Monday, 20 March 2017

2010 & 11... Almost caught up!

As mentioned at the end of the last post we started off the willow plantation.
I purchased and collected the willows from Yorkshire Willow...
they came as 10" cuttings... well, lengths...
of one year old stem with about six to ten buds.


The willow sticks in their nursery bed...
some were too young to leave home!!

The idea is to plant each length of willow stem where it is going to finally be...
in our meadow?
You are joking!!...
it was difficult enough to find them the way I planted these ones.

The willows were of seventeen different varieties in bundles of ten.
One hundred and seventy twigs...
what we bought are listed below [the ones introduced as 20cm cuttings]...
and these should be buried with around two inches/two buds above ground.
So I decided to create two nursery areas...
the one pictured above and another one in a damp spot out in the meadow.
I have altered the table below to show the survivors... some have thrived....eg: Bay Willow and Cohu Blue.... others I have struggled with... and some, like the Sekka pictured below... have succumbed because they are not suited to this environment.


On each row I used a Crack Willow stick to hold the label on the left in the photo above...
this year I will plant out the twenty-odd young Crack willow volunteers that were the result...
they will form a coppice area towards the riverbank.


These are the Sekka catkins...
grey against the red bark.
And, in 2017 the last Sekka had vanished...
The majority of the bought 'twigs' took hold in the pictured nursery area...
but the success rate was poor in the meadow.
That wasn't surprising...
I purchased them in late March and planted them in early April...
not really the right time...
and as we were still in the UK for much of 2010...
they weren't able to be regularly watered either.


These are the wonderful Cohu Blue catkins...
they start steel blue-grey, then "heat-up" and, finally...
catch fire.

These young trees were then planted out in blocks...
or patches where there were only two or three survivors...
last year...
the year of the very hot, dry summer....
again not at all good for young trees that haven't got roots down deep.
If you look at the tree list page, you will see a column marked survivors 2012...
I will be going round next week trimming the survivors down to two or three buds on each shoot...
[and planting the cuttings deep, in situ, to extend the blocks/patches].


Tree Table of those species on site

English Name Species French name [if any] Survivors [2011]
[2017]
Uses Comments
Crack Willow Salix fragilis Saule fragile N/A Crop for biomass On site
White Welsh Salix fragilis decipiens 1 ex 10
2017 none!
Coppice for colour Introduced from 20cm cuttings
White Willow Salix alba Saule blanc (3) ex 10
2017....one left!
Coppice for rods and biomass Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Scarlet Willow Salix alba 'Chermesina' 10...
2017 one!
Coppice for colour Introduced from cuttings
Flanders Red Salix alba fragilis 3 ex 10
2017 one!
Coppice for colour Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Golden Willow Salix alba vitellina Osier doré 5 ex 10
2017 one!
Coppice for colour Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Dog Willow or Sage-leaf Willow Salix candida 6 ex 10
2017...
two left!
Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Tora Salix viminalis tora 5 ex 10
2017....
None left!
Coppice for rods and biomass Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Continental Purple Salix daphniodes Saule faux-daphné 10 ex 10
2017....
eight left...
not happy!!
Coppice for rods, colour and biomass Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Black Willow Salix nigricians 2 ex 10
2017....one left!
Coppice for rods and biomass Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Bay Willow Salix pentandra Saule a cinq étamines 9 ex 10
2017....
No change!
Coppice for rods and biomass Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Purple Osier Salix purpurea Osier rouge 5 ex 10
2017....
two left!
Coppice for colour Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Cohu Blue Salix purpurea 8 ex 10
2017....
No change!
Coppice for colour Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Green Dicks Salix purpurea 3 ex 10
2017....
two left!
Coppice for colour Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Sekka Salix sachalinensis 9 ex 10
2017....
None left!
Coppice for rods and biomass Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Black Maul Salix triandra 11 ex 20
2017....
None left!
Coppice for colour Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Common Osier Salix viminalis 5 ex 10
2017....one left!
Coppice for rods, colour and biomass Introduced from 20cm cuttings
Grey Willow Salix cinerea Saule cendré 1
2017....
No change!
On site
Eared Sallow Salix aurita Saule à oreillettes 1
2017....
No change!
Self seeded at allotment
Pussy or Goat Willow Salix caprea Saule marsault 1
2017....
three more self-seeded!
Plant more as early bee fodder Self-seeded - On site by bridge

Monday, 13 March 2017

A Bit of Fencing.... 2009

We had a break from the felling routine in 2009 and did some planting [as before] and some fencing.

