Harvest Wreath Success!

First prize at the Hesketh Bank Village Show for my ‘Harvest Circle’ creation. I’ve never done any flower arranging before but I couldn’t miss out on the chance to include logs, pumpkins and wreaths so very pleased with coming first!

'Harvest Ring' on a log slice base
‘Harvest Ring’ on a log slice base

Slices of our home grown Silver Birch made up  the base with a simple squash centrepiece with a pine cone, barley, cotoneaster and ivy decorations.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Beech Logs and Chunks back in stock

It has been a while but beech is back in stock. Some will end up being sold amongst the mixed hardwood firewood but the bulk of this tree will be used for serving boards & platters, logs and heartwood wood chunks for smoking food and walking stick handles.

Rings from a freshly felled Beech tree
Rings from a freshly felled Beech tree

The bulk of the branches have been processed into branch wood chunks for use on BBQ’s and smokers but we have kept a few of the more interesting naturally formed branches for our stick making friends.

Naturally curved beech branches
Naturally curved beech branches

More info: Wood Chunks: www.WoodChunks.co.uk
More info: Walking sticks, staffs, handles and blanks: www.Woodlandcraftshop.co.uk

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Polytunnel Update – End July

A quick update from the polytunnels:

Giant Pumpkins

Over the last few weeks the main vines have achieved the most desirable length for the production of a giant pumpkin and the selected female flowers cross pollinated with it’s carefully chosen suitor. A couple of pumpkins have now set and are definitely on their way to becoming a massive pumpkin for display or carving.

Giant Pumpkin 2017 - MB1582
Giant Pumpkin 2017 – MB1582
Giant Pumpkin 2017 MC1474
Giant Pumpkin 2017 MC1474

Rosemary

Rosemary is in demand not only for use in its conventional form but also as a flavouring for outdoor cooking on BBQ’s and Smokers. The sticks are placed directly onto the fire and the resulting smoke flavours the food whilst the skewers are used instead of bamboo and (supposedly) imparts some flavour whilst cooking.

Freshly cut Rosemary skewers
Freshly cut Rosemary skewers
Rosemary Sticks
Rosemary Sticks

Beans

We have stuck with our favourite beans ‘Ferrari’, a dwarf French bean which produces a good crop of tender beans and keeps on doing so for such a long time.

Dwarf French Bean 'Ferrari'
Dwarf French Bean ‘Ferrari’

Tomatoes

Our polytunnel tomato plants are a mixed bag this year with the stalwart varieties ‘Shirley’ and Gardener’s Delight doing really well, ‘Roma’ is just about OK with ‘Grande’ looking a bit under the weather.

I was asked to try and germinate a very old pack of seeds with a view to redistributing fresh seeds at the end of the season. The unfortunatly named ‘Cow’s Tit’ plants are doing well (a heritage paste variety) so we should have some to send back at the end of the year.

Tomato 'Shirley'
Tomato ‘Shirley’
Gardener's Delight tomato plant
Gardener’s Delight tomato plant
Tomato 'Roma'
Tomato ‘Roma’

 

Grande Tomato Plant
Grande Tomato Plant
Cow's Tit Tomato Plant
Cow’s Tit Tomato Plant
Cows Tit Tomato Seed Packet
Cows Tit Tomato Seed Packet

Peppers

We have cut back on the number of Jalapeno plants this year to make way for having a go at the large (competition large) pepper plants grown from some very rare seeds kindly given to me. I have no idea how big these things will get but there are a couple that are presently as big as the largest found in a Supermarket. I have removed a few and they taste good as well so it isn’t all for show!

Large Pepper Plant
Large Pepper Plant
Jalapeno Pepper Plant
Jalapeno Pepper Plant

Cucumbers

Our favourite ‘Socrates’ cucumber is again performing well and providing a very stable harvest of first class fresh cucumbers. This year we are also trying cucumber ‘Poona Kheera’ a variety originally from Poona, India. Described as an unusual cucumber which matures into what looks like a large russet potato with the smooth-skinned fruits turning from white to golden-yellow to russet brown. I have to admit to trying one at the golden yellow stage and it was really crisp and crunchy. Very nice and, I suspect, would lend itself to being thinly sliced and pickled.

