Saturday, 30 April 2011

Shadow Stick

I enjoyed a bit of time playing with a shadow stick today, for those who don't know what a shadow stick is, it's basically a way of finding the points of the compass by using the Sun combined with the Earths rotation, bear in mind, the sun needs to be able to cast a shadow for this to work

To start with place a stick in the ground and where the shadow that is cast hits the ground, mark the very top with stone.

 

Silverweed - Potentilla anserina

A common plant on the chalky soils around where i live, although it grows on most soil types and one you often see by the wayside and again, one that has a multitude of uses, the root is edible both raw and cooked, it's a bit small, so you will need to collect a few to get a decent amount for a meal, but as a wayside snack it rates fairly highly in my book, i think it has a parsnip taste to it, but I'm told by others they cant sense this, but it's a pleasant taste regardless, you can dry the leaves and use them to make a sort of tea, again, it's not unpleasant, a strong infusion of the plant can be used to treat diarrhoea.

Please don't just go out and start digging these up though, for a start unless you have the permission of the landowner, digging up any root is illegal, and if everyone dug things up, there wouldn't be any left, if you want to use this plant, why not try cultivating a few in your own garden or even in pots?.

The plant has some medicinal uses, including use as a mild analgesic (handy for tooth ache, put a bit of the root on the tooth to soothe it), it's also a diuretic, astringent and a Haemostatic, as always, please get proper training from a local expert before you use or ingest any wild plant.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Thunder Storm Tracker

Here's a link to a website i use to track Thunder Storms, it has a load of features and refreshes by default every 60 seconds i believe, I've been using this for a few years now and have found it to be more or less accurate. The website can be found here www.blitzortung.org oh yes, the picture to the left, i took from the site about five minutes ago, looks like we might have a few storms running up the channel this evening, certainly looks pretty dark out over the sea from where I'm currently sitting, the storms are tracking East to West along the channel

THANK YOU

It must be a week for getting to the magic 10,000 views on a blog (Abo on Belfast Bushcraft did the same), i only started my blogger blog at the start of the year (I back dated some of the older entries from another site when i started this blog) and never in a million years thought i would attain 10,000 views in a little over four months, i didn't think id get that level of views in two years to be frank, let alone four months!, i started the blog as a place to sound off, show my wares/projects and share some skills and experiences with friends and other like minded people around the world, although i do also very much enjoy writing the entries and it would appear people enjoy reading them as well.
So to everyone who has visited and indeed subscribed to my blog, i extend a BIG THANK YOU, and here's to the next 10,000 views.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Nets & Net Making

What it is about net making that i find so enjoyable? i don't think i could ever give you a single solitary reason, there are so many aspects of net making that i enjoy, the obvious one is the ability to make nets for capturing food, be it fur, feather or fish, then there is the fact you could make a hammock if you were so inclined (yes, i have made a small one before) then there is of course the manufacture of bags for carrying, well anything you can think of really, the uses are endless for a net and having the skill to make them yourself makes you appreciate them even more and it's a skill that is transferable all over the world, no matter where you might be.

I suppose the main reasons i love making them so much, apart from the skill set aspect, is that when you are making them you really do get lost with your thoughts in your own little world, like today, i was outside in the sunshine with the birds singing all around me, the sheep and lambs in the field calling each other, and me standing there making a net out of jute twine to go over the veg patch in the garden with a hand carved wooden netting needle and 2" gauge, hey why buy a mass produced plastic net that wont last the summer, when you can make your own net that will last for season after season?, and when it's had it, chop it up into little pieces and throw it on the compost heap or shred it and use it for tinder, whatever happens it goes back to nature one way or the other, it's certainly more eco friendly than the mass produced plastic job and if it needs fixing at some point, well as you made it in the first place, you have the skill to effect a repair on it.

