Instead of 'Keep Calm and Carry On' my T-shirt reads 'Chop Wood and Carry Water'.


Apparently it's a Zen Buddhist saying. The interpretation varies but in my mind I know that, whatever else I do, if I don't chop wood then I'm going to be cold this winter.   My central heating runs from a wood-stove.  This means that the details of growing, harvesting and processing fire wood are crucial details of my life and very much follow an annual cycle.  I need to burn wood at about 12-15% moisture content and I need about 3 tons a year, I think.  I'm conscious of being at the mercy of the natural environment and I'm also conscious that not many other folk have this consciousness!  The other factor that is very clear is that harvesting and processing fire wood is very physical.  Someone once remarked that using firewood 'keeps you warm at least twice' - work it out!   It also means that I find it hard to take seriously any politician or punter who has a view to the future but doesn't understand the overriding importance of energy.  Wisdom and enlightenment demands a knowledge and respect of our dependence on these natural resources, otherwise all is just empty pride. Naturally many of my close friends have read the book 'Norwegian Wood' and we compare notes on woodpiles.

This year, for one reason or another, I feel that I'm a month behind.  I like to shift, process and store last year's harvest of wood in July and not August.  This week I finally got things moving.  Generally I aim to season wood for two years.  I've finally got it together to fill the wood store outside my front door.

 This is mainly wood from my coppicing work with Sustainable Crediton - hazel, with some Ash, Cherry and Willow.

Also in my front yard is a pile of pine logs.

They arrived there shortly after I mentioned to a neighbour that I was short of kindling wood.  It's always good to have the right stuff to get the fire going.  As it happens I'd recently brewed 25 litres of Best Bitter, from the grain, for this neighbour and since he has an area of woodland and is clearing pine it seemed like good barter to offload some of his surplus.  Who needs bitcoin!?

I don't usually burn pine as it doesn't last long enough and I'm worried about it depositing resins in my stove flue, but some nice dry split pine kindling will be good.

I often get asked to clear fallen trees and this provides an assorted selection of woods for fuels.  These are being processed near my main wood store.

They are sawn and chopped and stacked of the ground on an old pallet, to be covered with wriggly tin to keep the rain off.

At one point the stack looked almost 'arty', with the different bark of cherry, ash, willow and so on...

 Another completely separate harvest is that wonderful product of the orchard... nothiing added, nothing taken away.  100% organic, low food-miles, probably bursting with anti-oxidants...


I have 3 batches of 2016 cider from the orchard where I work; one a fruity, tannic, full-bodied one, another is light and sharp and the third is limiited amount of single-variety Kingston Black. All are good, both draught and bottle-conditioned and I'm really enjoying them when I get back from working outdoors on hot days.

Meanwhile in the wider countryside some ripe wheat stands waiting for some dry weather and availabiliity of contractors...