Cucumber 'Socrates'
Cucumber ‘Socrates’
Poona Kheera Cucumber
Poona Kheera Cucumber
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Preparing Oak and Rosemary

Not a chore I particularly like as I am not a big fan of having my fingers so close to a bandsaw blade but it has to be done; preparing heartwood wood chunks.

Making Oak Wood Chunks
Making Oak Wood Chunks

The oak is first cut into rings on the bandsaw and then chopped into pieces using an axe. The pieces are then air dried to approx 20% moisture which is ideal for using for smoking food by placing the chunks on top of a charcoal bed. (Our branchwood chunks by contrast are generally used without any charcoal). Both heartwood and branchwood wood chunks are sold on our www.WoodChunks.co.uk website.

Today we also sent out a pack of our Rosemary ‘wood’ which is used by a restaurant customer.

Fresh cut rosemary sticks
Fresh cut rosemary sticks

The wood stalks are taken from three year old rosemary plants and are used for both the rub and generating flavoured smoke. The leaves are stripped to use fresh or dried but the oil rich stem wood is used as a flavouring on top of charcoal barbecue briquettes in a smoker.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Wood smoking revelations

We have a new Customer.

Stuart from Southport is a new customer. Stuart has specific requirements for his 10 hour smoked brisket and he came to see if we could meet his needs. The answer is of course ‘yes’ but that isn’t what prompts this post.

Talking to Stuart made me realise that I don’t think we have ever had the same request twice… every smoker seems to have their very own ‘ideal’ as to how their wood is presented:

Logs
Split logs
Full branch logs
Chunks – bark on
Chunks – bark off
Branch chunks with brash
Branch chunks without brash
Wood Chips
Single species sawdust

Hazel wood chunks in trays for drying
Home grown Hazel wood chunks in trays for drying

Perm any of the above with the ideal length of wood which obviously varies with each smoker and then perm all the above with the degree to which it has been seasoned; Fresh cut, partially seasoned or fully seasoned.

Placing wood chunks on top of charcoal
Placing wood chunks on top of charcoal

That’s the wood sorted then. Next is how it is used… hot smoke, cold smoke, 100% selected species, chunks/chips on charcoal, mixed hardwood chunks with selected species added at half time, one burn, multiple burns, top up burn, soaked or burned dry etc etc etc.

This isn’t a problem but it was a bit of a revelation in that it became obvious that we cannot stock all permutations!

Whilst we will continue to carry stock of our most popular wood smoking chunks and chips, rather than feel guilty about never having their ‘perfect’ woods immediately to hand, what this we can do is to note our customer preferences and advise them on an individual basis when woods arise that match their criteria.

A split crate of Cherry and Oak logs
A split crate of Cherry and Oak logs

Hence, here is a crate of logs for Stuart. Half of the crate is made up of Cherry logs and the other half is Oak logs. Both are only partially seasoned and they have been cut to 10″ long i.e. Exactly what Stuart asked for.

Thank you Stuart. Your order has probably helped me more than you!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

6m x 3m ebay Polytunnel

We needed some temporary storage for keeping the elements off some small farm implements and thought a domestic polytunnel would fit the bill and, if it lasts long enough, could be reused for ‘kiln’ drying wood when the storage problems get resolved. I also had wondered if such a thing would be any good for creating a moveable cloche in the fields for sheltering the giant pumpkin plants. Only one way to find out; so onto ebay for a look at what is available.

A 6m x 3m x 2m would hopefully have enough height to allow the implements to be put through the door so searches were restricted to this size. I discounted anything with painted metalwork (as this has been next to useless on previously purchased gazebos and the like) and went for galvanised.

