Estimating the weight of wood…
Whilst planning the design and materials for my George Lailey bowl lathe reconstruction I decided…
Estimating the weight of wood…
Whilst planning the design and materials for my George Lailey bowl lathe reconstruction I decided…
R.I.P Oddette (12 October 2012)
Oddette, mother to Xanadu, sadly passed away on 12.10.12 aged somewhere about 7 years. She had…
Some ancient saws taken to timber
Robin Page delves into the folklore that surrounds garden trees:
Planting trees is about the most…
Having completely fallen in love with the few Ouessants we’ve had over the course of the last year we decided that it was about time to increase our flock. We’d really like to be able to start breeding this autumn (2012) but having only one entire ewe doesn’t give us a huge chance of success – more ewes were needed!
We spent a while contacting the main breeders with registered stock and finally managed to source some new ewes from Viv Cook at Alpaca Amigos (Oakton Stud Farm) in Cheshire. It turned out that they were looking to rehome their entire flock to make room for more Alpacas, and had we been able to secure a field of our own we would have definitely had the lot – unfortunately we are still without field at this moment in time so we were only able to take a small portion of the flock.
So, on 1st July I was under strict instructions to only come home with what we had agreed we were going for – I suppose I must have a tendency to get more than I said I would! Anyway, we had agreed on a little black ewe lamb (but carrying a caramel gene) called Oakton Xanadu that was born in March 2012, and that was originally all we were going to travel the 3 hours to Cheshire for. However, it occurred to me that a little lamb that young was going to get quite distressed on the journey back to ours having just been separated from both it’s home and it’s mother – so in a moment of pure genius I decided a travelling companion was that way to go! Fortunately Viv at Alpaca Amigos also thought that was a great idea, so as well as bringing back Xanadu we were going to be taking her mum as well. Mum is called Oddette and is somewhere around 7 or 8 years old, has about 2 and a half teeth left and may or may not successfully lamb again. It feels rather good though to have mum and her lamb together rather than split them up, and at least it will be one extra fleece to process each year she stays with us!
With Oddette being as old as the hills, and not guaranteed to lamb again, Viv suggested that we may like to take another of her ewes with us as well (lucky we travelled up in the Landie!) – I stayed quiet, remembering my strict instructions, and was happy to leave with just Xanadu and Oddette. However, no sooner had Viv proffered the suggestion of an extra passenger the voice of Jo perked up and agreed immediately! I make the point that it was her decision, not mine (although I still think I ended up paying the extra!). Vermillion is a true caramel ewe and has a lovely fleece that is bound to produce some wonderful wool, and is probably in her second or third year – she has already lambed once.
Our new trio of Oddette, Xanadu and Vermillion now take our breeding flock to four, and we already know that we’ve reserved another two ewe lambs from another breeder that we’re collecting in September. I think that will do us for a while given the space that we’ve run out of, and we still need to source a ram for tupping come the autumn!
We’ll let you know how things develop as the year progresses!
With the temperatures rising and Cloud and Snowy beginning to look somewhat scruffy, we made the decision that it was about time to give the two beasts a haircut! Well, having said all along that this was going to be a job I was going to do myself it was now time to chicken out and find a professional this time around. How does one find a sheep shearer at short notice – and one that’s prepared to travel to shear two sheep (and two very small sheep at that!)?
After a bit of time on the Google machine we stumbled across Mike the shearer (Mike Hewson), who is based in Lincolnshire (or Lincolnshear!) but travels some distance – worth checking out his website if you think you may need his services, he comes well recommended. Anyway, having booked a date and time with Mike we got a call from him asking if we’d consider using another shearer – one that was a bit closer to us and trying to build up his own shearing business. We were, of course, more than happy to go along with Mike’s request, especially with this being our first ‘shearing’ experience and really wanting to get it done as soon as possible – Cloud and Snowy were quickly loosing clumps of their precious fleece all over the garden!
Soon after agreeing to a new shearer we got a call from Jed Feild, and arranged for him to come and do our two on 26th May – unfortunately whilst I was away on a jolly with Maurice Pyle – so Jo would have to be around to supervise the proceedings. If you want to try out Jed’s services he can be contacted on 07876 348786.
