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.
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
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.
I’m beginning to notice quite a few of the ‘year 4’ hybrid willow starting to fail at the stool union with branches starting to ‘lie down’ in just the same way as mature willow trees often do. This was not anticipated (there haven’t been any storms or strong winds) but it does perhaps explain why ‘year 3’ is the target for harvesting commercial hybrid willow plantations for biomass woodchip. The purpose of this trial plot was to extend the cycle to six years to see if firewood logs could be produced.
The fallen branches have been harvested and the stools have been tidied up; all with a very old and dull Silky. It was noted that some of the remaining branches are now getting beyond tackling with a handsaw and will require the chainsaw.
Not a bad haul from just half of one stool but I am beginning to think that the ideal point may well be at the the three year point when everything can be cut with a silky and sent straight through the branch logger for wood chunks. (Once thoroughly dried out, willow wood chunks make exceptional ‘charcoal’ fuel for wood fired pizza ovens).
The pollarded ash is looking good with the regrowth just 1.5 years old. These trees were pollarded rather than coppiced as they are there to provide a canopy over where free range hens roam, giving them some shelter and protection from aerial predators.
Damon and Matt have been out in all weathers since November but 5000 trees later, the 11 acre field is now planted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our hedges of Holly have been pruned hard in recent weeks for wreath making but the frost makes them quite a picture.
As the seasonal wreath making draws to a close a lovely morning allowed a chance to make a start on the Hazel coppice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.