Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A slight Hiatus on the Home Front....

or "Apologies for no major post last week..... or this, and this and that for that matter"

Sorry... with all this fine weather, and a need to get spuds in the ground at the right time this year... I hadn't pre-prepared anything...
But the moth trap has had two airings so far this year... and we've started to get visitors to the windows at night!
The Swallows are back... swinging in and out of the barn.... and paying a visit in here, too... which took a bit of juggling to create an escape route....
The Black Redstarts are back, as well....and the duck gave us a nice present the other day... a fresh egg that she'd laid on the fly down by the old apple tree.
How do we know it was fresh? Because anything like an egg down there wouldn't have lasted overnight....
A Little Egret had been fishing in the bief...and flew past the bedroom window just as I looked out... no need for binos...
The Nightingales are back... three singing males at least... and a Zizi was singing from the wall early doors... a Zizi is the Bruant Zizi... or Cirl Bunting... relative of the Yellowhammer... with a similar song but it keeps what it doesn't want a secret... "Little bit of bread and no..."
It misses out the "cheeeese"
We've got a group of young Viperene Snakes [Lat] Coulevre vipérine who have holed up together just inside the barn door... four is the maximum seen at one time.

So here are a few pictures taken recently.....

Here's the Bruant zizi... aka: Cirl Bunting.... zizi'ing his little heart out!!

There are four Viperene snakes in this picture
... count the heads... one sunbathing...
three in the gap 'twixt barn wall and the metal...
sunwarmed...
hinge.



Three from the moth trap....
R>L: a Brindled Beauty, a Small Lappet and a Lunar Marbled Brown....
the curate who named the last probably had cataracts.... it is all grey!!

 
A hoverfly.... hovering!

An Ichneumonid wasp...
possibly a female Ichneumon xanthorius based on looks and flight period.
{But, only experts can really tell... and not from photos!!}

Black Redstart [male].... showing his "shirt-tails"!

And finally... for the moment... an orb weaving spider.
Tetragnatha sp.... possibly Tetragnatha extensa which is the most common...
but I need the other side to be certain...and this one was...
thirty centimetres off the ground in stinging nettles!!




Tuesday, 4 April 2017

What's nibbling me willows?

I have been playing "catch up" in the meadow and along the millstream...
I haven't been able to get onto the meadow over-Winter for three years...
so I have been felling timber that needs to be felled as quickly as possible....
with the intention of tidying up afterwards...
the only tidying that I have been doing has been to create a safe environment for me to work...
or to clear the paths.

Some of the felling has involved the "nursery area" that is outside our bedroom window....
three of the young willows were too deeply rooted when Stuart and I were lifting them for replanting elsewhere....
and that, coupled with the fact that the ground had become very unstable by the time we reached them....
and we had no real purchase in the sticky goo... all that meant that they were left...
and, in reality, neglected for a further two years.
By that point they were too large to try and move, so I cut them off as waist high pollards...
this is the height that some biomass and basket making willows are kept at...
which means no back-breaking bending....
the oldest known pollard, some four thousand years old....
and found in the river bed of the Derwent in Yorkshire, is this same height...
so early man thought that too!

And therefore I began to harvest them in a three year cycle.... to create "bushes"...
which has been interrupted by three bad winters...
so I had a mix of four, five and six year old wood...
and I decided to cut them all and start again, because we only want bushes there...
the trees that they had become were blocking our view...
this resulted in a lot of timber
which I cleared to the side as I went, the largest one of which had its top in the millstream [bief]....
the butt end on the bank where I could get at it easily.

We couldn't help but notice....
as we looked out of the bedroom and kitchen windows at the newly cleared area....
that two of the willows were missing bark from the base...
and I thought to blame it on the ragondins [coypu]...

Two out of the three have had the bark stripped from the base... fortunately NOT all the way round

About two weeks ago, however, we noticed that someone had stripped bark from the branches that I had left lying in the bief...
immediate presumption... coypu!

Lovely white wood under that willow bark!

Then we saw this....

