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.

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Hazel wood chunks for smoking food

Any Hazel wood we remove from our coppice that cannot be used for walking stick shanks or other woodland crafts gets cut up into ‘Wood Chunks‘ which get used in smokers and BBQ’s for flavouring meats, fish and cheeses.

All our hazel is coppiced with a hand saw so has not been contaminated with chainsaw oil. It is processed through a ‘chunker’ where two blades come together and crimp the wood into short lengths.  The bins of wood chunks are then tipped out and spread in large plastic trays. The trays allow for really good air circulation even when stacked high.

Drying Hazel wood chunks in trays
Drying Hazel wood chunks in trays

Along with most nut woods (The fruit of the Hazel (Corylus) is the hazelnut, also known as cobnut or filbert nut), Hazel is a favourite wood used for smoking food as it produces a strong, fragrant smoke.

It is often used in the UK as an alternative when a recipe calls for Hickory. We sell our Hazel wood chunks direct from the farm gate or mail order via www.WoodChunks.co.uk

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Growing Firewood – 2017 Update

Our annual update on the progress of our firewood growing trials. All have made very good progress but the Eucalyptus seems to be doing the best at the year 3 point. The hybrid willow would normally be harvested now and it is a perfect size for making wood chunks.

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Tree Planting at Banks, West Lancashire

Damon and Matt have been out in all weathers since November but 5000 trees later, the 11 acre field is now planted.

Tree planting at Banks, West Lancashire
Tree planting at Banks, West Lancashire

The trees planted are mixed species of varieties that can be coppiced and will eventually be cropped for timber for crafts or wood fuel . The first cuttings will probably be in 10 – 15 years and every 5 – 7 years thereafter.

Apart from providing fantastic habitat over what was previously monocrop arable farmland, the trees dramatically reduce surface water run-off which in turn reduces the volume and rate that rainwater reaches the struggling pumping stations that this area is so dependent on to alleviate flooding.

Coppicing Hazel
Coppicing Hazel

Also, trees sequester carbon, helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air and as the coppicing program we employ is selective rather than ‘clear fell’ this provides an ongoing benefit with the fuel produced being as close to carbon neutral as we can possibly get.

Lastly, the coppice provides the materials for many ancient woodland crafts. It will be some time before this plantation is ready but expect a few bodging, turning, carving and hurdle making courses to be on the cards in a few years.

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Frosty mornings on the farm

This week has seen some lovely crisp frosty mornings which is always a beautiful sight and is a real pleasure to walk around the farm.

Frosty Willow
Frosty Willow

Our willow trials continue with a mix of biomass hybrids and traditional basket making varieties planted. The photo above is of some one year old willow whips which are ideal for living willow sculptures or making new plants.

Frosty Hazel
Frosty Hazel

Selected pieces will be harvested from the Hazel coppice over the winter months, mainly for sticks to make walking stick and beating stick shanks  but also to make wood chunks for food smoking which gives the wood smoke a slightly nutty flavour.

Frosty eucalyptus
Frosty eucalyptus

We also grow some Eucalyptus, mainly to harvest for the floristry trade and making essential oils but we are also trailing some hardy snow gum varieties for firewood production. To date the results have been very impressive.

Frosty Holly
Frosty Holly

Our hedges of Holly have been pruned hard in recent weeks for wreath making but the frost makes them quite a picture.

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Coppicing Hazel

As the seasonal wreath making draws to a close a lovely morning allowed a chance to make a start on the Hazel coppice.

Coppicing Hazel
Coppicing Hazel

Our stand of hazel was planted specifically to provide a harvest of walking stick blanks for the surprisingly large number of local stick making enthusiasts. We now use the remaining wood for crafts including wood turning and gypsy flowers, wood chunks for smoking foods and, as a last resort, firewood.

Hazel walking stick shanks
Hazel walking stick shanks

We choose not to ‘clear fell’ the hazel but prefer to selectively cut out the sticks we want and leave the remainder to mature. This practice not only maintains the fantastic wildlife habitat that has been established but it  seems to ‘draw’ some good straight sticks as they fight for the light at the top of the canopy.

 

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New range of smokehouse wood chips added

Our little Wood Chunks website has been selling our home grown wood for some time now to the point where our regular customers kindly bring samples of their fare which is very much appreciated (hint, hint) .

Food smoking is an art and from my experience, each ‘artist’ likes to understandably select the materials that they have found gives the best results for them.

Smoking meat, sausages and garlic with flavoured woodsmoke
Smoking meat, sausages and garlic with flavoured woodsmoke

Some want small wood chips, others want large lumps or even big logs. Then there is the debate about whether the bark should be on or off and the difference branchwood or heartwood makes to the flavour of the food.

To supplement our home produced wood chunks we have today added a range of wood chips which come in 2ltr re-sealable packs.

Graded to a size between 6mm and 12mm chip size, Apple, Alder, Cherry and Oak chips are now in stock.

Alder, Apple, Cherry and Oak wood chips now in stock
Alder, Apple, Cherry and Oak wood chips now in stock

Along with all our speciality wood chunks they are available to collect (by appointment – we don’t have a shop) from Hesketh Bank (PR4 6) in West Lancashire but these packs are especially suitable for mail order so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

For more info please visit www.WoodChunks/woodchips.html

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Rustic Chopping & Serving Boards

The past few days have taken place in a large cloud of sawdust as we try and catch up on a few bespoke orders for BIG chunky chopping boards.

Thick milled planks are cut to best make use of their individual natural grain patterns. All boards are marked out by hand and consequently no two boards are ever the same.

Our boards grace many a TV studio kitchen and are also used in photo shoots for an ever increasing amount of in house and retail food magazines.

Interestingly, when our chunky chopping boards leave Lancashire and travel down the motorway, somewhere around Watford they become ‘Rustic Serving Platters’ and the price quadruples!

Massive chopping board sealed with olive oil before use
Beech chopping board sealed with olive oil before use

As the trend for rustic weddings has increased so has the demand from caterers and wedding planners (professional or DIY) for these boards. Subject to availability (and enough notice) we also do log rings and slices for cake stands.

For a small additional fee, we can also personalise a board with a text message or logo burnt into the edge or surface of the board.

Thick beech chopping board with two waney edges
A large double waney edged beech serving board – a bespoke  order for a restaurant.

We can’t do ‘urgent’. We may have something suitable already in stock but if not it takes time to locate suitable logs and get them transported and milled. It then takes at least two years for the milled boards to be air dried sufficiently before they are ready for turning into our lovely rustic serving boards.

 

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Growing our own firewood

Many years ago we abandoned the idea of being able to own our own woodland as there is so little of it in West Lancashire in the first place and, of that, it is very rare that it comes up for sale.

But, rather than admit defeat, we bought some arable land and field by field planted our own energy crop; species that thrived on rotational coppicing. In the first instance this was predominantly ash which we grew on from seeds collected from some fine local specimens. As the dreaded ‘ash dieback’ or Chalara dieback of ash (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) to give it it’s proper title, gained a foothold in the UK we thought it pretty pointless in planting any more ash and started growing a wider mix of species such as willow, alder and sycamore. We also trialled a few eucalyptus varieties (from seed) to see how they compared to the vigorous growth of the hybrid willows.

Many claims about the fast growth of hybrid willow exist on the internet and we really wanted to test them out for ourselves. Having grown some willow stools as breeding stock for new cuttings we  knocked them back and vowed to document the progress each year up until they made useable logs.

I will keep this post updated annually with progress.

Hybrid Willow Trials

Eucalyptus Trials

Ash

Alder

 

 

 

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