The Gallery On Facebook

A while ago i made mention here on my blog of a new shop that had opened down town to promote local artists and artisans and their products (original post here), well my Father and i bit the proverbial  bullet and placed some of our work down there, so have we sold anything?, well yes we have, only a couple of things, but at least stuff is starting to move, it's been slow going, but lets face it, it's early doors for the shop owner as well as this time last year the shop didn't exist, so it's an adventure into the unknown for all of us, apart form the fact that it is only the end of April and tourist season doesn't start in earnest for a few weeks.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Live Catch Pigeon Net Trap

I don't know what the rest of the country is like, but down here at present we seem to have an influx of pigeons, ive been tasked to go and remove some from an area down town, but due to the proximity of people & property i cant shoot them as i normally would, so i need to trap them, after watching a video on You Tube yesterday, i came up with an idea for a net trap.

The trap incorporates a fine mesh net (yes i made it myself) and the closure is via a fine trigger on one end of the net where i have anchored a ring to the ground, the net is spread in front of the trigger which is baited with apple in this instance, a string comes under the net to another ring, which when the trap is activated, pulls the net over the bird and traps it humanely under the net, the motive power for closing the net is provided by a bungee cord attached to a shrub, of course if a springy sapling was available that could also be used for motive power, in this instance though a bungee is better as it pulls the net away from the lawn area and into the border.


Small Fixed Blade Knives

I love small fixed blade knives, they are unobtrusive, don't look threatening to the sheeple and are basically works of art in their own right, two of my most commonly used tools are the ones pictured, i included a two pence piece for scale, the top knife is Bush Pup from UK maker Geoff Bosworth and the lower knife is a mini Woodlore from a friend of mine in the US and makes a superb small neck knife, well they both do, but i use the mini Woodlore a great deal more, both blades hold a superb edge and don't let the small size fool you into thinking these are toys, they aren't they both pack a punch way above their weight, as with all things sharp, it's not the tool that has the skill, it's the person holding it, I've used these knives for carving & whittling, small game prep, trap making, right down to opening my post, sure your not going to be able to chop down trees or branches with these tools, but they were never designed for that type of use in the first place.

I made a couple of videos on these knives a while back and put them on You Tube, click here for  the Bush Pup and here for the Mini Woodlore videos.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Leather Note Book Cover

When I'm out and about i usually have a small notebook with me, not that i use it much, but it's there in the bag should i want to write some stuff down for later reference or to check previous notes I've made on a subject.

Ive been using the style of note book pictured for sometime after i was gifted a load of them, the book is A6 in size i think?, the books, although perfect in size for throwing in a pack, don't look particularly bushy, not that this is an issue in anyway shape or form, as to me it doesn't matter what it looks like as long as it does the job it's designed for and lets face it, it's a note book.

So having a bit of spare time this afternoon, i decided to make a leather cover for the book out of a piece of pig skin, the cover has worked out  fairly well, i elected to use the inner surface of the pig leather as the outer surface of the cover as it's nice and tactile, and i stitched the entire thing with artificial sinew,  i  also deliberately designed it, so it didn't incorporate a closure device other than gravity, if i need to keep it shut, I'll use a simple ranger band around the entire thing to keep it closed.

Bushcrafter's Hat

So what is your preference for a bushie hat?, other than a woolie hat in the wintertime, i have two preferences, one is a simple baseball type hat in real tree camo, the other is my Aussie Style leather hat, i got this at a knock down price, having seen these hats around various shops and market places for around £30.00 plus i always left them where they were as i couldn't justify the price tag on a hat, then whilst down at one of our local shops last year, i saw these on the shelf priced up at £15.00 each - bargain i though, so i picked one up, then when i went to pay for it, it came out at £13.00, even better, wish i had picked up a Black one as well now though, still fingers crossed the shop will have them back in stock again at some point this summer, if so i shall get another.

I know this style of hat is not to everyone's taste, but i love mine, it's comfortable and cooling to wear, plus i can use it to collect water or wild foods if i needed to or use it to waft the fire back to life.

Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale

Often the scourge of gardeners, but equally great fun for kids (big and small) who love to gently blow the seed head of the Dandelion and release the hundreds of tiny seeds on their parachutes into the summer breeze, but, how many people have actually taken the time to sit down and study the seed head of a Dandelion?, it's an incredible piece of natural engineering, perfect in it's precision and delicate beyond words, so grab yourself a jewelers loupe or a small magnifying glass and take some time to actually study this ubiquitous weed in some detail, not forgetting of course, that it tastes pretty damned good as well, the leaves, flowers and root can be eaten raw or cooked and for a plant it's protein content ranks as one of the highest, the root of a two year old plant can be harvested and dried out to make a coffee (caffeine free by the way) substitute and the flowers can be made into a refreshing tea, not too mention it's wealth of medicinal properties, including the treatment of warts (it works as i tried it on a wart i had and now it's gone), it's also a laxative, a diuretic ans a depurative amongst other things, the plant can also be used to help ripening of fruits if placed next to immature fruits and it's a source of latex and dyes, so to the untrained eye it's a  common weed, to the person who takes the time to study it, it's a full on miracle of evolution.

Always seek advice from a professional before ingesting or using any wild plant medicinally.

Monday, 25 April 2011

White Dead Nettle - Lamium album

Another useful plant from the Labiatae family, a stunning spring time plant with some useful characteristics, firstly it's edible raw or cooked as a pot herb, the leaves are also a useful source of Vitamin A and a tea can be made form it's dried flowers, in addition it has numerous medicinal uses such as being an antispasmodic, astringent, hypnotic, sedative, styptic and a Vulnerary, plus a multitude of other uses, it shouldn't be taken by people with high blood pressure though as it also acts as an Vasoconstrictor.

As always, get proper training and advice from a local expert before you start to play with wild plants.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Speckled Wood

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) Leaves

Whilst out earlier today i happened to look up and saw the sun shining through the young Beech leaves giving an awe inspiring display of spring colour and showing some incredible detail and structure to the leaves.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Sunday Spoon

Spent some time this morning out in the garden enjoying the sunshine whittling some wood spirits for the garden and making a couple of spoons, the one pictured is a small tea spoon sized affair, carved from Birch, the two pence piece is shown for scale.

It now has pride of place in the kitchen as a sugar spoon.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Bannock With Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Well, today we eventually got round to trying the Bannock with Garlic Mustard in it, result of the experiment - Delicious with a capital D, we used the same basic recipe for the bannock as we did here, and then added finely chopped Garlic Mustard (Jack By The Hedge) to the mix, before cooking it off in a frying pan, i over did the salt a little, but being sea salt it wasn't as offensive as an over doing regular table salt.

Friday, 22 April 2011

New Shooting Permission

I was talking today to the owner of the horse field at the bottom of the garden, we have known him for a long time and he's a really nice chap, anyway he was bemoaning the amount of damage the local Rabbit population is doing to his land and his fear that one of the horses will get a leg trapped or at worst broken in a rabbit hole, so as an off the cuff remark, i just said, i can pop over the wall and shoot  them for you if you like?, to which he agreed, there and then, so in short order rules and regs were discussed and i have a new shooting permission, literally at the bottom of the garden, all i have to do is jump the wall and I'm there, i also got a chance to meet with some of the horses owners, just so they were aware i had permission to be there and shoot, should they see some chap dressed in DPM walking over the field and paddocks, not a bad day all in, and with that, I'm off for a shoot.

Peacock Butterfly

Whilst out and about his afternoon we were treated to an abundance of Butterfly's, not only the Peacock, but Yellow Brimstones, Tortoiseshells, Orange Tips, Small Blues and Comma's, all like us, enjoying the sunshine, absolutely amazing to watch and the colours so vibrant in the sunshine.

That's a little bit whiffy

We had a short trip out this afternoon to some open access land a few miles from home, the land itself is on a very steep hill and as such cant really be farmed other than for grazing, we were actually up there looking for Adders or which we didn't find a single example, however as well as a grass land environment there is also a fair bit of scrub, youngest went off for a wander round and came saying he could "smell maggots", then both the boys went off and came back with the ubiquitous "it's rank" statement, so i went and had a look as well, what did we find?, look at the picture, we found a dead bullock in the trees, and man alive did it pong, looking at it, it's been dead for a while as the skin is hanging off it's hind legs and it's well past the bloating stage, I've tried phoning the farmer to let him know, but cant get an answer at the moment, can only assume he is out with the sheep, I'll try again tomorrow, i'll also try to get hold of the stockman.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Buzzards

Was out in the garden this morning watching the Buzzards soar overhead, majestic birds and now really quite a common sight where i live, it wasn't that many years ago, that seeing a Buzzard was as awe inspiring as seeing a Red Kite around here today, they really were that rare, it's really nice to see the Buzzards prosper, hopefully the Red Kites will be as successful?.

At one point today there were four Buzzards soaring overhead the garden, although the most we have seen at one time soaring together was twelve, we did also see another glorious bird of prey today in the form of a Peregrine, these nest not that far away from us as the crow flies, or should that be as the Falcon flies?,  the one we saw today was being mocked by two Sparrow Hawks, so in one short period of time, Four Buzzards, Two Sparrow Hawks & a Peregrine sharing the same piece of sky at the same time - cant be bad.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Evening Bimble

Took a short bimble up the lane earlier, was really pleasant, just ambling along, watching the lambs in the field, listening to the Chaffinch's & Great Tits in the trees, foraging a few wild edibles, such as Alexanders, Garlic Mustard, Cleavers, Beech Leaves and just generally chilling out in the warm evening light and unseasonal warm temperature, what surprised me more than anything was, i was the only person up there, bar one dog walker - where is everybody?

Axe Block - Tool Rack

I decided today to modify the axe block i use for shows and exhibitions (see here for original post on making the block), when I've been using this block it's been a bit of a pain to keep putting stuff away in a bag or having it lay on a table (and occasionally fall off) before grabbing the next tool for whatever job it is I'm doing, so today, i grabbed another piece of Elm, shaved it down on the top & bottom with the draw knife and augured out seven stepped holes, 3/4 inch at the tops then going down to 1/2 inch for the bottom of the hole, this allows me to place chisels, gouges and even my Sloyd knife in the rack and not have them wobble around, i also drilled one narrower hole to accept my carpenters pencil.

The rack has two further holes drilled at an angle on the underside at one end to accept the two legs, the rack itself is attached to the block by a single non fixed wooden peg, this allows the rack to rotate  along it's axis, thereby allowing the rack to sit in a stable position on the ground, as I'm right handed i have the rack on the right hand side of my mobile axe block, and despite what you might think, it doesn't get in the way at all when undertaking axe work, the rear of the rack has three pegs set at a slight upward angle so i can hang my beadle, folding saw and one other tool out of harms way.  As i stated in the original post when i first made this block, it's designed to be mobile so i can take it shows and demo events and is only ever going to be used as a block for axe carving and knife work, it's never going to be nor was it designed for splitting large rounds of wood, i have a couple of other big Elm and Chestnut blocks for that and if i need to take split wood to a show or event for carving, then I'll get all of that done at home before i go on a more suitable block.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Garlic Bannock

I'm told that this bannock is one of the best I've ever made, either my normal bannocks are junk or this really is a good one, certainly i liked it.

The recipe, i have to make clear that a one cup measure relates to a UK Coffee mug sized cup.

3 cups self raising flour
1 cup milk powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Garlic granules or fresh garlic to taste, 

I suppose i used three teaspoons  of garlic granules in the above mix, it all depends on your taste, some people like a lot of garlic others just a hint, trial and error here I'm afraid until you find what is right for you.