The focus isn't too sharp... I'll add a better one at the end

...now, according to the books ragondin do eat bark, but apparently reluctantly... as Pauline has discovered, they "only eat bark when they are desperate" as they prefer grass... visible and growing all this winter... and the fleshy roots of the teasels, thistles and similar plants... which we also have in plenty, despite their efforts and mine, in the orchard... as well as elsewhere.
But they stop at bark... they don't eat young wood!! Not like that, surely....
only a beaver leaves traces like that!!

Now, we've seen beaver activity... right in the heart of town, near the railway station... and they are spreading out quite rapidly from their point of reintroduction on the Loir in both 1975 and again 1995.... 13 animals in both cases... but up the Aigronne??
We needed proof before reporting it on Faune Touraine, the local focus for Citizen Science data collection...on an ever increasing diversity of wildlife.

So, time to deploy the "pieges photographiques"...trail cameras to Anglophones!
We had a stealth beaver... bark was going missing... but no triggers...hmmm!
The ducks were triggering the traps, as were the coypu as they swam past...
and the rats using the branches as a highway to avoid having to swim too much!
But, not what was bark stripping... by which time we had three cameras watching a twenty-five square metre section of stream...
so I contacted Martin of Wildlife & Countryside Services, the supplier of two of our photographic traps and our Wildlife Accoustics bat detector...
and a very useful source of advice....
who came right back with a probably cause... temperature...
beaver swim with only the nose and a flat area between that and their ears...
out of the water...
so as it emerges to feed, the temperature difference between animal and water...
is too little to trigger the PIR on the camera... try different positions!!
AND, bingo....

Yes, a beaver.... right outside the kitchen window...
... we were probably still up!!  And it is thanks to Simon that we've got these stills to insert...

.... yes, a positive sighting of beaver!!

These are European Beaver [Castor fiber galliae] Castor d'Europe....
and are genuine French ones, not Polish as I had read...
the reintroduction was from a remnant population on the Rhône.
Pauline immediately reported the wood chewing evidence on Faune Touraine...
back dated, which is quite normal....
whilst I tried to get a still from the video... nothing I had would play ball... or were programs I haven't had the chance to play with [learn]... but, again help was on hand in the form of Simon of LVTT and Days on the Claise who, after some Dropboxery and his preferred program... lifted out a couple of stills that Pauline reported the sighting with on Saturday night.... it would have to be the First of April!!
But we've supplied the photographic evidence along with the record....
so hopefully no "no you didn't" emails from the moderators on Faune Touraine...
probably thinking "Mon Dieu... it's those damned Anglais again!"

Pauline also had emailed Yohann the River Technician....who Susan posted about in December [an interesting read about a difficult job in itself].... during the afternoon to let him know... he came back with the nearest to us he'd seen activity was near Gatault... only about 2 kilometres from us downstream... so, as they have a multi-kilometre territory when confined to a stream, it/they have probably been going up and down quite regularly... or are doing so now? Looking at the grey wood on the largest stump, they've been here for at least three years it takes around that long to colour... and I hadn't noticed any damage before that....

The bright bits just as the shadow starts are teeth marks from the lower jaw.

BUT we may have also blown the myth that ragondin only eat bark when they are desperate... we got three videos where one particularly large animal stripped and ate the bark.... the tail said coypu, not beaver... unless it was so perfectly "side on" that it appeared the same as a coypu's... but my guess is that coypu will eat nice young bark if it is "presented" to them.

This stretch is perfect for European beavers as... because they burrow... there are plenty of old coypu homes ready to occupy.
It is calm and quiet, assorted different depths of water, too, so an underwater entrance would be easily maintained... even in the driest of summers.
We will keep watching... and feeding... our beaver(s) and add more information as and when!!

Here is the actual video of the beaver... uploaded via Blogger, so invisible on Safari and on Apple machines even if you are using Firefox, sorry....


video

And a much better picture of the tooth marks on the branch...

Yes, it does look dry... I rescued it before the branch broke at that point completely...
it is now strapped to a length of roofing lath as it has almost broken at the thinnest point.
Now... if that isn't natural news for us, I don't know what is!
We keep getting surprised!!

