For some years now we have been growing a variety of traditional basket making willow for use as wreath bases, twig wreaths and wreath decorations with any leftovers and offcuts being used as fuel for use in wood boilers. Nothing at all goes to waste.
We spotted a number of websites proclaiming hybrid willow and poplar to be a rapid source of wood fuel with some astounding claims on the potential harvest so we decided to conduct our own trial.
We to try a commercial hybrid willow which is planted as Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) for biomass production. It has taken about 6 years to get enough plants propagated to establish a meaningful crop on the different soil types around the place and whilst there will be a another couple of years needed to complete the planting plan, the initial plants are now in production phase. The first patch is now into its third year of growth so if it was to be used for biomass it would be harvested this coming winter.
The stems are long and straight with the average diameter being around 50mm at 1m height. If harvested this winter and left to season, the crop would already be ideal for use as wood boiler and wood fired pizza oven fuel but we intend to leave this until at least 6 years to see if the firewood logs claimed by the sellers of the hybrid plants are attained and produced in any quantity.
The photo below is of a row of established SRC willow which was harvested in February 2015. The 5 months of growth is now at a height of around 2.5 meters (8ft),
Our processed willow is sold through a variety of channels depending on what it is made into:
Son and heir James has found a new skill to raise funds before returning to Manchester for the final year of his Masters degree…. bundling up small willow ‘logs’ to make what florists call “picks” which are used to decorate festive wreaths and garlands.
A length of green stubbing wire is wrapped around three suitably sized twigs or sticks (we use our home grown willow) to form the bundle which leaves the tail of the wire to be pushed through the wreath base and bent over at the back to hold it secure.
The picks can be used ‘as is’ or further decorated with bows made of ribbon or raffia to suit the colour scheme of the wreath (and hide the wire) in a similar way to how cinnamon is often used.
The fruits of James’ labours are available in packs of six, along with everything else you need to make your own wreath, from www.WreathSupplies.co.uk
We usually only remove tomato leaves as they eventually turn yellow as the tomato plant slowly moves its efforts to supporting fruit higher up the plant (i.e. de-leafing the plant up to the truss that is producing ripe tomatoes). But, due to the very low light levels we have experienced this year we have got a bit ahead of ourselves and stripped back the leaves so that what light there is can see the fruit and ripen the tomatoes.
Our 2015 onion and garlic harvest began in earnest. The onions and garlic had been pulled and left to dry on the soil but now it is time to dress them up a little and then store them in racks at the shed.
Yesterday proved to be quite an attraction for the residents of our coppice with both hens and geese needing to see if anything tasty was being uncovered.
This field was partially planted with ash trees (all grown from seed ourselves) but after news of the breakout of ‘ash die back’ we planted the remainder of the field with a mix of Alder, Birch and Sycamore.
Where possible, the best of the harvested wood is used for a variety of crafts, but the bulk of it gets cut up for fuelling wood fired pizza ovens, wood smokers or logged as a certified Renewable Heat Initiative Biomass for wood boilers.
I don’t know if they stop growing once they have flowered so we thought it best to take a measurement…. 12′ 3″ (3.73 meters).
Definitely a personal best but I suspect it won’t be enough to win the local competition. All the plants in the local competition were from the same source so it was a level playing field.
Later on I accepted an invite to verify the height of the sunflower grown by Mr Peter Ball of Banks, Southport. It was 12’5.5″ so was 2.5 inches higher than mine. I really don’t think it counts though as he has had a massive sodium light on above it throughout the nights AND he lives in Banks. Cheats the lot of ’em.
We are always on the lookout for logos that shows off our logs (and it makes a change from doing table numbers) and when the New Continental launched promotions for its 15th Annual Beer Festival it looked just the ticket.
A quick view on the progress of our fresh lemongrass being trialled in two simple hydroponic systems; both in a polytunnel that has no electrical supply.
One is a very simple ‘pot culture’ system where the plants are in a soil medium with a capillary wick which dangles down into a reservoir containing the nutrient solution.
When the sun shines, our solar powered pump circulates the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the top of the clay balls in which the lemongrass plants are sitting. There is no other medium around the roots, just the clay balls.
Both systems are performing very well and a nice fresh Thai curry is very much anticipated soon!
Twig stars are easy to make and, with appropriate supervision, are a craft project suitable for a wide range of ages. The stars can be used as a decoration or as a rustic wreath base.
Twig stars can be scaled up to make magnificent shop window displays or scaled down to make a small decoration for hanging on a Christmas tree.
The star pictured here is for use as feature wall hanging so we have used twenty 60cm (2ft) willow sticks of around 8mm – 10mm diameter, florists stubbing wire, rustic string and some basic tools.
The twigs are then grouped into five bunches of four sticks and wired together using florists stubbing wire. You can vary the amount of sticks in each bundle to suit the diameter of the twigs and the overall size of the star you are creating.
Trim off the stubbing wire tails and, to avoid any sharp edges protruding, fold back the twisted wire tail into a gap between the stick.
Next, just lay out the star paying attention to the ‘weave’ i.e. which length goes under and which goes over the other. I don’t know why this step is so difficult but it always seems to take more thinking about than it should so don’t worry if you need a couple of attempts.
Wire together the ends of the two bundles of sticks at each of the star points.
If the star is to be used as a base for further decoration or a wreath then you have finished but if you want it to be a stand alone decoration then you can cover up the stubbing wire using some rustic twine or bind over it with some fine willow whips.