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Posts from the ‘Wood’ Category

On the Upside – A Few Beautiful Things Made from Wood – if a King Penguin Can Be Called That

Blurry Type www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

I can’t see that

…was a phrase which seemed to crop up rather regularly on a recent trip to London. Cue myopic hilarity from myself and friends who’s eyesight is degenerating but who haven’t quite mastered the art of remembering their glasses.  Still hoping, perhaps, for the twenty twenty vision of yesteryear and incredulous that this thing is actually happening.

So, wine lists and menus in cafes and restaurants, exhibition texts and departure boards at train stations became something of a mystery. I even got lost with a friend in Walthamstow in search of the refurbished William Morris Museum as I could neither read the A to Z or grapple with my friends iphone as she valiantly drove us through the chilly grey wastes of east London.

I won’t do a review of this most excellent museum, as fellow blogger Hamer from the The Rowley Gallery has done one here which inspired me to make the visit.

After the bad news about Herald, I thought I’d balance it out with something more uplifting.  One of the great things that has happened since I have more time to think, is that I also have more time to look. Slowing down really makes you see stuff in detail, whereas visual appreciations before were more momentary, passing by at a great rate in an unmemorable blur.

In this post I just want to share with you a few beautiful things which have been made with craft, the kind of things that William Morris and his gang would have approved of very much.

have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful

is his most famous quote, but I quite like

the true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life

First up then is this oak swill basket, which came into my possession recently as a present. There is only one person left in the UK who is making these and you can find out about him and them here, including a fascinating look into the history of these amazing baskets.

I reckon it will last a lifetime.
Oak Swill Basket www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Oak Swill Basket www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comOak Swill Basket www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Secondly, this yurt maker crafts these wonderful nomadic houses by steaming hand split local ash. I love the form and the clever way it is all put together… shame to put the canvas on really…

Yurt in Field www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Yurt Workshop www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

The yurt maker also made this wonderful curved stair rail, also steamed. Every time I grip this as I go up and down the stairs I am aware of what went into making it.

Steamed Ash Bannister www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

And the brackets for the stair rail are hand made in a small forge in Devon, where the metal worker also makes woodburning stoves to any specification.

Metalworkers Workshop www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Metalworker with Gutter Brackets www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

These aren’t the stair brackets these are the gutter brackets…but you get the picture

Thirdly, I have been meaning get our books onto shelves for quite a while as they are still languishing in piles. So the other day I started dusting them off and came across this lovely set of King Penguins.  Ok, not strictly speaking made from wood, but there’s no shame in expanding the criteria to get into the Beautiful Things post. What a joy and a pleasure to rediscover these treasures among the dust (MUST get bookcase).

I wonder if all the books of the future will become more like art. Perhaps most of our reading material will be consumed on e-readers but books may become beautiful objects to collect and savour, like paintings.

Arachnophobes, there are spiders ahead.

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Lastly I like wood because it’s really useful. Here’s some chestnut fencing.

Chestnut Mortice and Tenon www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Chestnut Mortice and Tenon

And I saw these handsome wild ponies the other day, the beauties of Bodmin Moor .

Wild Ponies on Bodmin Moor www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Wild Pony Bodmin Moor www,thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Keeping the Cows In (and Out)

One thing I’ve realised, as a stock keeper you spend an unseemly amount of time thinking about fencing.

In a former life, fences were simply a delineation between one back garden and another, or even better, an opportunity to spend someone elses money on something more beautiful, resilient and unique than the ubiquitous larchlap panels which abound in cities, towns and suburbs.

William Cobbett was as usual quick to point out his general disapproval of this trend back in the 1830, writing in his Rural Rides: ‘This is the first time since I went to France, in 1792, that I have been on this side of Shooters Hill. The land, generally speaking, from Deptford to Dartford is poor, and the surface ugly by nature, to which ugliness there has been made, just before we came to the latter place, a considerable addition by the inclosure of a common, and by the sticking up of some shabby-genteel houses, surrounded with dead fences, and things called gardens, in all manner of ridiculous forms, making, all together, the bricks, hurdlerods and earth say, as plainly as they can speak, “Here dwell vanity and poverty.”’

But I have digressed…

I suppose all this thinking about fencing could be the result of our novice status as stock people. And the scary stories of bulls escaping (not ours, other peoples) and getting to our heifers. Eeek.