6m x 3m x 2m polytunnel from ebay
6m x 3m x 2m polytunnel from ebay

Our £118.90 purchase arrived very quickly via Yodel in two heavy boxes. In between the seemingly never ending downpours, I have got the polytunnel assembled in probably around 4 to 5 hours total without any assistance.

The steelwork is a league different in quality from that used in a commercial polytunnels but I was surprised how rigid it all became once bolted together. The steel tubes all fit perfectly (some long nose pliers were required to take out a few dints in the ends of a few tubes but nothing major). All the holes aligned and the exact number of nuts and bolts were included in the kit.

Domestic 6m x 3m Polytunnel Frame
Domestic 6m x 3m Polytunnel Frame

I made my own ground anchors from 8mm steel rods – eight in total were used, evenly spaced around the perimeter of the base.

All four of the ‘number 4’ tubes were rusty which was a shame but not really bad enough to warrant the delay in returning them to the seller. They can always be painted in situ.

Ebay 6m x 3m Polytunnel rusty bars
Ebay 6m x 3m Polytunnel rusty bars

Having noted the necessity of hot spot tape on our commercial polytunnels I thought it daft to not pay the extra and get some tape. I used six rolls of 25mm x 9m hot spot tape at £1.95 a roll +p&p bought from ‘dandbtapes’ again via ebay. Five rolls will cover the hoops but the sixth roll is needed to do the face side of the ends of the polytunnel (I don’t know if this is necessary but it is what the professional installers did on our commercial tunnels). The tape was excellent quality and did a really good job.

The sheet was unfolded and lifted on unaided and was surprisingly easy get in place. Having sheeted a real polytunnel this really was a joy to fit! It has zipped doors at both ends (something that wasn’t clear in the ebay description so that will be useful for airflow if it ever gets used for drying wood.

6m x 3m Polytunnel problems
6m x 3m Polytunnel problems

The velcro fasteners worked surprisingly well but problems noted where three of the fasteners were sewn in at the wrong position (very odd given how precise all the others were) and also a small gap where the stitching around a door had been missed and left a gap. It will fix with clear tape so again not a problem big enough to warrant a return in my eyes.

6m x 3m galvanised domestic polytunnel
6m x 3m galvanised domestic polytunnel
6m x 3m Polytunnel Sheeted
6m x 3m x 2m Polytunnel Sheeted Up

Even taking into account the few (avoidable) problems encountered, I think it is a really good buy and am pleased with how it all went together. How long it lasts remains to be seen but it is definitely a cost effective solution for the problem it was bought to fix. Will it work out in the fields – I don’t think so. I don’t think it is maneuverable enough. Once the cover goes on this one I might use the frame as a support for mounting a wind break around a giant pumpkin plant.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Hydroponic Trials Update

Celeriac

Celeriac being a moisture loving plant that needs fertile, moisture retentive soil I thought it might perform well hydroponically. Our celeriac was grown from seed (rather than the recommended plugs) in 8cm pots. When roots were showing, the pots were then placed in a small NFT system. These have overwintered in a small greenhouse without heat and are doing well. Progress is very slow though.

Watercress

The Watercress trial has been interesting. In the wild, watercress grows partially submerged in running water in moderately cool climates. We trialled it in both an aquaponic system and an ebb & flood tank situated near each other outdoors.

The above photos speak for themselves (both of which were taken on the same day). Whilst the aquaponic system best mimics a running stream I suspect the nutrient levels are too high and the watercress is struggling. By contrast, the ebb and flood (sometimes called an ebb and flow or flood and drain system) tank filled with nothing more than inert clay balls and rainwater provided a great crop.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Log rings for table displays

Just a few log rings now cut and drying out in advance of the wedding season so that we have a few in stock and ready.

Large log rings for table displays
Large log rings for floral table displays

Sizes range from 6″ to 14″ in a variety of species. Stock is very limited so please do not leave it until the last minute if you have specific requirements for your event.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest