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Early Part of 2014



I expect you'll remember ...


... it could be described as rather wet for the early part of the year. We avoided getting soaked through too often by hiding from the worst but there was no escape from the mud & flooded valley. The road from Upton to Vernham Dean was under 6 inches of water for well over a month.


Despite this life went on ...


... and I've managed to find you some interesting stuff. Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes for my mate Mark at Andover Down Sawmill who is now back working as much as possible - still smiling and able to stick two fingers and a bit extra up at what fate threw at him!


The top task was getting all the Oak from Helmdon Sawmill and we cracked on with that. As the cutting and hauling was done by proper sawyers and drivers apart from the cost it was a doddle for me.


The tricky bit is getting it from the farm where it was off loaded into the woods.


Graham the farmer ...


... for the land surrounding the woods is the man - ably assisted by his Cat telehandler. The telescopic reach is essential for tight loading and the extra power over my old Tractor gets a big bundle up and over the gate and into the woods.


Even for an experienced operator like Graham it's arse cheeks clamped time!

My wife said...


... that if anything ever happened to her I should find someone else.


Now I find out that her being stuck in traffic for hours doesn't count as something happening to her!

Helmdon Sawmill is ...


... very impressive. Steve the boss has invested heavily in state of the art machinery - huge debarker and three massive saws with an array of forklifts and loaders that would wet any anorak's appetite and make poor Mark at Andover Down Sawmill green with envy - so we won't tell him!


I've spent well over a hundred hours getting wood cut by Mark and it involves lots of grunt getting the log on, turned and the planks off loaded. Here, whatever can be automated is, with minimum handling.


Steve sits in a heated control room ...


... operating all the gear with a left and right hand joystick like big plant machinery. I appreciate he makes it look easy but compared to the pain Mark goes through each day even without cutting his fingers off, it is!


Apart from anything else, Steve has two lads lifting the boards onto a stack and a third lifting the stack with the forklift, banding it and popping it outside. 300 cubic foot in 4 logs took about 3 hours with a tea break - Steve didn't offer me any - he never does I hear!


I can see why ...


... this Sawmill is the choice for all the big boys. Steve has a calm friendly manner which is the front for a tough shrewd cookie. The whole site is organised and efficient - which is the exact opposite of my humble shacks!



Difficult getting a good shot but the just cut board behind the two lads will be mechanically moved to the blue metal table for them to pop on the stack

Farting in a lift is wrong ...


... on so many levels! Alternatively if you like your humour more high brow:


I'm calling from the anagram society, you'll have to rearrange your interview."


"No problem, it's 'view true irony'."


"OK, you're in!"

The latest Walnut Tree ...


... was a good example of partnership working. It came to me through Geoff Tyler the boss of the local wood equivalent of Harrods compared to my discount shop. They have pretty much everything but are a lot exy-er than me.


The owner of the tree was obviously ringing around the bigger wood firms before finding out that there are very few people who will come and get a single tree. I agreed a price for the main trunk and called in my mate Andy of Prime Timber to share it as New Forest Rob was as usual sunning himself in Barbados.


I could have been greedy ...


... and kept it all for myself, but getting Andy on board something I couldn't do last year as he was too busy, has three benefits.


Firstly, I get his oppo Dave who is strong as an Ox - he looks like one too & is a whiz at winching and strapping. Secondly, I get a his expert opinion on whether the Walnut is any good and thirdly if the colour and figure floats his boat a bit of wheeler dealing with his other stock.



Always impressive these geezers up a tree ... get on with it so we can have the trunk!


The owner of the tree Bryon ...


... wanted it removed on the day it was felled. This is ok in theory but inevitably meant several hours waiting around. This was made easier as Chris West of West Woodturney lived nearby and his wife, the lovely Kath provided lunch.


The second stem was ok ish and we discussed with the tree surgeon the length we wanted. When Bryon got wind of this he pulled me to one side and said he had someone who was desperate for it and had offered £100.


Take the money ! ...


... I exclaimed you are obviously a super salesman I wouldn't pay that for it. He looked a bit uncomfortable before withdrawing for a while.


Later, he said he'd much rather sell it to me and what would I pay for it? I reiterated that his bit of business with the other mystery buyer was very much in his favour and he should take it.


The deal must have fallen through as it got ringed up ... bit of a waste but there you go.

Once the tree was on ...


... the ground our work was about begin. Naturally there was no handy tele handler to load it & the sunny morning had been replaced by grey about to rain skies - hence the quality of the next picture.


The trunk was a dead weight of nearly 1 ton and wouldn't roll as it wasn't round as trees funnily enough often aren't. So followed 45 minutes of winching, resetting and sweat.


Bryon was busy organising the tree surgeons so was unable to help. He did find time to warn me not to drive off the edge of his rather lovely and so he informed me expensive gravel drive.



Stepping down to reset the winch is Dave ' The Ox ' Andy's left arm and hoodie play a holding role!

Andy and Dave ...


... came to the woods the week after to help plank the Walnut. It is well over a year and a half since they had been free of building jobs and had any time and it was great having them over.


The final 300 cu ft of Oak was being delivered that morning and whilst I did the strutting around pointing bit they got the Tractor going & the Saw settings reset correctly (it had been cutting like a bitch).


Once the Saw was sorted it soon chewed through the log and before they headed off all my Oak was neatly stacked and covered - come back soon chaps!

More Cherry which is ...


... always welcome unlike my mother in law was the next interesting timber coming to notice. Info came from my mate & near neighbour Tom the Tree who was doing several trees in Binley a couple of miles away.


Worth a look he said and he was right! Of course as all good stuff it has complications. It's been promised to Rob the Blacksmith and can't be got at until daffodils and Bluebells have been.


Rob is an aimable sort of bloke and I'm sure I can do a deal for other firewood so more of this next time all being well.


The Oak fairy appeared ...


... one night bringing the two beauties below to a handy spot near the saw. It's great when Erwin unexpectedly drops something good for me to find when I next arrive at the woods.



Can't have too much Oak but both need Alaskan milling to fit them on my saw

Sunshine and drier days ...


... made a welcome appearance. Winter has it's upsides but this is my favourite time of year with everything coming alive .. even me a bit!


The pictures as below become brighter and we get a bit more done. Pictured below Dave is cutting Yew and Zac one of our youngest customers is helping out.



Getting someone else working whilst I stand around taking pictures remains fun!


Coming up Timber wise ...


... in the next edition probably in September will be some some more Walnut shared with Andy & Rob and anything else I can get my hands on.


Lots to do through the summer including the first charcoal burn since 2012, a bit of cosmetic work on The Kiln and the firewood shed is due a refurb to make rotation more efficient.


As ever, wealthy visitors are particularly welcome & the rest of you will be tolerated.


It's usually just the 3 days a week often a Sunday when I have a bit more time to chat and show you around.