The fencing was needed to define the boundary between our property and the neighbouring field...
the original fence was very 'tired' and in places...
completely missing [having, in our absence, been driven straight through by a digger!!]

The fencing was done in two stages...
when Stuart was here, in March, we aimed to get the posts in place and the strainers fixed up with the three carry wires attached and strained.
The strainers were done as "Colonial" two post, rather than the more usual post and a diagonal.
This technique lends itself to rocky soil like ours...
where it is difficult to dig a decent post hole to a good depth.

I've seen the method used quite a lot around here...
so it is not a strange thing to see a double header version at a corner or bend, the central post of three being the 'joint'.
And just I originally posted this, I saw a triple upright, double tensioner version over near Chaumussay....not sure why.... but with the work involved, there must have been a reason!

This is the major fence line, the one between the properties.
The "Colonial" strainer is in and tensioned and the post line is in place.
The thin posts are rose poles that I used as sighting poles...
the most difficult part of fencing is getting the line right in the first place!

You will see from the picture that a winder is used to tension the frame...
when fixing the stock fence in place, you start to strain up the fence at the second post...
leaving the piece that covers the strainer frame able to be removed as necessary for re-tensioning the fenceline.
All the posts used were reclaimed chestnut ones from other places on the site...
mainly from the bank of the bief.

Stuart and I managed to get both the lines finished and the straining wires in place without much difficulty...
despite using 'second-hand' posts.


This is a corner of the second fence line, the one by the road.
The three strainer wires can be seen quite clearly.
The wooden rail from the corner is not a "colonial" strainer,
but a length of timber performing much the same function on a very short run.

When Pauline and I returned in May, we stapled the stock fencing in place on most of the fence line, leaving just two sections that I wrote "I will be completing in the next couple of weeks... honest?". {Update 2017.... they are still to be finished.... }
This entailed rolling out the cattle mesh and crimp-stapling it to the top wire...
before going back down the line and doing the same on the other two...
trying to hold a 22 kilo roll of cattle mesh upright and unroll it at the same time is no joke...
it seems to be very tired and wants to lie down all the time!!
But we got there...
with much shouting and cussing!!


This is the main fence line, once the cattle mesh has been added.
You will see that the bottom wire does not run along the bottom of the mesh,
but along the next 'rung' up... this allows the mesh to be 'moulded' along the ground.
Any bigger irregularities are taken care of with offcuts of mesh wired on and buried....
not necessary here as the farmer is arable... and we don't keep stock!

In 2010 we did some more planting and started the willow plantation...
more about that next week.




Friday, 10 March 2017

A nice Spring day

We have a nice start to the Spring today, after some of the "drear" we've had this week....

Last night the Wikileaks were around... possibly in the meadow... for those that don't know us, the Wikileaks are Stone Curlews [Burhinus oedicnemus] Oedicnème criard...
their call sounds like "wikileaks...wikileaks...wikileaks"!

Today, in the warmth....19 Centigrade.... the Brimstones [Gonepteryx rahmni] le Citron and other butterflies were all around us...
male [probably] Mason Bees [Osmia rufa] l'Osmie were hanging around in front of the insect hotel...
Pauline sat deafened by one of the Wrens [Troglodytes troglodytes] Troglodyte mignon...
it ignored her presence and pumped itself up into a frenzy of song.

Wall lizards were out in force... and to cap it all on the reptile front...
a Viperine Snake [Natrix maura] Coulevre vipérene was soaking up the warmth on the barn door!!