All must have gone well, as when I returned from the north there were two very much smaller and skinnier sheep running around the garden! Jed had definitely done a good job, and there were two beautifully rolled whole fleeces ready for whatever we decided to do with them (more about this in a future post). It really is amazing how much fleece comes off even the smallest of sheep, although I can’t really see us ever making a living as wool producers.
We would highly recommend Jed as a competent and skillful shearer, although it really would be nice if we didn’t need to use his services next year and could do all of our own shearing! However, having done some preliminary research into shearing equipment it may take us a long time to pay back the initial outlay of new kit – may have to check out eBay next!!!
Till next time…
Having decided that it was about time to get some âformalâ green woodwork training from experienced people that earn their living from the woods, I decided to book myself onto a couple of courses throughout the course of the next couple of years â and will now probably continue doing so for a long time to come!
The first of these ended up being one of the most enjoyable long weekends Iâve spent for many years, based at an old flint mill on the Beamish Estate in County Durham where Maurice Pyle has his workshop.Â Iâve included a little bit about Maurice below, taken directly from his website to ensure I represent him accurately!
Maurice started his career within youth training, personal development and outdoor education but it was whilst working within environmental education for Gatesheadâs Education Department that Maurice Pyle first discovered the joys of working with green wood using a few simple hand tools.Â The original woodcraft courses he organised for the local community in Gateshead were very well received and seemed an excellent vehicle to get people of all backgrounds involved with woodlands and woodcraft.
For the last 15 years he has enjoyed running a business which combines many aspects of conventional woodland work and traditional woodcraft.
The business has grown over the last few years in all departments but our biggest development recently has been the setting up of The Woodsmith’s Store.Â A complete service offering the best tools and books for the green woodworker and traditional woodworker.Â The buy on-line website, www.woodsmithstore.co.uk, was launched in November 2006.
In 2007 Maurice and Claire purchased an idyllic wooden house in a remote valley in the mountains of eastern Norway, a base from which inspiring woodcraft experience holidays could be run.
He is a trustee of the Bill Hogarth Memorial Apprenticeship Trust, regional contact for the Association of Pole Lathe Turners and member of The Carpenters’ fellowship.
Having spent a long time trawling the Google-net and looking at the vast array of training that is available for aspiring bodgers, I decided that Maurice was definitely someone that had the credentials to be able to cure any pre-existing bad habits of mine and guide me towards developing some skills that other green woodworkers would recognise as being correct and appropriate.Â But what to start with?
Obviously having the right tools is an important first step, but thatâs a relatively easy place to start â especially if you decide to use Mauriceâs store as your first point of contact for new tools or for advice on the right tools for a particular job.Â However, new tools can be relatively expensive and arenât a must have â itâs possible to buy decent quality second hand tools at craft fairs and car boot sales if you know what youâre looking for.Â Tools is one thing, but having sharp tools is even better â and if you can keep them sharp itâs the icing on an otherwise quite boring cake!
Soâ¦at least one day had to be a course on tool sharpening, and this is how Maurice advertises his invaluable one-day course:
Tool Sharpening (1 day)
Having sharp tools won’t improve you green woodworking skills but will make the work easier and safer, produce a better finish and make the process of using hand tools considerably more satisfying. Â This one-day course will provide information about sharpening most of the tools used in green woodworking, such as axes, billhooks, drawknives and turning chisels and gouges. Â Powered and manual techniques will be shown.Â This may be the most important course you ever attend.Â
Wow â what a great day!Â If I can remember correctly (which Iâm never quite sure I can!) there were three of us on this course, which meant that Maurice could spend a lot of time with each of us â âhoningâ our sharpening techniques (excuse the pun).Â We spent a lot of time learning, and practicing, how to sharpen all of the key green wood tools using both manual and powered sharpening and honing methods.Â I was even given the opportunity to restore an old spokeshave blade that had become totally rounded over time, and finished up with a razor sharp blade that was probably even better than it was when it left the manufacturer â it was really very satisfying.
I finished the day with the knowledge and understanding, and the foundation skills, to be able to keep all of my own tools in a fit for use condition â something Iâd never been quite happy with previously.Â Unfortunately, I also left with quite a long wish list of some of the most useful bits of sharpening and honing wizardry Iâd used on the course, and to good effect.Â It will take a long time for me to be able to save for the Tormek grinding and sharpening system, and some of the sharpening stones are really quite dear â but if they help to keep your edges sharp I suppose they are well worth the money.
