Forest Coal Pit?

Seems like an odd name for somewhere in a National Park. Especially as there has never been any coal mining in the valley.

The answer is simpler: “Forest Coal” is another name for what we now call charcoal. Before the discovery that coal could be roasted to make coke for iron-making, this area was heavily forested with Alders, which make excellent charcoal. The valley – and our farm – still has lots of charcoal platforms. These are about the size of a full-sized snooker table, and are just flat bits of land created on slopes, where the charcoal could be made, near to where the trees were felled.

We have a couple of them which still have a layer of charcoal beneath the soil, even though the practice died out in the 1700’s. See if you can spot them.

A walk to work – but different

Most mornings when it’s fine, rather than take the quick way from home to work (about 50 feet) we walk around the block.

Here’s what we saw today (a sunny Wednesday in June)

 Starting out up the old valley road track. This became disused when the ‘main’ valley road (ok, it’s a tiny lane) was built in the 1920s.

Just up the lane are some impressively furry trees:

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Mowed the ‘amphitheater’ meadow yesterday, getting ready for an event in July. Probably need to get some more tables..

VERY pleased that the new-planted trees from this year are getting started. The birch and rowan are getting away fastest, as we’d expect, but this oak is making the effort 

..as are the one’s we didn’t plant: Amazing what excluding sheep for a couple of years can do. Holly on the left, beech on the right.

We’re also at ‘peak foxglove’. These were just waiting for the bracken to be removed before springing up.

View back along the middle track, over to Sugarloaf

Also mowed a space to put a table back under the ash tree. 

…then off to work. Not a bad way to start the day.

Like work, but different.

Making trees into wood

At LWBD, weekends usually involve doing stuff on the farm.

Sunday’s job was to complete a track through the Christmas Tree forest, to get better access:

 Ready to work.
At this point, there was a HUGE thunderstorm, and suddenly being in an all-metal digger didn’t seem like such a great plan.

Have coffee and think.
New plan needed.

How about processing some of the blown-down timber? And make the trees into wood.

This is a lovely bit of Elm, which came down in a storm a few winters back, and has been sitting in the yard waiting for something to happen.Just small enough to get into onto the sawmill by hand. Any bigger, and I need the digger, but I’m not going out in that rain…

First cut makes a flat surface. (Not always the deepest)

Once there are two flats, the rest is simple: just keep slicing.

…and slicing…

Done!

Some excellent slabs, ready to be dried a bit more. For the nerdy, these were about 14% moisture on the surface, but nearer 22% on the fresh cuts, and that would warp terribly if I started to make anything from it. So it’s into the office plant room, which is a dry 25-30 degrees, for a few weeks, to get it down to <10 %, which should make it stable for a life indoors.

If you feel like making some trees into wood, then pop over and help out.

And you can take home what you mill.