant.

So after having the cylinders bored out, the crank ground and the block skimmed and all new parts fitted the engine really is as good as new. Better than new probably. No the experience hasn’t turned my hair white, this is my friend and landrover guru Richard fitting the new engine.

Today we finally managed to find the time to fire it up. Once we managed to connect everything up the right way around that is. The pistons were a tight fit into their cylinders and it takes a bit of turning over but after quite a lot of turning over to move the oil around it fired up straight away and ran smoothly and amazingly quietly for a landrover engine.

Now we know it works we can finish the the rebuild and prepare it for running in. It’s very rare these days to see a vehicle with a sign saying  ‘Running in – Please Pass’  and I think I shall make one up just for fun.

I shall post a more detailed look at the rebuild in a post soon but this has been a red letter day. I went off to split some fire wood just to celebrate. Many thanks to Richard and Gary without whom I’d still be scatching my head and wondering where to start.

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This has to be the best time of year for walking in the woods. The display of colours from the Beech trees is magnificent this year and nowhere better than the Forest of Dean where we’ve been for a few days up on the edge of the Wye Valley, but I’m afraid my photos don’t really do the colours justice. Mind you the weather didn’t really cooperate, though warm it’s been dull and dank if not pouring with rain most of the time.

As well as walking through the Forest we explored a few paths up and around the River Wye, through the Gloucestershire countryside and came quite unexpectedly upon an old orchard where management has clearly been on the sparse side for many years. Several of the trees were quite overgrown with Mistletoe – though maybe it’s actually a Mistletoe orchard?

Away from the Forest the footpaths seemed quite thin on the ground and never quite linked up but we did find some great old hedges with lovely ancient oak trees.

This one has grown a monster burr, you can see from the gate in the photo that the burr is a few feet in diameter and it actually reaches most of the way around behind the trunk.

Back in the forest I was (as usual) astounded to see so much lop and top left lying around felling sites, and not just softwood but hardwood as well. On this site several beech trees had just been cut up and left where they were felled. I know I’ll be told that it’s all in aid of biodiversity and the bugs like it, but I mean!  In today’s times of austerity we’re all having to tighten our belts and how many bedrooms does a bug really need?  This is a renewable energy source just wasted and I’m sure that the biodiversity of the site would actually benefit from the removal of some of the excess brash and still leave plenty of spare bedrooms for the bugs!

I suspect it’s all caused by the relentless intensification of forestry during the latter half of the 20th century, very much the same as with agriculture. The more wood you produce the lower the price goes and the more wood you need to produce to keep making money. So you get a bigger loan, buy bigger machines with more computers and GPS that work all day and night to keep paying off the loan and it’s no longer cost effective to remove the brash or even some of the trees.

But it doesn’t have to be like that especially with the price of firewood on the rise. Woodsmen like me keep operating costs down by working for themselves, avoiding loans and using a minimum of equipment. There are plenty of volunteer groups, charcoal burners or firewood operators in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire who’d be more than happy to clear up sites like this after the contractors leave and reduce our fossil fuel imports and carbon footprint at the same time. I think we ought to be putting pressure on the FC to reintroduce licences for collecting brash and firewood.

Back on the river the sun crept through for just a few minutes. Bizarrely, in view of my previous rant, a small team of tree surgeons were carefully deadwooding some of the river bank willows (lest they fall on the tweed hat of a fly fisherman perhaps?) and then removing all of the wood from the site with a 4×4 and a trailer – from the sublime to the ridiculous?  No bugs welcome on this river bank then?

On the way back I couldn’t resist stopping at a hedgerow full of fat juicy sloes! Normally we only get to pick a few small ones, hard as bullets but these were big soft juicy gobstopper size sloes just demanding to be soaked in Vodkin.

Just a few minutes picking yielded enough for a few litres of Sloe Vodkin and as I write they are in the jars already after a quick session in the freezer just to finish off the softening up process. The jars are Labelled ‘Hole in the Wall’ as we found them on the walk back from a tiny hamlet labelled ‘Hole in the Wall’ on the map, just above Ross-on-Wye.

As we neared the end the sun rushed rapidly down below the horizon, another classic Walk with Trees in the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean.

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Finally the unseasonable warm spell seems to be on its way out, the temperatures are falling towards normal levels and we need to light the fires in the mornig and evenings. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the warm weather and it’s my favourite time of year but it can’t last and as our clocks have changed, the evenings are dark, dank and gloomy, lighting a fire shifts the damp mood and warms the spirit as well as the body.

I’m not looking forward to it but I have done more preparation this year just in case it’s another long cold winter. I got badly caught out last year without enough dry firewood to last through the cold spell and it was very noticeable just how the output from our stove and open fire reduced with increasing moisture content. Just when we needed the heat most! I don’t remember the actual figures but some like an increase of 10% in the moisture content of the firewood reduced the heat output by more like 20% and if your fires are struggling it’s not a warm cozy experience.

This year I’ll be keeping the best of the firewood for the coldest part of the season and most of the firewood I’ll be needing is cut, split and stacked to help it dry just that few percent more. Last year I ended up using too much of the wood for my charcoal bins and I’ll try to avoid that temptation this year though I do need to do one last burn.

It’s a great time of year for walking in the woods so we are off to the Forest of Dean to walk about the Wye Valley for a midweek break, then its back to the shed for more wood and landrover exploits.

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This tool and another like it surfaced at the Tilford Rural Life Centre recently. Any Ideas? Our best guess is that it’s some form of wire tensioning or joining tool, maybe for fencing, if it’s not for pipe bending that is!

 

Here it is assembled in what seems to be the correct way ? The tool is about 10 inches in length from memory. That’s it, not a lot to say, but any ideas will be gratefully received.

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‘I wonder if you could repair my garden table?’  That’s how the conversation started, and I agreed to take a look at the table. As you can see, it’s seen better days. Under normal circumstances this table is barely firewood mainly compost.

Sometimes you get attached to a particular piece, a bit like a fire it helps to instill a sense of place. I guessed this table was like that so I agreed to build a new frame for the owner and see what if anything could be salvaged.

The first job was to make the posts and rungs, coppiced Sweet Chestnut in this case which stands a chance of lasting longer than the original hazel. Convenient size all round, 18 inch rungs, 14 inch posts, top rung (table top) at 12 inches and rung spacing of 3 inches and 6 inches between top and bottom rungs all around. Mortices cut with an augur bit and tenons turned on the polelathe (just in case I need to make another one).

New frame, original table top. Even managed to salvage a few of the original brass screws.

a coat of Linseed Oil (only the best local fresh pressed on the farm linseed oil!) and it’s a new bench. I have the feeling that this bench might become a bit like my favourite beetle (a large wooden mallet) which has only had 4 new heads and 3 new handles!

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