January has been the usual mix of cold damp snowy frosty weather that we have been accustomed to over the last few winters indeed this year it has run into February and as I write many areas of GB have been affected by more snow. As yet we are clear of it in the far West, which is helpful as I have 3 Japanese Plum trees bursting with flower right now, Jack frost stay away please!!!
One of the most important tasks for me this time of the year is to assess the hedgerow around my 4 acre plot for potential fuelwood pea and bean sticks and posts. Added to this my Lime and Italian Alder trees now need checking for either coppicing or pollarding as they are now established for 10 years. I have 3 lime trees and decided to pollard the one that has made the most growth. The idea here is to instigate the generation of fresh leaves which are used in salads as a lettuce replacement.
And after making sure that the young growth will be at pickable height. The material that I cut will be used for spoon making, firewood and pea sticks.
Next came the Italian Alder which had put on magnificent growth for just 10 years, here are the before and after pics.
I have taken a chance with this tree as I have been told that unlike its English cousins it will not coppice. I took a couple of low lying branches off it last year and was pleased to observe that it did indeed send out some new shoots. I suspect that though it may not coppice it may well react positively to pollarding, but I will have to wait for proof. You may note the pile of brash just behind the stump, this will be used as you may use bark chippings. I have cut it up as fine as I could and will eventually use it as a nitrogen rich mulch for the trees. The logs will either used split down as posts or for firewood (not the best but will burn quite well when fully dried/seasoned this takes at least 3 years)
Meanwhile the rest of the hedgerow has only suffered a small amount of controlled coppicing, there is plenty of more substantial work awaiting my bow saw and bill hook, however I may leave it until next winter due to the 300 year old Ash tree that came down last year that still needs a lot of hauling and clearing and making into firewood,all this at the time I am just about to have my oil fired boiler/cooking range converted over to wood fired by a great company in Derby, have a look at them here:http://www.marshallcookers.co.uk/woodfired.htm. All parts are made in the UK a small but really great UK Company.
It all goes to show that a hedgerow can be an important resource in a Forest Garden not just for food but also firewood. Here is how that Ash Tree is ending up.
This bee hive shape allows air to circulate the logs and accelerate the seasoning process, after a year of full exposure the logs can be stored under cover for a futher year. It has been said that Ash logs can be burnt green however for the most efficient burn they need to be completely seasoned so its worth excercising patience in order to get the most out of your hard work. By the way I only use hand tools to coppice and make logs, this method is truly sustainable and whats more keeps me in good shape and these tools are a pleasure to use. Bill hook,bow saw,splitting axe and for large logs a two handed cross cut saw, awesome. Go here to find out more www.coppicewoodcollege.co.uk
Lastly many thanks to those of you who have sent me messages of encouragement they are really appreciated. Visitors are always welcome especially if help is offered for the day.
To finish off this post here is a seasonal pic of the FG.