What I found reassuring though was that provided your tools are well looked after and receive regular attention to sharpening and honing, you can get by very well with some fine abrasive papers and strips of leather bonded to hardwood blocks and round dowels â alongside a decent honing paste and some protective oil.
Upon returning home I set to making myself a set of these blocks and rods straight away (luckily, and quite bizarrely, I had an entire hide of tanned leather just waiting for a use!).Â Iâve found that spray mount doesnât work that well in sticking wet and dry to wood, and have yet to try a can of EvoStick spray contact adhesive Iâve bought instead â hopefully that will work better.Â I do however highly recommend Camellia oil to protect your tools â I think I got mine from Axminster.
Well worth a day, I may even book myself on it again for a refresher in the future â and take all my tools to make sure Iâm doing it the right way!
So what nextâ¦?
Having learnt how to make tools sharp (rather than how to make sharp tools â I fancy a course on that in the future, maybe with Ben Orford!) â I decided to have a couple of days with Maurice learning how to use them properly.Â The sensible place to start seemed like booking a place on his introduction to green woodworking course, over two days.Â The best bit I found about this was that I could book the two courses concurrently (that means so that they run one after the other â hence the long weekend!).Â This is how Maurice advertises this course:
Green Woodworking: An Introduction (2 days)
The essential course for aspiring green woodworkers.Â The bodging skills of cleaving, trimming, shaving and turning will be taught using a few simple hand tools such as axes, drawknives, gouges and chisels.Â You will learn how to use a shavehorse and a pole lathe.Â On this course people make their own rustic English style shavehorse to take away.Â This could be your opportunity to get fired up and inspired to learn a new and highly satisfying creative skill.
Over the course of the weekend Maurice took us through all of the key green woodworking processes that we were likely to need to produce traditional âcoppice craftsâ â including splitting, cleaving, shaping on the shave horse and turning on the pole lathe, alongside a lot of axe and drawknife work!
We started our project with some felled round wood, mainly ash although I chose to make my shave horse body from an oak log to give it a bit of extra weight and sturdiness â although this wasnât really necessary.Â We learnt how to use various types of axe safely and efficiently, from a splitting hatchet to create the legs from ash logs, and carving axes to rough out the billets for the pole lathe for the turned components.Â After the axe work it was on to the shave horse to âtidyâ the legs with an assortment of draw knives, and to get the pole lathe billets as near to round as possible to reduce any âchatterâ when fixed between the centres of the lathe.
There was plenty of axe and draw knife work to be done on the horse body, although the oak log I had so wisely chosen was a little oversize to be able to take the swinging arm, and rather than spend the whole day wasting the material away Maurice made quick work of reducing it to 6 Â½â with the chainsaw â leaving a easy job for the spokeshave to finish off.
To save time and to ensure the job was finished to a good standard at the end of the two days all the holes were drilled with a DeWalt rather than a brace and bit â Maurice had a high torque low rev model that was powered by a petrol generator that made the drilling far quicker but none the less accurate.Â It was still really important to ensure all the angles were right to splay the legs in the correct directions to keep the shave horse stable when seated on it!
Anyway, on to the lathe work.Â After some superb spiraling cuts through the work piece with the skew chisel I ended up with some turned components that I could be really pleased with â and they all fitted together like they had been made by a true pro!Â Must make mental note though â more practice needed with both skew and flat chisel (if I ever want to make anything that looks well designed and properly finished), if all Iâm after is an average job then Iâm a whizz with a roughing out and spindle gouge!
I had a little time left at the end of day 2 so rather than waste it I decided to try my hand at shaping the seat of the shave horse using a travisher.Â I think that this must have been one of the most satisfying parts of making my shave horse, starting with a flat âplankâ and carving contours in all directions to create a comfy platform for my behind!Â Loved it, so much so that Iâm now the proud owner of a James Mursell travisher â and will probably book a place on one of his Windsor chair workshops when I have the time available.
