Sunday 20 January 2013

Estimating the Ages of Our Oaks...and Making a Fine Oak Table out of Scrap Wood

Snow covering the local fields
The largest, sturdiest trees on our smallholding are the oaks.  In this snowy weather, they stand like white-cloaked guardians around the edge of the land, looking solid and permanent - and spreading out long branches that are loved by visiting birds and squirrels.  I've decided to discover the ages of the oaks standing closest to our new barn, and to do this, I've used the simple method of measuring their girths (following the Woodland Trust's guide).  The age of the tree is estimated by measuring the metres/centimetres of the girth (from about 1.5 metres from the ground).  I selected the two oaks nearest to the barn (I couldn't reach a third because of some holly at the trunk) and I estimated, using this method, that one is about 100 years old and the other is about 80 years old.  I wish I knew, now, the history of their growth.

We'll never cut these oaks down, but we do use and craft oak on the smallholding.  As well as smaller items like a bread board and a case for a clock, we've crafted an oak table out of off-cuts and scraps of oak accumulated over the years.  This has now been placed as the central feature in the barn's kitchen area.

Moving in the oak table made from off-cuts and waste timber
After designing how the table should look, we took the oak-timber to the carpenters in the village.  We know them well - so as a favour to us they put the timber through their saw and planing machines.  The timber was also shaped with a jigsaw and router, before it was assembled using clamps, glue and dowels.  The table legs were originally four (rescued) old oak fence posts, which were turned by a local wood turning company.

The table legs made from old fence posts
When the table was finished and placed in the barn, we sourced some cheap chairs on eBay.  As these were being sold about three miles away, they became a local purchase.  All in all, it's been satisfying to create the table (and acquire the chairs) for so little money - and using local wood and craftsmanship. The table and the chairs are now an important addition to the barn.

I hope the barn will stand, with the oaks, for many, many years to come.  The idea behind the barn has always been to merge it with the natural world; blending wood with wood.  I'm pleased we've achieved this; so many local, modern barns have been constructed quickly and are huge, ugly, metal buildings. Our aim has always been that our barn should have an organic feel, so that it becomes truly rooted in its local landscape.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Winter Colour

In these short, dark days of winter I've been searching for some colour in the landscape....and I've found some wonderful, striking flowers in bloom at this time of year.  I've included, here, a selection of the flowering shrubs that were a welcome sight on a dull, bleak January day.


Winter Jasmine



I'm now looking forward to the late winter/early spring flowers, including hellebores and primroses. And I'm especially looking forward to seeing the bees out flying on a mild day and settling on the snowdrops and crocuses, which are flowers that provide important, early-spring food for my colonies.