Archive for July, 2009

Plan-It Earth Bushcraft – (Grid Ref 420291)

July 6, 2009

With many years teaching under my belt I hope to re-introduce knowledge and skills that many people and communities have lost (or forgotten) in an enthusiastic and positive way. Working with whole communities, groups or individuals I design and deliver bespoke courses, workshops and residencies which pass on these skills and re-connect participants to the Environment and each other; all based on the clients’ needs and locality.

One of the overall aims of all the courses being to empower participants to be more self-reliant and independent, better prepared for an uncertain and changing world. The practical and experiential nature of all the courses also enables participants to develop creative problem solving skills and gain confidence in themselves.

Bushcraft Workshop at Plan-It Earth

Bushcraft Workshop at Plan-It Earth

Previous course have included skills such as:

  • Fire making (by friction, compression and modern methods)
  • Archery and bow construction
  • Cordage
  • Net construction and application
  • Willow coppicing
  • Hurdle making
  • Wild food
  • Charcoal Burning
  • Camp craft
  • Green woodworking
  • Neolithic Painting and Art

Next course is on the 18th July 2009 at Plan-It Earth Eco project.

http://www.plan-itearth.org.uk/2009/coursesandevents/index.php

Plan-It Earth Tree Planting – (Grid Ref 420291)

July 6, 2009

In return for my help on the Geodome project Rachel and David agreed to let me plant a small area of their land with ash trees. This long term coppicing project began in Winter 2008 with the planting of 30 – 40 ash trees (bare root stock) in 3 lines at the bottom of one of their fields.

To plant trees using the method described below you will need the following:

  • 1 x spade,
  • 1 x tree (in this case bare root stock)
  • 1 x tree guard
  • 1 x stake
  • 1m sq black mulching plastic/old carpet

The process for planting bare root stock (small whips approx 1ft tall) is this:

  1. Push spade in to make two slits in a “T” shape. Full spade depth.
  2. Lift turf by levering spade in slits.
  3. Place Bare root stock in the gap created, making sure roots all covered.
  4. Take out spade and firmly tread on turf around tree.
  5. Place tree guard around tree, and push in stake to support it (avoid damaging roots!)
  6. Cut a slit in centre of black mulching plastic just large enough to fit around tree guard.
  7. Place plastic over tree guard, flat on ground so that tree is rising out of centre.
  8. Push corners of plastic into ground with spade to secure it, and prevent wind from blowing it around.

It was a rainy, blustery Winters day when i planted the trees, but who should turn up just as I was finishing….

Mac, Annie, Pete and Debs pretending to do all the hard work!

Mac, Annie, Pete and Debs pretending to do all the hard work!

…and from meeting them all that day Annie decided to invite me to the residency at Treloan.

Plan-It Earth Geodome – (Grid Ref 420291)

July 6, 2009

May 2008 – Getting to know Rachel and David Smart Knight who run the Plan-It Earth Eco Project in Sancreed has been a real pleasure. Full of ideas and enthusiasm for re-skilling and educating people of all ages in sustainable living, they practice what they preach.

Project 1: Geodome.

The first project I worked on with them was the construction of a large space to be used for the use of educational groups during the Spring/Summer/Autumn. The space needed to be large, and the skeleton of the structure could be a permanent feature (and needed to be maintenance free), but the covering would need to be removed in the Winter months (or whenever not in use) due to planning restrictions and regulations.

It was decided we would build a 30ft diameter geodome from tubular steel, and paint it to prevent rust. (I did have reservations about the choice of materials, but wood does need a lot of maintenance and if left has a lifespan too short to be considered). David built a scale model of the structure to double check sizes of poles and quantity (“Measure twice, cut once”, as my Dad says!). Weeks of cutting, drilling, hammering and painting ensued, but eventually the structure was erected.

The geodome skeleton

The geodome skeleton

And now the space is avaiable to be used by groups to provide a warm comforatcble educational space, close to the Nature.

Educational Space at Plan-It Earth.

Educational Space at Plan-It Earth.

Treloan, Portscatho – (Grid Ref:875347)

July 6, 2009

June 2009 – Invited by Annie Lovejoy to go to Treloan Campsite on the Roseland peninsula to help the owners establish an eco-tourist site.  A 3-week artists residency was established with a 2-week stint in June followed by a week in August.

Arriving at the site and talking with the owners (Pete and Debs) established some of the things they thought may be of iterest to me:

  1. They needed some way of protecting the newly established permaculture garden from strong Easterly winds.
  2. Rabbit population needs controlling as crops are being lost.
  3. Find ways of integrating campers staying on site into eco-projects.
  4. Help build links between the campsite and the local community.
  5. New income streams for the campsite are always welcome!

