Den update: Future Plans. 26/09/2020

Slow steady march of the shingles.

Today is the twenty sixth of September. I was alone again in the woods. The birds were chirping away and the first winter cold has set in. Was a nice 4c when I stepped out of the house this morning. Today was a rather relax laid back day. I set about making and laying some more shingles for the roof. I made in total about 50 today and put them up. After that I went up to the disaster that is the ash thicket and started to clear it out and bundle the useful rods. These will be used as the uprights for the wattle and daub walling on the cabin. Due to the lack of activity in recent days I have written this blog on the future plans of the den. So below explains what is going through my head, regarding the den, at the moment. Enjoy.

What a shingle log looks like as it is being cleft apart into shingles.

The shingle making process is going well. Sadly it will soon draw to a close. I am down to 4 remaining logs. So this is a maximum of 200 shingles left. I will be waiting until February to cut down the next trees for the coppice project. So I will be working on the cordwood back wall and the chimney for the most part until about January onwards. Looking forwards the project of the coppice work will be taking place from January till the end of February. I will be harvesting the willow wicker runners and making more stools as I need a greater number of weavers. This will be harvested the following year. After that in late January I will be expanding the hazel coppice clearing. In mid-late February I will be felling two or three s.chestnut trees for the shingles for the cabin and the new toilet block.

The once booming ash thicket. Now a sea of dead sticks waiting to be over run by blackthorn.
Ash trees with dead tops swaying in the wind. Even the seemly healthy ones have got die back on the very top of the crown.

I have mentioned the ash thicket. This has for a long time (5 years) where I have sourced all of my ash poles. This year has been the final straw for the thicket. The ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) have been hit very hard by ash die back (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus). A fungal disease wiping out young stock ash across Europe. The disease slowly causes the trees to die back from the extremities of the crown and leaf loss. This happens over several years normally but my trees have for the most part been wiped out this year. This is rather bad news as I have heavily depended on the straight, fast growing, strong poles. I will now being looking to replace these trees with other species to allow me to keep the homestead running.

New life being brought to the thicket in the form of hazel saplings.

Luckily I had a foresight of something like this happening. I could not however guess how bad and sudden it would be but I was not entirely unprepared. I managed to plant a section of hazel saplings this spring and they have all done very well. My plan for the thicket is to clear the dead trees out and leave those that have managed to survive the infection. I plan to replant with hazel (Corylus avellana) and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). I then plan to move some self seeded oaks from the golf course into the mix and hopefully start a life long timber supply calling upon the woodland management technique of ‘coppice with standards’. This will be 5-6 years before a good hold and harvest could be taken from these trees and the rotations are started. This is very long term thinking but will be beneficial for those in the future.

The future workshop plans. Rough stick model made at my parents from this years finished bean poles.

As I make plans for the future of my trees I need to start thinking on the storing and prep of timber to be used for the different projects around the Den and to hopefully be turned into products that can be sold. Hence making the woodlands have an income and moving the Den woods from a basic woodland management plan and into the realms of silviculture. So as I think on these terms I realise just how poor my workshop. The old leaky tarp structure has been vital in housing the cleaving break, the shave horse, my makeshift work bench and my tools rack. It also acts as a storage for my coppiced material, my pallet planks and everything and anything I work on. It has served it purpose and has done it well however as I see my building skills progress it is time for an upgrade. The cabin has shown that a whole different level of building quality is achievable. I plan to work on the rough design of Ben Law’s workshop that he describes in his many books. It is a crook frame made from chestnut. Since I lack that amount of large straight chestnut at this current moment I will be building mine from alder. A resource that grows well here and is in great surplus. I will be working more on this project next year as I finish the cabin. But for the time being I must focus on the task of getting that cabin of mine finished. One day. One day soon.

The ash trees being cleared to be used for the wattle and daub walling uprights. Sad times for the thicket.
Enjoying a break for once in the loft.
The evening fire keeping the autumn cold at bay.

Thank you for reading. Any questions comment below.

Laurence.

Published by The Den Workshop

I am a 20 year old woodsman who lives in the woods in my timber framed cabin.

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