I decided, given the warmth, to set up the moth trap....
even though the moon is almost full I will catch something....
on my way back to the house from turning it on... I saw a bat...
so sat with the bat detector on my lap, my back warmed by the house wall...
a useful ten minutes...
Common, Kuhls and Nathius's Pipistrelles all registered as top bat choice....
as did a Lesser Horseshoe!!


Photos/corrections to follow...

Monday, 6 March 2017

Le Pré de la Forge.... Five old Saules... part four of the saga - 2008


Making a start...
removing the small and dead branches.

The routine continued... but like last year we had my wife with us, so Stuart and I were able to crack on much quicker, leaving Pauline to cook and clean up after us!
Well, not really...
the third pair of hands actually meant that some of the more difficult tasks were...
"three head, six hand" jobs.


Lopping the easy branches first to clear the view.
And that was really useful...
especially when we hit a big snag...
the last trunk to fall.
It had a twist...
and didn't give any indication of a bias to fall any particular way.


The last three branches...
the last one is the furthest left...
with a great big double bend!

So whilst I stood and looked, and paced around the tree.....
and stood and looked, and paced around the tree.....
and stood and looked, and paced around the tree.....
Pauline kept me supplied with coffee and helped Stuart shift the timber from the first branches that we'd dropped.

Eventually I decided to rope guide the direction of fall.
That meant getting a rope around the trunk as high as possible...
higher than I could get with the ladder.
There was a group of three branches slightly lower than I'd have liked to position the rope...
but they were reachable with a hammer throw.

A strong string attached to the hammer, it was hurled violently upward towards the first branch of the trio...
and my aim was good.
Yes, I hit the branch square on!!

Second try missed it perfectly and the string was over the first...
and by sheer luck, the second.
Fate was sitting up there watching....
and having a good laugh....
I hit the third branch a glancing blow and the hammer fell....
back over the second branch!
Threw it back over the second branch on the third attempt....
and eventually the third!!
The rope was then hauled over and round, a slip hitch tied and it was pulled tight to the tree.

Because I didn't have a winch of any sort, the other end was anchored near the bief...
a metal bar was then "looped" into place about halfway between the two anchor points.
We attached three long butt-ends of the other branches to the rope...
just above the metal bar...
as it took Stuart and I to raise the ends into position whilst Pauline tied them into place...
I would estimate that we had the pulling power of about four people at that point...
but in the form of undamageable logs.

I was cutting from the back of the tree which meant that I was going to be higher up than the bole... this was alright by me...
it meant that I could cut straight through, with just a shallow sapwood cut lower down to stop the bark tearing.
Once felled, I tidied up by doing a second clean cut to finish off.

A tidy, cleaned up bole and a stack of firewood.
The darker wood is a previous years harvest.

Job's a goodun...
all five trees pollarded [tetardé]

The view with all the trees pollarded.

Then, after the last bonfire....


The smoke from the last bonfire drifts Eastwards across the meadow.

....it was back to tree planting...
mainly extending the areas we had already worked on...
and getting more young twigs into the tree nursery.


The view of the nursery area from the kitchen window.

The row of trees nearest the bief are waiting to be lifted.
There are three trees in the green binbag, waiting to be planted out...
some root loss was unavoidable, but as before...
we compensated by planting deeper.


The duckboards over the already dug soil can be clearly seen in this shot from the bridge.

The duckboards allowed us to dig the trees out without us getting bogged down in the soft mud.

Once all the trees were out, new rods were planted behind where you see the duckboards...
in virgin soil...
this is to allow time and tide to refill the 'used' area.

Other small and specimen trees, including some Scarlet Willow...
and a spawn of the Headingly "Original Oak"...
were planted out in the verger.


The nursery bed in the verger for the smaller and specimen trees.
The "Original Oaks" are in the blue-green pot.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Le Pré de la Forge....Five old Saules... part the third... 2007 and the heat is on!!

The weather in February 2007 was wonderful...
it even brought out the Small Tortoiseshell from hibernation...
and, yes, there were flowers for it to feed from! [taken19th February]


By this point Stuart and I had got into a routine.
Cut the 'trees' off the top of the old pollard....
deal with the usable timber, plant trees, cut rods...
and refill the cattle splash.