Quite a lot to handle for a 3 week residency! but Annie had mentioned there was a willow coppice just down the lane which had not been touched for many years, so I thought that if the owners were willing, we could coppice the willow and use it to make a “fedge” (=fence/hedge) along the Eastern border of the permaculture garden on the site.

Day 1: Looking at the willow coppice

Day 1: Looking at the willow coppice

There were approximately 20 suitable Salix willow trees in the coppice approximately 20 – 30 years old, but they had not been managed or cut for 10 or so years. The remaining trees were Goat (or Black) willow which had never been coppiced and needed to be seriously cut back in the Winter if they were to be coppiced in the  future. The whole site was overgrown with 7′ hemlock and nettles!! (Nice combination and I’ll never forget the sickly sweet smell!).

After talking to Tony and Jude, the owners of the coppice, they said I could have a free rein as they didn’t know what to do with it, but were happy for me to take the wood to use up at the campsite.

The willow coppice before clearing.

The willow coppice before clearing.

As I was clearing the hemlock on the first day I met Allan. Allan is a carpenter who was working on the barns adjacent to the coppice and became really interested in the project. He told me the coppice was planted by a man called Morley in order to make crab-pots. When I asked if the skill of willow crab-pot making was alive in the area, Allan replied with a familiar story. He was shown how to do it as a child, but nobody of his generation were making crab-pots today. The skill was dying out, but Allan resolved to find someone in the village who knew how, and see if they would be willing to teach us.

It took 2 days to clear the site, and in doing so I uncovered an ancient apple tree, well over 30 feet high, which was choked and overrun with brambles and ivy and had a strange fungus growing on it. Jude told me it was the last remaining apple tree from an orchard which had grown here in the 19th century. I spent an afternoon and evening in the sunshine cutting away as much ivy and bramble as I could, but told Jude she would need an expert to look at the fungus.

The ancient apple tree finally cleared.

The ancient apple tree finally cleared.

Allan returned the next day with some sad news. The only person left in the village who knew how to make willow crab-pots was a man called John Billing. Allan had visited him, but he had terminal cancer and was too unwell to teach anyone (Note: I heard that John Billing died a few weeks later). This was very poignant for me as it illustrates the amount of knowledge of these basic skills we are losing as the older generation dies.

However, Allan was determined to find someone who knew and as the week progressed we swapped ideas and ways of learning this skill. Eventually he came to me one morning with a huge smile, saying he had found a man who would teach us, but not until the leaves had fallen from the trees (which is the proper time for coppicing). We were both overjoyed and I resolved to return and learn with Allan to ensure this craft was re-introduced into the Portscatho community and remained alive.

Allan and I swapped ideas and spoke at length over the coming days as the coppicing progressed. He told me there were 4-5 coppices around the village that had been left to stand for many years as the owners did not know what to do with them. I planted the seed of the idea that clearing and managing them could be a good source of income for him during the Winter months (when there is not much work in this tourist dominated economy). The products made from the coppiced willow (hurdles, crab-pots, baskets, charcoal, green furniture etc) could be made in the Winter then sold to tourists during the busy summer months. Allan was really caught by this idea and has since contacted the landowners of a couple of sites and spoken to them about clearing and managing the sites for them.

Sketches and notes: Coppicing, camp cooking, hurdles, cool box.

Sketches and notes: Coppicing, camp cooking, hurdles, cool box.

Students from the MA Fine Art course at Falmouth College of Arts came over one day to see what we were doing on the project. What better way to get some help coppicing the willow! We cut the willow, carried it back to site then made some small hurdles with it. From tree to usable fencing in a day. Great fun had by all.

Note: I know coppicing willow during the summer is not the best time, either for the tree or the wood gathered. However, the site needed clearing and the view was taken that the willow trees were vigorous enough to accept the level of cutting done.

Sketches and notes: Community links, thoughts, cordage making, pot hanger

Sketches and notes: Community links, thoughts, cordage making, pot hanger

By the end of the two weeks in June I had managed to:

  1. Coppice all the usable willow and use the sticks to establish a growing “fedge” along the permaculture garden on the campsite (Well, because it was over 50ft long we had enough wood to build the fedge to the height of about 1ft! Allan on the case to source more local willow wands).
  2. Provide a blueprint for my return in August to do charcoal burning, fleece blankets with campers help.
  3. Build links between the campsite and the local community through interest in the coppicing and crab-pot project.
  4. Develop new income strands for the campsite to make and sell charcoal to campers on the site.

Not bad for 2 weeks work. Now, about those pesky wabbits…..