Or the other possibility of our heifers escaping and getting to a neighbouring bull. This wouldn’t matter so much (apart from their tender years at the moment) if our heifers weren’t from a rare(ish) and small breed about which you can read here if you’re interested.

So, a pairing of a Limousin (huge and French and next door) with one of ours would result in a calf far too large. Cue vet visits, scanning, abortion.

Sometimes, when they are not eating, which admittedly is rare, Belita, Lucy and Mary-Rose patrol the boundary mooing plaintively. I’m not sure if this could be a sign of bulling (in season) or that they are a bit lonely and would prefer to be with the big herd next door or simply that they are saying hello.

Traditional English Hereford Heifers by Hedge www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Anyway, since the leaves have been falling it has exposed a few gaps in what seemed like an impenetrable hedge. In an attempt to ward off curiosity turning into boundary crashing, yesterday I put up the electric fence along some of the more vulnerable areas while we wait for the fencer to come with a post driver (an exciting bit of kit which I was going to link to wikipedia, but there is no entry, shock, horror). I hope they have learnt to recognise it, their eyesight isn’t great apparently.

Limousin x through the hedge www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Hmm next doors cattle very curious

Electric Fence Pigtail Post www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

A Pigtail Post for Electric Fencing

Electric Fence with Reel www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Electric Fencing Wire on Reel

Traditional Hereford Cows www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Let’s hope it does the job

Incidentally, the BBC programme Wartime Farm has been really enjoyable.  In tonights episode I discovered that electric fencing became widely used from 1939 when a portable battery pack was launched, even though it had been invented in the 19C.

We’ve also got to do the back field as there is so much grass there and we need to have it grazed soon before it goes too rank. And then there’s the corral for catching them in. I’m hoping that once all this has been achieved my thoughts might turn to other matters….

Like…I think something is LISTENING

Tree Ear www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Winter Wood

Pile of logs www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

This September morning I am woken by the Jackdaws clattering and sliding down the roof. I think they may be trying to get warm on the slates, catching the sun as the heat absorbs into the dark surface. Sometimes, when it has been really hot in the summer, enough to cook an egg in seconds, I have seen them cling on to the tiles, spread their wings and flatten their feathers to the sun. They lie there, beaks open, panting.

Jackdaws sunning themselves on the roof in summer www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Last summer the Jackdaws did strange things on the roof

I can hear other birds, the song of the morning. But the swallows have gone and it feels cold outside the duvet. The warmth of the summer, which was being held in the thick stone walls of the house is gradually seeping away into the mists. Last night the weather forecast announced the first frost further north. I get up, make a cup of tea, and get back into bed.

Yesterday we had a fire in the stove for the first time in months. I think ahead to all the wood we’re going to need. The house is only heated with wood, we have a woodfired range in the kitchen which heats the water and a few radiators, and a woodburning stove in the sitting room.

Esse stove wood firebox www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

The Esse range wood fire box

Earlier this year we re-pollarded an old Ash pollard which stands in the hedge line of the back field, as well as felling a few other trees, mainly Sycamore, Ash and Hazel, part of the ‘restoration hedge’ project.

Polarded Ash Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

The same Pollarded Ash in spring

Pollarded Ash Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

The Pollarded Ash

An ancient pollard is a truly beauteous thing and well worth searching a few out to admire.

The Woodland Trust has an excellent resource to find out where ancient trees can be visited. One year we went to Staverton Park in Suffolk, a privately owned estate, one of the country’s best preserved medieval deer-parks, with many ancient Oak pollards and huge Hollies in the wooded Thicks.

Ancient Oak Pollard www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

An ancient Oak Pollard – image captured by www.treetree.co.uk

Ash is one of the best fire woods, belting out a lot of heat and burning slowly and can even be burned a little green if necessary. Our pile has been drying out over the summer so should be fine to burn this winter. But it won’t be enough.

Ash wood pile www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

The wood from the Ash

Wood pile in barn www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Not nearly enough wood

When we go to France, where half my family live, we covetously drool over the amazingly large and neatly stacked woodpiles outside peoples’ houses, wood being a resource so abundant in France that it makes a Cornwall dweller weep. (Waiting for M to send me a picture – yes you!).

Ah well, better open a bottle of Roughtor beer from our local micro brewery and drown the wood sorrows by the fire. Come join me.

Woodburning stove www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Fire in woodburning stove www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

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