Monday, 3 April 2017

News Alert, News Alert, News Alert, News Alert, News Alert, News Alert,

News Alert, News Alert, News Alert, News Alert

Exciting news will be appearing here later today!!
____________________________________

....on a more mundane level, the moth trap has had two runs so far this year....
....the ducks are looking for somewhere to nest....

....and we have a nest of vipers....
....actually no... a nest of viperine snakes... coulevres viperines...
a relative of the grass snake.

Monday, 27 March 2017

One man went to mow...

...went to mow a meadow! At the moment in my case, it is one man and his cat to follow on.

We have around two hectares to mow....
that's around five acres in English money...
and the grass needs to be removed...
to lower the fertility and allow the weaker species to grow more successfully...
and hamper the efforts of  les orties* [nettles].

To mow we have "Betsy"...
our big two-wheel tractor with its 53" cutter bar.
To rake we have me and a Bulldog wooden rake...
so at the moment we slowly get a field full of humps and rows that become humps....
and humps that become bigger humps....
and so on....
and on!


Driving Betsy... the grimace is obligatory (as is the hat!)

When Betsy arrived she wasn't heavy enough at the cutter bar, so a cut of around three inches...
[or fifteen centimetres... I am of old measure]...
became a one foot high trim whenever the wheel hit a molehill.
It was very tiring to use and left me aching...
then the suppliers, Trackmaster, sent me two weights to attach to the bar and all changed...
she still bucks at humps but it is easier to get the front down again and she is, overall, more controllable...
which is vital when working near the willows!!
And I have since added a pair of large, wide skids... as those that are supplied as standard, just cut deep two-inch furrows!!



It is a big meadow.... this is the smaller bit....

The other reason for being able to mow large areas quickly and easily is that the meadow has Creeping Thistle [Cirsium arvense] Chardon des champs...
which needs to be kept cut before it flowers and the wind dispersed seed blows everywhere.
This is what the Wildlife Trusts have to say on the subject
.

So you can see that it would not be beneficial to the birds to eradicate it completely...
not that I think I could!!
And, in 2016, thanks to the Barn Owl Trust and Mammal Society....
and Pauline's research....
the mowing regime has changed yet again... but that will be another post!


The selected areas of nettles [*les orties] that I am mowing are to reduce their competition with the grass.
I have no intention of trying to win the that battle either as...
[1] we want the butterflies that use nettle as a foodplant for the young... and
[2] we use the nettles as fertilizer and occasionally as food.
Well, that's my excuse, anyhows!!

Still mowing.... here at least you can see one of the paths along the edge of the bief (millstream).
Betsy is manufactured in Italy by part of the Ferrari works and moves at walking pace...
so I'm driving one of the slowest Ferraris on the planet....
but there is a big advantage with that...
we are working the land for the wildlife it contains and being able to stop instantly and walk forward to inspect for nests when birds fly up is a great help...
also, by cutting the grass and not chopping it with a flail or a whirling blade, allows the grass to fall aside and allows small beasts to fly, walk, run away.

Occasionally I get flying voles...
these rocket out of the grass and run along on the top, before diving back into the sward...
when they run ahead, this is usually repeated a few seconds later.


One of the first 'humps' is visible to my right in this picture.... it grew as the year wore on....
and had finished at around this height when I mowed through it last week.
We will be able to harvest compost from the bigger of these piles.

Betsy has another attachment...
a big wood-chipper that can handle up to three inch trunks....
but that's yet another posting.

/|________________________________________________|\

* Les Orties = The Nettles
(Thank you Susan for the correction.  
[The Nettles is a Celtic band - J.Nettles is an actor])

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.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Le Pré de la Forge... a continuation... 2006

A gratuitous Klimt'ish image of our Norway Maples

As I said in the previous post ...
we started by pollarding the big pollards already on the site.
The plan was to tackle them as 'one a year'....
but that slipped away after the first attempt with bowsaws.

The first willow to be attacked… as it was left in 2005.
You can see the healthy new rods that have grown during the previous twelve months.
Winter 2006 saw us 'armed' with a chainsaw.
That meant that we were able to tidy up the wreckage of the first attempt and finish the tree off properly.
The cut timber was then processed and we took some of it up to the hangar [dutch barn/open barn] to dry out for use as firewood.
The usable rest was stacked at the base of the tree. 