Mix it all up into a stiff dough and place it into a frying pan with a small amount of olive oil in the pan, cook until golden, turn and repeat the process, it's done when it sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingers, just like cooking bread, as with all bannocks they should never be cut, so tear off a piece from the bannock and enjoy, if i had thought about it i would have decreased the amount of garlic granules and added some finely chopped Garlic Mustard instead, hey makes for a grand excuse to make another one later in the week.

Bluebells - Hyacinthoides nonscripta

Just spent a couple of quality days away up the woods with the two boys, we got the timing of the trip absolutely spot on as the bluebells are amazing, as they always are of course, but seen in the late evening sunshine with the fresh green foliage of the Hazel & Oak gives the whole scene, well a little bit more magic than normal.

Friday, 15 April 2011

So What's For Lunch Today Then?

Well for lunch today i had nice wholemeal bread, honey and fresh Beech leaves, collected there and then in the woods and just put into the sarnie, bloody delicious they are too, catch them while you can though, because they are only good for a couple weeks before they become far too tough to be worthwhile bothering with.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Bushcraft Salad

Out in the woods and feel peckish, why not try a Bushcraft salad,? the ingredients for ours were simple

Hawthorn leaves made up the bulk
Cleaver leaves (not as spiny as the stems)
Young Primrose leaves
Primrose flowers for a tasty garnish

Add a little salt & pepper from those tiny sachets you get at fast food outlets and a drop of Olive Oil and you have a very tasty and very healthy lunch, of course the things we used are what we found locally and without really trying hard, there were many more edibles in the woods we could have added.

Please make sure you know 101% what it is you are thinking of eating, IF IN DOUBT LEAVE IT OUT, GET IT WRONG AND YOU WONT GET A SECOND CHANCE.

    Bushcraft Grill From Recycled Materials

    A little while ago i was speaking to a friend of mine about getting a grill made up for use up the woods, wanting to keep it within "the spirit" he decided to make it from recycled materials.

    The frame is made from an old office chair and the bars are old rusty rebar from a skip, all welded up to make a great little grill, the legs were a little long, but a few minutes with a hacksaw up the woods soon cured that, the legs are removable as well as they slot into the square section on the sides, but by placing the legs in "the wrong way round" we can drop the grill down so it is about four inches off the deck, perfect for cooking over the coals, sure it's not the prettiest grill out there, but it does the job perfectly and that is all that matters as far as I'm concerned.

    Duluth Folding Buck Saw

    Ive been using this folding  24" buck saw/ bow saw for a good while now, so i figured it was about time i put something down in writing about it.

    The saw itself is of typical Duluth quality and indeed pricing, but is it worth it, well quite simply yes it is, it's sturdy and well built, well, as well built as three pieces of aluminium section can be, it folds down nicely and when folded totally encompasses the blade within the frame of the saw, thereby eliminating the danger of cutting oneself or your gear while the saw is stowed

    Wednesday, 13 April 2011

    Bird Scarer

    Made this bird scarer earlier today, it's based on a simple design of scarer from the 1800's if not much earlier in date, it's a very simple but effective design, basically a long piece of hazel in this case in the centre, with two smaller "paddles" attached one each side, and secured together at one end by a loose loop of twine, although traditionally it was secured with a leather thong. This crude device certainly does make a racket when used and was used this evening to great effect by myself to scare some pigeons out of the garden, these devices and indeed a plethora of others were traditionally used by children who were not obliged to go to school until the passing of the 1880 education act.

    I know a lot of Forest Schools make these but describe them as rattles rather than bird scarers, i wonder if the kids making them or indeed some of the instructors are aware of the historical aspect of what they are actually making?.

    Tuesday, 12 April 2011

    Red Dead Nettle - Lamium purpureum


    A plant that is well worth knowing about is our friend the Red Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum), not only does it look good in the wayside with it's rich colour, but it also has some uses, the young leaves are edible for a start, either raw or cooked, but it has to be the medicinal uses that we need to understand, don't eat too many as it's a purgative and a diuretic and well,  it will have you crapping  and peeing for England like you would not believe, the most interesting use in my view though is it's use as a styptic and an astringent, ie it can be used to help stem the flow of blood in small cuts and bruises by placing bruised leaves on the wound, although it must be said that applying a wild plant to an open wound is probably not the best idea, but in a pinch it's nice to know what can be used to help out should you need to.

    Always seek advice from a professional before using any plant medicinally.

    What's for dinner?

    What's for dinner?, a phrase that's uttered the length and breadth of Britain, well tonight we have (from left to right) Alexanders, Cleavers, Hawthorn leaves & Garlic Mustard (Jack by the hedge)

     

    The Alexander stems were cut up into lengths of approx 2-4 inches in length and boiled in lightly salted water for about 10 mins, the Cleavers get a quick blanch rather than taken to the boil.


    and then served with a knob of real butter, some black pepper and sea salt with a Garlic Mustard flower for garnish

     

    The Alexander leaves, Hawthorn leaves and Garlic Mustard leaves were washed and served as a side salad with a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil, no pics I'm afraid it got demolished before i got a chance to take a pic.

    Great tasty dinner along side a couple of Turkey steaks - total cost = pennies.

    Monday, 11 April 2011

    Tracking Stick

    Short video i made a little while ago about the tracking stick i made and use to this day on a fairly regular basis for tracking badgers, deer and foxes on and around the hills and woods near to where i live.



    Sycamore Tree's & Early Season Colour

    You, know i love this time of year, all the blossoms and new growth, one of the best in my part of the world has to be the new growth on the Sycamore trees.

    The leaves have a beautiful pinky red colour to them and look sublime in the spring sunshine, it wont take long for them to green up though, then later in the year i get to enjoy then all over again in their autumnal glory and the deep reds and and browns that only an Sycamore or other member of the Acer family Acer pseudoplatanus) can provide, two seasonbal displays on one tree - cant be bad.

    Blackthorn Blossom

    Anyone else noticed the absolute profusion of Blackthorn blossom this year?, i took this photo up the lane earlier, all of the Blackthorns are absolutely covered, hopefully we wont get a late frost and all these blossoms will turn into fruit (Sloes) that i can harvest more than my fair share of later in the year.

    Tight Fit

    Not bushy at all, just a tractor going up the lane earlier today, pretty tight fit in places as well,,lots of room where i took a photo though, thank god for wide verges and a bare patch of ground in amongst the nettles for me to stand on whilst he passed though, not that nettle stings worry me in the slightest these days, I've been stung so many times i think I'm almost immune to them now.

    Sunday, 10 April 2011

    New Sheath

    Finished this today, a straight sheath to suit an SWC Woodlore, made from 3mm veg tan, dyed in dark brown and double stitched throughout with artificial sinew, I'm really starting to warm to the dark brown, up until now all my personal sheaths have been in British Tan, but the darker brown does take on a great sheen and depth of colour when it's polished up nice, i might even have to make another me thinks.

    Saturday, 9 April 2011

    Friction Fire

    I spent some time today instructing on the art of Friction Fire, we tried the hand drill and the bow drill, unfortunately i was the only one to actually get an ember  and was being called all the names under the sun as apparently i made it look too easy, but everyone who was being taught got smoke from Sycamore on Sycamore sets and at least one pupil was incredibly near getting their first ember on the bow drill, one of those times when you stop drilling, and smoke rises from the dust pile and then - nothing, we've all been there and done that, but the skill is there, you can see it in the determination of the pupil, pictured left is some of the carnage from the session, the white bag at top left has all my hand drill equipment in it, mostly Elder drills and Willow or Sycamore hearths, although i do have some Clematis boards and a couple of sets of Yucca in there as well.