I could write for ages about these three days, as they were so fantastic.Â Needless to say though, I took so much away from these courses and am sure they will make me a far more accomplished bodger than I was when I started.Â I will definitely be booking with Maurice may more times in the future, and may even travel to Norway for one of his summer workshops in years to come.
If you need a recommendation, then they donât need to come any better than what Maurice is offering â great teaching, great advice, great location and great company, what more could you ask for!
Maurice Pyle â Woodsmith
The Woodsmithâs Store
Following the loss of Thunder, our beautiful black Ouessant, on the 29th March of this year we began to realise that he needed replacing, and quickly!
Cloud, our remaining white ewe, really missed his company and spent all day, every day, pining for him and running around the garden in circles trying to see where he was. It was quite traumatic to watch as she really wasn’t a very happy sheep at all – it’s easy to see why sheep are such flock animals.
Now those of you that know a thing or two about Ouessants will know that there really aren’t very many of them in the UK (not sure where I’ve seen it but I want to say about 350 registered sheep in total – from maybe about 20 separate breeders). The end of March is a bit too early for these little sheep to be lambing, and there definitely wouldn’t be any breeders with weaned lambs for sale. So we were therefore resigned to the fact that we would be looking for a ewe lamb from last year – and would probably have to take one that the owner wasn’t sure was good enough for them to be breeding from. Never mind, at the end of the day what we needed quickly was a companion sheep for Cloud.
We spent ages on the phone and exchanging emails with reputable breeders that we had planned to buy stock from later on in the year and were quite dismayed to find that no-one had anything that they were prepared to get rid of. They were all happy for us to wait and see what was available after lambing and weaning, but I’m not sure that Cloud could have waited that long – she would probably have died from a broken heart!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we eventually found a breeder that was prepared to let us have one of her sheep that was going to end up in the freezer later on in the year (and she was happy for us to pay her what the sheep was worth to her as a carcass in the freezer as well!). We took a long drive down to Taunton, in Somerset, on 6th April – via South Wales for a quick family visit overnight, and came home delighted with a companion for Cloud in the back of the trusty Landrover.
We can’t praise Val Grainger highly enough for helping us out at such short notice, she’s a truly remarkable lady and has a marvelous, and quite sizeable, flock of Ouessants. She gave us loads of really helpful advice, showed us around her fields and let us meet her sheep, and also makes a cracking cup of tea. We’re hoping to be able to borrow a ram from her in the Autumn to serve our ewes that are ready for breeding from.
Anyway, you will have assumed from the name that Snowy is a ewe, but will no doubt be confused from the pictures to see her sporting a fine pair of horns (Ouessant ewes are polled, meaning have no horns). Snowy was actually destined for the freezer because she is a hermaphrodite, which we learned is actually not as uncommon as one might think amongst sheep, especially with this breed given their small size. It occasionally occurs with the second born of a set of twins, probably because they’re really not big enough to carry two throughout a pregnancy. How many other people do you know with such a sheep – we may almost be unique! Needless to say that Snowy is a true companion sheep, we won’t be breeding from her (or using her to breed), and it seems a shame having saved her from the freezer once to send her back on that path again.
We’ll keep you updated with progress, and definitely share more about our sheep as the flocks grows!
Very sadly, Thunder, our black castrate ram lamb is with us no more.Â He was put to sleep on 29th March 2012 at exactly 11 months of age, following a short but troubling period of illness.
Huw (his owner) was very sad, and we had a permanent reminder of Thunder made that now hangs in fond memory on his bedroom wall.
I have included an article below taken directly from the web site of the National Pygmy Goat Association to explain how and why Thunder became poorly.
by Jennifer Maas, DVM
This year Iâve seen several cases of urinary obstruction in male sheep and goats.Â A four-month-old Nubian wether underwent successful surgery, one ram lamb was put to sleep because his urethra had ruptured, one mature breeding ram was put to sleep because of suspected urethral rupture and one yearling ramâs urethral process was snipped to free the obstruction.Â A four-month-old Pygmy wether who was unblocked by snipping the urethral process went on to block higher up in the urethra, thus necessitating a urethrostomy.
