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Summer 2009



You left us in February...


... with a rather shocking amount of snow- well for a townie like me anyway. My mate Col known by my kids as the mad man of the woods camped out in the very worst for two days.


I turned up one Sunday morning half expecting to find him frozen to death but he was fine and cooked me an excellent breakfast. Once the sun came out it was glorious and felling some rotten Ash to prepare for some Apple trees later in the year was the perfect way of keeping warm.


Rob turned up...


... just in time to drop some of the trickier ones for us. One Ash had half fallen by itself but was hung up in a small Oak tree so Rob impressed up by felling both at once as demonstrated below:


I stood well back in case they went the wrong way and admired his impending bald patch.

Despite the snow...


... there was steady stream of customers, to the extent that thick Oak stocks quickly ran down again. It doesn't really help that when you manage to source some Oak and get it to Mark at the sawmill, he has the habit of using it for his own orders!


Our man in the south Chris West who has made a steady contribution to the firm over the years with web design, buying a bit of wood and finding some excellent timber including the only nice bit of Elm I've had, came up with some dry Oak.


It was in the shed...


... of a chap who died a couple of years ago and to be honest was dry to the point to worm eating it. I'm not too keen buying timber this way as it feels a bit like grave robbing. However, if I didn't then it would eventually crumble to dust.


With that stacked...


... it was time to sort out the mess of fallen small Ash and Oak trees. That bit of the wood is on quite a slope and I wasn't looking forward to lugging it uphill as even with the tractor it is a struggle. So I was delighted when Gordon said he could fit in a cheap day for me and would bring a new toy that was just the job.


True to his word...


... Gordy rolls up with a very shiney red bit of kit on the back of his Marshall tractor that he had acquired at the same time as his new 360 JCB. It's a forwarding winch driven off his PTO and has more pulling power than Russell Brand, several James Bonds and of course me.


It certainly made light work of dragging our trees to a tidy pile at the top of the hill and the joy of it was how easy it was to use. Gordon was pretty chuffed and it all helped make one of the great spring wood days when it's warm but the nettles and later the flies aren't around.


Gordon shows off his big red thing whilst Rob not to be outdone casually pushes over another Ash.

A Sweet Chestnut bonaza...


... had been promised for a couple of months and came to pass around this time. It came from a bit further afield than our usual stocks so even if Gordy hadn't selfishly sold my timber moving trailer something bigger and quicker was in order.


I don't think timber moving wise you get much bigger than Nick's 24 tonner. You certainly won't load a lorry quicker, he positively threw the logs on like matchsticks three at a time as the picture below illustrates.


This is the first Sweet Chestnut ...


...I've had the pleasure of stocking and there's quite a bit. It's known as brown Ash as the grain is similar but it looks very Oak like in colour and bark. A bit lighter weight wise but just as strong I'm told.


I see Yandles price it at £40 a cubic foot so I'll be a lot cheaper than that and of course there's no VAT to pay.


There's about twice the amount pictured available to rent/buy at competitive prices!

Proving he's not quite past it ...


... Brian sold about three hundred quid's worth of Oak to a chap. A couple of days later he handed the cheque to me and I duly paid it in to the Abbey, my business bank. I noticed a couple of days after that that the cheque was 'un' credited from my account. So I rang Abbey for the first of what turned out to be several times - Press 1 for go round in circle , Press 3 for unhelpful person in another country, get cut off and then Press 1 again etc etc.


I was told over the phone ...


... that the cheque had the wrong year - 08 on it and they couldn't honour it, innit as it was more than 6 months old. So I rang Brian and asked for the customers name and phone number thinking it was bound to be an oversight and he could send a new one. I then discover that Brian not only hasn't clue what his name was but had written his number on an old envelope and had chucked it. Of course, not being his 300 quid he wasn't too distressed by his faux pas and happily you can't strangle people down a phone line.


Finding and contacting ...


... the owner of the cheque proved a headache. I had the name in my paying in book but Abbey seemed very reluctant to return the cheque. Two weeks went by and eventually I had to go and picket the branch I had paid it in to for some time before being reluctantly given a photo copy. I was then told that as the cheque hadn't been actioned they wouldn't contact him.


I decided to write to the Alliance & Leicester, the customer's bank, begging them to forward a letter. I explained the cock up and that I had taken the battery out of Brian's pacemaker until such time as contact was made with their client.


Happily they did the decent thing...