    Friday, 8 April 2011

    Garlic Mustard - Alliaria petiolata

    Yum Yum, that's all you can say about Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), it's lovely and certainly one of my favourite trail side nibbles, although as the name suggests, don't eat too much if you are going to be in close proximity to people, the young leaves are edible raw or cooked and have as the name suggests a slight to mild garlicky mustard flavour, it's also thought that the ingestion of the leaves of this plant aid and strengthen the digestive system, it has various medicinal uses including use as a antiseptic, vermifuge, antiasthmatic, deostruent plus a few other medicinal  uses, you can also use the plant to obtain a yellow dye, most importantly, just enjoy it for it's flavour, as always, please make sure you are 101%  certain in your plant ID before ingesting ANY wild plant, IF IN DOUBT LEAVE IT OUT is a really good adage to work to.

    Tongs

    Saw this idea on Treewrights blog and thought id give it a go, made mine from Hazel as did Treewright,  dead easy to make and useful to boot, mine are bit industrial at the moment, but only need thinning / tapering down towards the tip so they are not as chunky, i reckon i could have sold a shed load of these today to the neighbours, so they could use them as nose clamps, the farmer out back was muck spreading and it was err, a little ripe to say the least at times.

    Bluebell Invaders

    Went for a quick walk up the lane this evening,  and was surprised to see these Bluebells growing up there,  I can only think that someone has planted them, unfortunately these are not our native Bluebells but are a Spanish invader, it's easy to ID the the difference, the English ones have all the flowers on one side of the stem and the stem will tend to curve over, the English ones are also a deeper blue, whereas the invading non native Spanish ones have the flowers all around a stout upright stem and tend to be a much paler blue.

    The Spanish bluebell is apparently pushing out our native species and is hybridising, but most of the bluebells you buy in shop's are hybrids anyway, so what can you do to stop the invader?, well not a lot I'm afraid, you can dead head the bluebell, you can dig up the bulbs, if you have permission from the landowner to do this, but unless you get all of the bulbs and bits of bulbs you are  basically wasting your time as they will continue to come back year after year unless you get every last single piece of bulb, even then disturbing the soil can bring formerly dormant seeds to the surface and start off a whole new generation of them, some people go to great lengths to kill off the invaders with powerful weedkillers, but as these are new to this area and i don't have permission to dig the bulbs up nor do i want to be attacking wild plants with stuff like Roundup, all i can do is wait until they have finished flowering, then dead them  to slow down the progress and limit spread of the invading Bluebell.

    House Martins

    Saw my first House Martin yesterday while i was up the lakes and then a couple more this morning, is it me or are they very early this year?

    Thursday, 7 April 2011

    Blackjack

    This takes me back, my sister bought me a Blackjack, not had one of these for years, although, they used to be small rectangular sweets not bars, although you can still get the small sweets as well from what i gather, also got a bar of Fruit Salad, glad to report that Blackjacks still turn your tongue black.

    Click on the photo to go to Sweetstall and buy some, don't ask, just do it

    The Lakes

    As some people know I'm the Fishery Manager at a complex of six fishing lakes, one of which is pictured to the left, we recently finished enlarging and deepening these lakes, in fact in the picture, approx where the Goose is, used to be dry land, it was a complete and utter jungle of overgrown willow and scrub, but during a period of 5-6 years, during which we spent three periods of approx three weeks at a time with 35ton diggers and dumpers of up to 40 ton at one point, digging out all bar two of the lakes at the fishery,  we dug a brand new lake in an area that was  pure jungle and knocked three smaller lakes into one big one.

    In the times when machines were not on site we were finishing off the lake we had dug, and then getting ready for the next phase in the development by clear felling areas that were going to be dug out next,  on top of this we planted, soft & hard rush, flag iris and reeds around the entire circumference of the lake that had just been dug and refilled with water, all the planting was done by hand i hasten add, in places the plants were spaced at 8 inch intervals, it was a lot of graft for sure, but also a heck of a lot of fun, we had and still have a policy of planting only native trees & shrubs and so far we have planted in excess of 500 new trees, these being, Hazel, Lime, Cherry, Alder, Birch, Weeping Willow, Spindle & Beech, thankfully some of the Alders & Birches have self seeded and now we find saplings all over the place from these species, we have 127 different native plants on site and have recorded 69 different species of birds at the fishery.