Almost any time a client calls concerning a male sheep or goat with the complaint, âMy animal is depressed, wonât eat, looks bloated, acts constipated, and is straining,â my thoughts jump to a blockage of the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder to the penis which passes sperm and urine, with urethral âcalculiâ, small stones from the bladder which lodge in the long, thin male urethra.
Usually, when I arrive, the animal is down, had abnormally dry hair around the penis, and is lying in an unusually dry stall.Â Because of the build-up of urea and other toxins that are normally passed in the urine, the animal is quite depressed.Â A combination of decreased water intake and increased blood toxin level causes the animal to also be dehydrated.
If the animal is not castrated, I can extrude the penis and check the small, worm-like urethral process at the end of the penis for build-up of the small stones.Â This is a common site of obstruction since it is quite small.Â In the castrated animal, especially in one castrated at a young age, the attachments of the penis to the prepuce have not yet broken down and sometimes it is impossible to examine or extrude the end of the penis.
If there are crystals in the urethral process, easily seen and felt on the exam, I can snip off the end of the process with a sharp pair of scissors, thus often ridding the animal of the blockage.Â This must often be done under light anaesthesia, especially when dealing with goats.Â Obtaining a good stream of urine is surely a relief once the urethral process is snipped, but the animal may very possibly become re-blocked with stones higher up, even if this is achieved.Â If the urethral process cannot be visualised and / or the blockage doesnât occur at this point, then either surgery or euthanasia should be considered.Â If surgery is the decision, it should be performed promptly, before the animal becomes more toxic.
I must convince myself the problem is a urethral obstruction.Â This can sometimes be done by feeling a large abnormally hard bladder.Â If the bladder canât be felt and obstruction is suspected, a ruptured bladder should be ruled out by tapping the abdomen with a hypodermic needle and checking for urine spillage into the abdominal cavity.Â A high blood urea and blood creatinine can also tell me, especially in the case of a large animal whose bladder is difficult to feel, whether I am dealing with a probable urinary obstruction.
The other common site of blockage is a point at which the urethra makes an S-shaped curve, the sigmoid flexure.Â The sigmoid flexure frustrates all attempts at passing a catheter from the penis to the bladder because of its curvature.Â If the blockage occurs at this point, the only solution is to do a urethrostomy. Â This involves making a longitudinal incision over the urethra at a site below the anus, suturing the opened incision to the skin and allowing it to heal open, thus causing a permanent hole in the urethra where urine crystals can pass freely. Â Surgery is done under general anaesthesia and is fraught with complications after the surgery, mainly consisting of the urethra scarring shut or stricturing at the surgical site.Â The success rate is probably about 50%. Â This surgery is useful only to save the animalâs life, but not to salvage it as a breeding individual.
Causes and Prevention:
Urolithiasis or calculosis, the metabolic disease of male sheep and goats, is the blockage of the urethra by struvite crystals, preventing the normal passage of urine from the bladder. Â The disease, caused by what appears to be a complex of dietary and environmental factors, begins with the formation of ammonium phosphate ions which form a nidus to which other ions and eventually cells and mucus from the bladder adhere, forming a calculus of up to 3 mm in diameter. Â These calculi pass without problem through the large, short female urethra, but rub and irritate the lining of the long, thin male urethra, causing irritation, swelling and eventual obstruction and occlusion of urine outflow.
Males from a few weeks of age to mature rams and bucks are all susceptible to this non-contiguous disease, but the highest risk population is the wether 3-6 months old on a high concentrate diet who has been castrated at an early age.
Factors that appear to predispose to the formation of urinary calculi:
Prevention of this deadly metabolic disease involves:
Finally, it is extremely important to avoid over-feeding your male goats. Â Castrated or not, a male goat does not need anywhere near the concentrate required by a milk producing doe. Â Although a young animal needs concentrate, care should be taken not to over-feed the young male. Â As long as good quality hay is fed, concentrate should figure only marginally in the diet of the mature animal.
Kinne, Maxine, ed. Pygmy Goats: Best of Memo 2 (1982-1987)
National Pygmy Goat Association: pp. 147-148
This document is for informational purposes only and is in no way intended to be a substitute for medical consultation with a qualified veterinary professional. The information provided through this document is not meant to be used in the diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or disease, nor should it be construed as such.
Regular visitors will be noticing that the content on the majority of our static pages is coming along nicely - most are finished now (or at least as finished as they’re going to be until something major changes, or we take on something else that’s worth sharing with you!). We hope you approve of the content we’ve included - we’ve tried to give you a real flavour of what we do alongside some basic information about the breeds that we keep and any particular hints and tips that we feel would be useful to those considering keeping some of our breeds for themselves.
Products will be added to our ‘For Sale’ page as we photograph those that we feel people will be interested in, and those that we are happy to be able to ship to customers or have them collect from our premises! Whenever we have stock for sale we’ll post information about it, alongside some pictures of the actual stock available. We will be able to include stock for sale as pets, for breeding or purely for bringing on ready for the table.
Now that the static content is nearly complete we’ll spend the next couple of weeks catching up on all of the blog posts that we’ve been intending to write! Don’t worry - we haven’t forgotten any news that we want to share, we’ve been keeping a list! Hopefully we’ll now be able to put all of our news into words and share it with you - with any nice pictures that we’ve taken to go alongside.
Please make sure you post comments under anything you find particularly interesting, as it’s the only way we’ll ever know if our news really is worth sharing!
Thanks for all your patience.
Adrian & Jo
We run a range of courses throughout the year, generally during the main beekeeping season between the months of March and October.Â If you are looking for something a bit more specific, such as preparing for winter or methods of Integrated Pest Management, then please donât let that stop you from getting in touch â we can always prepare a bespoke programme for interested individuals!
If you canât find any dates to suit you, or there are none currently advertised, please let us know that you are interested.Â We will always put on extra dates when we have enough sign up to make a course viable.
We are happy to provide 1-to-1 instruction for individuals â please contact us to discuss your requirements.
Our current, standard, range of courses can be found below:
Beekeeping Course 1:
Half-day taster â for those that have an interest in bees and are keen to find out more about this fascinating social insect.Â Come and get close up to the bees and take the opportunity to have all those questions you didnât know who to ask answered by an experienced beekeeper.
Beekeeping Course 2:
Full-day experience â for those who are interested in taking the first step towards looking after their own bees.Â The day will cover all the practical considerations that need to be taken into account when starting beekeeping including siting an apiary, essential and desirable equipment, the beekeepers year and the processing of hive produce â plus many other aspects of this rewarding hobby.
Beekeeping Course 3:
Weekend introduction to beekeeping â this course goes into far greater detail and depth than the day experience, and is ideal for those that have already decided to take on their first hive of bees, or have recently acquired their first colony.
All of the above courses include practical experience of handling bees!
What to bring on a course:
We will provide all protective beekeeping equipment, including gloves and tops, but you should wear a long sleeve top, trousers (not too flimsy!) and wellies or stout shoes with socks you can tuck your trousers into.Â If you are attending one of our weekend courses then itâs probably better to wear clothes that you donât mind getting a bit mucky â and itâs probably always a good idea to bring a waterproof jacket or coat!Â Although we will provide course notes I always like to take a notebook and pencil whenever I go on a course â I always feel like Iâm being rude if I type it directly into a notes app on my phone or pad!
The location for all courses:
A J Apiaries, Pinewood School, Hoe Lane, Ware, Hertfordshire SG12 9PB
(please see the map on our contact page for directions)
Please note that whilst we do our best to ensure that you do not get stung if you are aware that you have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings these courses are not for you as they all involve working with live bees.
Terms & Conditions of Booking Courses
Bookings for our courses are non-refundable and non-transferable. Â However, if you let us know that you are unable to attend, we will do our utmost best to resell your place(s). Â In the event that we are successful, we will refund you the cost of your place, less an administration fee of 20% per place.Â We require a minimum of 7 days notice for all cancellations.
In the event of there being fewer than four people on any one course, we reserve the right to cancel the course in which case a full refund of the course fees will be provided, but we cannot be held responsible for any other expenses incurred in advance of the course. Â We will do our utmost best to arrange an alternative date for you.
Our beekeeping courses can only take place with fair weather conditions â the bees do not enjoy being manipulated during inclement weather and the likelihood of them sharing their stingers with course participants increases dramatically!Â If it is necessary to cancel a course due to the weather then we will either refund you the full cost of your place or attempt to arrange an alternative date for you.