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Wood, wood and more wood

chopped wood

Our heating runs mainly on wood.  We do have an oil boiler as backup, but we prefer to use the wood burner which also acts as a central heating boiler.  However, it has taken me a couple of years to work out how much wood we need and more importantly, when to have it cut by.  Too late and it hasn’t dried out properly.  Burning wet wood is not a good idea!  So, basically, we need next winter’s wood in the sheds by the end of May!

lots of wood
lots of wood

With that in mind, I have been out gathering wood for what seems like months now.  The winter storms had taken down a few trees which was one source.  One of Nicole’s gardening client kindly offered us the remnants of a fallen ash tree.  It was by the side of the road on a blind corner which made recovery a wee bit tricky, but we handled that by being out at dawn on a Sunday morning when few people were about.

Also, a neighbour wanted his woodland coppiced, so myself and our neighbours have been sorting that out (we share the wood as payment).  That was quite a lot of work as it’s one thing bringing a tree down and another extracting the wood.  We more or less carried the wood out by hand.

wood chopped
wood chopped

I also coppiced our willow woodland.  Like Hazel, willow really benefits from coppicing and we are expecting an explosion of new growth now.  Many trees had fallen and so I took out all the fallen trees and dodgy branches.  Those too were all carried out by hand.

The final source of firewood is a lorry load of tree trunks (larch) that we and two neighbours bought together a while back.  We have a sort of community scheme for sawing that up which kind of works, and sometimes kind of doesn’t.

Anyway, the net result of all this activity is a huge pile of tree trunks awaiting processing plus what seemed like a huge pile of logs waiting to be chopped to size and stored for firewood.  Thankfully, we (neighbours) also share a log splitter and the above picture is the pile after most had been split and some stored.  I still use an axe from time to time, especially with the hardwood – I quite like chopping wood the old fashioned way.  But, it’s a lot of wood to chop!  It is one of those things, a huge pile of logs on the ground seems to melt into a tiny space in the shed, yet when burnt they disappear so quickly.

Nevertheless, I think we now have enough wood stored for next winter.  So, now on with sourcing the following winter’s wood – it’s never ending….

wood shed almost full
wood shed almost full

 

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New Sheep Handling Area

sheep handling area

Shearing time is nearly upon us.  Last year, we were slightly embarrassed at not being as ready as we thought.  In previous years, the shearer had turned up with some shears and we had found ourselves trying to root out a large piece of sheet wood for them to shear on.  We thought we were ready last year as we had built the lambing shed with power and also had ready an 8x4ft sheet of plywood.

sheep handling area
sheep handling area

But last year, the shearers turned up with a fully equipped shearing station on a trailer.  We hadn’t penned the sheep up as we were expecting a gentle progression, but with two of them shearing away, they rattled through them so fast we had trouble getting the sheep to them fast enough.

We also have a general issue when it comes to vaccinations – we have plenty of hurdles and can set up temporary pens, but we really needed something a bit more robust.  Preferably, it should be made of stock fence as that might help avoid injuries such what happened to Ymogen earlier this year (Ymogen’s story).

So, our new handling area was born.  It combines the lambing shed with three pens.  It’s important to have the shed involved as sheep must be sheared dry.  If there’s a chance of rain the night before shearing, we can now keep the sheep dry in the shed.  I’ve also installed a water trough in there fed from the water butt, so they’d have plenty to drink if confined to the shed.

sheep handling area treatment pen
sheep handling area treatment pen

The smallest of the pens is where we can treat individual sheep.  There’s enough room for two of us and a sheep to move around plus a wooden bar for hanging buckets on (keeping nuts and medication out of range of prying mouths).

The remaining area is split into two, using hurdles as gates, so it can be one large pen or two smaller pens.  Using hurdles means we can also pack them away when not in use so the area doesn’t look cluttered.

One other job was protecting the fruit trees.  Last time the sheep were in here, the temptation was just too much and a few trees had their bark nibbled.  So, each tree now has a little cage surrounding it.  Given each tree has 4 posts, that was a lot work knocking those in.  The multitude of subterranean rocks didn’t help, so some of the posts are not quite straight.  But the main thing is, the trees are safe now.

And we’re looking forward to shearing next month when we should be well prepared.