The first tree, once cleaned up, with wood stacked underneath.
The branch underneath, leaning against the trunk is no longer supporting the tree...
The tree lifted towards the upright and the branch fell away

We then tackled a second tree, the smallest and weakest specimen.
That way we were keeping to the original one a year plan!
"Cheats!" I hear you yell....


Two views of the weakling - halfway through and after.
In the background of the first picture the maintenance tasks can be seen lurking.

Some essential maintenance followed on the remaining three trees....
cutting down dead branches and ones that were left unprotected as a result of the other work done.
 
First three trees pollarded.... hope for the weakling was faint!
The final tidying up on the fifth tree is yet to be done.

As we were less than halfway through the stay, and the fact that...
[a] the cut ends from the previous year had produced good growth and...
[b] the maintenance work on the third tree in the line had left only three good trunks coming up from the head...
we decided to do a full job on that one too.


In 2005 an attempt was made at planting up with first/second year growth from the top of the tree....
what a waste of time that was.
We planted 100 little twigs...
half at the end nearest the weir and the rest in the corner by our neighbours étang and the Aigronne.
We had six survivors at the weir planting....
and two at the lake end. Eight percent success rate!
Or should that really read...
92% FAILURE rate?


However, in 2006 we took a different tack.
There were plenty of really healthy first year rods to be harvested from the untidy ends that we'd had to leave in 2005.

We cut these off before tidying the ends and finishing the pollarding of tree one.
There were over one hundred and fifty one metre to two metre rods.

We placed these in a 'holding pond'...
hastily constructed at the side of the bief...
whilst we concentrated on the pollarding.

Rods stacked in the holding pen before planting.
This kept them wet and safe from being trampled on.

In 2005, I had used the cattle watering shallow to plant some currant bush cuttings that Pauline had taken from our allotment bushes.
30 of them were Redcurrants... probably Jonker van Tets... and 27 of them took.
There were hardly any losses from the White and Blackcurrants either!
[We now have twenty-seven redcurrant bushes in the verger! Ask Pauline....
BUT we still only get fruit the equivalent of two of our allotment bushes....
a combination of frost hollow effect some years and in the good fruiting years...
our feathered "FRIENDS" scoff them before they are fully ripe...
]


However, armed with this new knowledge...
Stuart and I planted fifty of the rods in a block next door to the thriving cuttings.
Most of the rest were planted at the lake end, in the original block and a group of three opposite...
next to the bief [to start the tree line]...
and at the weir end.
Then the last few were lined out along the ditch that leads up from the Aigronne towards the bridge...
and a small clump planted between the end of the ditch and the bridge.

As I will tell in the next posting... we had more success from the healthier, longer rods.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Crane weather

Cranes, 4th March 2013
Last night (18th February) just before 9:30 we heard the unmistakeable bugling of a flight of Common Cranes passing overhead. Impossible to tell how many: we guessed about 60. They were heading up the Aigronne in a generally East-North-East direction. Two hours later, another, bigger (noisier) flight passed over, this timie heading due North. We recorded that one as at least 300, but still it was very much a guess.

Knowing that big flocks of migrating birds occasionally show up on weather radar, I had a look this morning at the Meteo60 web site. The radar map showed two blue streaks leading North-Northeast from the Paris basin toward the Belgian border. The satellite view showed clear skies. I am willing to bet that these blue streaks were cranes, thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of them.


Rain Radar map 19 February 2017
When we zoomed in, the bigger of the two patches by far appeared to originate in a large area of marshland just north of the river Oise between Creil and Compiègne. These look ideal spots for cranes to roost overnight. At this higher level of detail, it was possible to see waves of birds on the animated radar map as they left their overnight pitstop. The other patch seemed to come from an area north of the Marne, not too far from the Lac du Der.

Sunset squadron, 8th March 2013

By confirmation, the LPO Champagne-Ardennes site grus-grus records a massive movement of cranes over the past 24 hours. In Hesse, southern Germany, thousands passed overhead at night. Yesterday's map includes, for a change, records from Indre-et-Loire! Something tells me the crane-watchers in Hesse are going to have a busy day today.