... though they did forward both the covering letter and the one intended for the ellusive Mr P which revealed what a disorganised tinpot firm Goulden Hardwoods is. Mind you most people realise this and an amused Colin, who was blissfully unaware of the drama phoned me a few days later and the matter was resolved - I've kept the pacemaker battery though, for revenge!


The Landy replacement slipped satisfactorily into service- much handier slinging wood in the back.

April arrived closely followed by...


... Easter. Sales were going great guns, especially Smoking Wood. Getting Mark to cut up the Sweet Chestnut is frankly hard work, next week is a regular response from the over worked, under motivated and slightly knackered sawyer. He's still a top bloke but even with Brian permanently at the sawmill now kicking him up the place to get him started it's slow work. Writing this update in the middle of the summer he's chipped away at about half of it. What I have taken back to the wood and stacked looks great and has been admired by visitors and ear marked for 2010 projects.


My Alaskan mill...


... with a 28" bar proved insufficient allowing a cut of only 16" which isn't enough so it was back to the chainsaw toyshop for 36" bar and milling chain. Hopefully more stories about how useful this is to come but for now it's all pay out and no reward... bit like being married really - just kidding my sweetness.


Getting more Walnut...


... over the years has usually involved Brian either finding it or knowing someone who was felling it. This time the tree's owner came to him, well Andover Down sawmill. Give this bird a ring he tells me she's got a Walnut. Put it like that who can resist, so I did.


It was a bit of a trek away - 30+ miles somewhere I hadn't heard of so I wasn't bursting with enthusiasm. Rosie, the owner was however and persuaded me it was beautiful and very desirable. On the off chance she was too, I duly trundled over and had a squint.


It was ok, not a great amount of dark wood but I was interested.


I discovered that it wasn't a question of just buying it but I was being interviewed amongst others for the opportunity to put a bid in for it.


What are you going to use it for? I wasn't sure what the correct answer was but suspected " Sell it for an obscene amount of money " possibly wasn't it. I didn't like to mention gun butts in case she was anti animal bashing so I mumbled something about making things wiv it.


About the same time...


... a regular customer who has become a mate, Paul put me on to another near Twickenham and where I live so I trotted over to see it.


Unfortunately, although the owner was as enthusiastic about it on the phone as Rosie it turned out to be a smalll common Walnut and not worth the hassle. Still, if you don't look you never know so I am always happy to check out potentially desirable trees.


A few weeks went by before the thumbs up came for the good Walnut. However at the time of writing talking terms and logistics has taken several more weeks so you'll have to wait until the autumn edition to see if it found it's way over to me.


Meanwhile as happens every year mother nature turns the wood into a bit of heaven:

The Bluebells were just the job...


... to keep spirits up in May as the recession took it's toll on Rob's company Arborworks. I lost the gig with Bodeans the London restaurant I have been supplying with Oak since the first one opened in 2002 followed by 4 more and a big increase in my turnover. Basically they wanted me to half my price, I thought about it and decided I wouldn't!


But fret not, the company's enormous cash reserves (about £500) will see us through and we'll still be trading until my back goes and I lose enthusiasm for it.


When their 5 doors shut...


... another opened this time in the guise of an entrepreneur called Toby. He bought literally a ship load of very desirable water cooled long smoking big Barbies from the States and I am looking to send my Oak out with a few hundred of his impressive looking units.


I must admit I have never been that bothered about BBQ food. I think it's the thought of standing for hours cooking your fingers and getting smoke in your eyes whilst turning chicken drumsticks black on the inside and salmonella pink in the middle.


I became a convert when he generously gave me one of the best models pictured below and I found how easy and enjoyable it was to slow cook a bit of fish on the patio whilst I sipped beer.


This is the Pro Q Frontier cost is around £160 but I can add a bit of wood and get a bit of discount.


So as the summer progressed...


... it was business as usual for the time of year - quiet ! Actually I like it, it gives me a chance to catch up on bits that don't get done when the phone keeps ringing.


The main aim is to acquire a bit more stock. I have red western Cedar - good for cooking off and a bit of Cedar of Lebanon coming which is just the ticket for drawer backs with it's pungent aroma.


The Sweet Chestnut is drying nicely already down below 20% and falling.


In the next episode, I kid you not will be a picture of the most metal you have ever seen in a living tree.


If you can't wait until then to find out what else we have been up to or perhaps you have an urge to give cash to charity- me, come on over for a look at what's hot.








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