Why 'trees'...
mainly because that is what they were...
pollarding usually takes place between ten and twenty five years after a cut...
only really dependent on what wood you are trying to harvest.

With the final tidying of the tree nearest the bridge I was able to take a nice oblique slice at the base of one of the branches and this made counting rings easier....
all forty-one of them....
the trees were last 'tetarded' in 1964.

This tied in with the old 'milk record' books that we found....
the milking and managing as a farm ceased in 1985.
The twenty-five year cut would have been due in 1989 and, by this time, the owner was using it as a holiday home a couple of times a year.
The farm was managed, the owner was a 'pub landlord' in Poitiers.
So no one bothered.

We want firewood...
so will probably take a second cut at ten years from  the four strongest [2015 to 2019].
I am now thinking of using the weakest one, that we cut in 2006, as a source of rods....
it also seems to be a slightly different colour to the rest.

We chose the second tree from the bridge as this year's 'victim' and proceeded to drop branches.
The method was as follows...
cut down an outward leaning 'trunk', process, stack and pile the 'lop & top' up ready for burning.
All progressed well but...
not for long.

The fourth branch twisted slightly as it fell, and landed, absolutely horizontal, on the first tree...
fortunately for us, it landed in between the two growing points!!

The snagged branch, lying across the space...
would make a good hammock spot?

But it was still attached. How to deal with that?
My procedure was as follows...

I started by cutting off all the branches furthest away...
until I arrived at the 'snag' point...
the first pollard...
unfortunately I didn't think to take photos...
I was too busy trying to get the branch down!

Rope two fully extended Acroprops just forward from the butt end to form a tripod.

Cut out the section between the props and the tree...
leaving the trunk supported at the props and the first tree.

Stuart and I then pulled the two Acros away [using ropes], until the trunk reached the ground safely.

Undercut the trunk in sections until the end that was resting in the first tree was almost upright.

Climb ladder resting on first tree and with a Y-pole push the last length over...
snag removed.
Safely!


Final cuts made, it was time to tidy up.

All timber cut, stacked under tree 1 and the whole area tidied.
It was then OK to fell the rest, section them and stack the good timber up to dry
When the last branch had been dealt with in this way, then it was time for a bonfire.


More timber stacked on right;
Stuart by the bonfire and the area of branches in the foreground
is creating a habitat for insects, birds and small mammals.

As the fire got going so did the heat...
you can see the haze in the top left of this picture.

Once we'd cleaned up, it was onto the tree planting.
We had had a greater success with the young rods, about fifty percent take...
but lost a lot as a result of our infrequent visits in the height of summer.
Yes! I can hear you gasp....
"house in France and they don't use it in the summer?"

Well, no we didn't, we had 600 sq.yds of allotment to take care of in Leeds!
That was feeding us [on the veggie and fruit front at least] and needed tending to almost constantly.
We hadn't lost, however, more than three of the rods that were crammed into the 'cattle splash' nursery.

We left the 2007 rods in the now 'less than temporary' keeping pond and began to lift the young trees from the nursery.
Using a sharp spade, I cut down through the roots between each tree, one at a time, and then Stuart would pull it over and I'd cut through the tap root and we'd get a bin bag over the root block.
Once we had a barrow load [about half a dozen trees] we'd then move on to planting them.
We weren't precious about this....
it was...
[i] dig a hole large enough to get the root block into comfortably and about ten centimetres deeper,
[ii] stuff root block into the hole,
[iii] back fill and stomp heavily to firm the tree in and pile what didn't go back in around the tree.
No staking, no feeding, no nice compost...
they were on their own, planted about twenty centimetres deeper than they had been in the nursery.

We used these to 'beat up' the 2006 failures along the ditch towards the house and add to the two  survivors in the clump.

Next it was 'beat up' the line along the bief and extend it towards the 'Five old Saules'.
Once that was done we crammed eighty new rods into the nursery and put the rest out into the original two areas from 2005 to extend those.

As you will read in the next instalment of the saga, we stuck to this routine for 2008.