    Birch Haul

    How's this for a pile of carving wood?, an entire Birch Tree, the upper limbs are not much cop and are now on the bonfire pile, some of the outer wood on these logs is a bit suspect as well, but in the main the wood will be ok for a few projects, being in charge at the lakes does have it's moments, by the way, although cutting is prohibited at present due to the nesting birds, it is ok to fell trees that are considered dangerous, as was the case with this Birch.

    This coming winter, i think there will be a couple of largish Willows and perhaps an Oak to come down as well, will see how they fair during the summer but they don't look particularly healthy at the moment, oh yes, looking at the picture, I'll have to relocate the nest box now as well.

    Wednesday, 6 April 2011

    Hawthorn Shrink Pots - Krympburkar

    Yes, Yes i know, more Shrink Pots, i love making these, but hey i guess you can kind of tell that?, I made these three today to go on sale at the local craft shop, the middle and right hand one are made from Hawthorn and the left hand one is from  Laurel i think, certainly smells like Laurel.

    As you will note the middle one has a lid for a change, it's not quite finished yet though, as i need to trim off some more of the sides so the locating lugs on the top stand proud of the Ash lid and will then accept a wooden dowel that will secure the lid in place by passing through the two lugs with he lid underneath, i also need to score some seasoned Ash to make a lid that actually fits properly as well, the board i used was a little narrow, the small Hawthorn pot, i think i will leave as is, although i do have a lid in mind for it, but not of the style used for the larger pot.

    I have a few more pots in process and may try and get these finished tomorrow when i get back from a series of meetings at the lakes i help to run, the thing with these pots is they look really good when they are finished, especially the ones with the bark left on and  thern oiled up, people wonder at the process involved of making a pot from a branch, but with a base plate with a totally different grain orientation to what they are expecting, but they are fiendishly simple to make in all reality.

    Father & Son Bow

    This project goes back a little way, to 2009 in fact and it's one i had forgotten about until this morning and a chance conversation, it's the Father & Son bow, so what is a Father & Son Bow,? well put simply, it's a survival bow that's made from green wood.

    I made a video (below) on how to make one and it inspired a couple of people to have a go themselves, we wondered at the time if the power would increase by using seasoned wood and going on the conversation i had earlier today, it does, i still have my F&S bow here on top of the wardrobe, so when i get a few minutes one evening, i think i shall disappear to the end field and shoot a few arrows off, well when the sheep have moved on that is.


    Have a go at making one yourself, i think you will be surprised at just how powerful this type of bow can be.

    Monday, 4 April 2011

    Alexanders - Smyrnium olusatrum

    While on my trip out this morning to collect materials, i also stopped to collect some Alexanders, these are a tasty treat, very much like Celery, but with a bit of bite, you can eat these raw, but they have quite a strong flavour that some people don't like, myself included, they are much better cooked though as this removes much of the harshness you can experience with Alexanders, just boil up the stems with a little bit of salt and enjoy like asparagus.

    Alexanders were originally introduced to the UK by the Romans and typically only grow in coastal areas and up to about three miles inland, all parts of the plant are edible the stems as mentioned above can be cooked up and are very much like asparagus, the leaves are rich in Vitamin C and are good in salads, the root is mildly diuretic and tastes of parsnip, the juice by the way is a good cleaning agent for cuts, in the UK you can collect leaves and stems for personal use, if you want to collect the root however, you will need the landowners permission.

    As with all wild plants, please make sure you identify the plant 100%, if you are unsure please get some proper training from someone who knows what they are talking about.