Archives for posts with tag: woodland

A couple of our mature trees had rotten cores, so we felled them as a preemptive measure (Souness style, we got our retaliation in first). One was a horse chestnut that oozed black gunk out of a gaping hole. That is hopefully going to sprout from the base again and there are shoots there ready to go. I have also sown some conkers to grow some replacements if the sprouting doesn’t work.

The second tree is maybe a Lawson’s cypress or maybe a western red cedar, not managed to pin that one down yet.The leaves and reddish cones look like Lawson’s cypress but the really pungent wood suggest maybe western red ceder (the leaves would match that possibly). Either way, I’ll make something out of it rather than burn it.

It had holes in its base that we could get a fist into (on three sides). It was a fine tree and it’s a shame it had to go. So far our plans are to replace it with a damson and something else (a seedling horse chestnut or a magnolia perhaps).

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As the stump won’t regrow, I turned it into a noughts and crosses board. This has been on my wishlist since we moved here.

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K for the win!

To finish off the series of woodland posts, here is the planting plan for the field. (Large)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right (2015)

I used a program called QGIS to create the map. It’s a geographic information system, into which I imported some OS open data and then started drawing.

There are all sorts of other interesting data sets available, such as from SNH, Historic Scotland and the Forestry Commission.

Today we planted the last tree in the new woods. The morning was miserable and wet, so we waited until the predicted sun came out in the afternoon. The burn was running very fast and very cloudy after the rain. It’s been burbling along with clear water every time we’ve been down over the last week.

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Kester and Arthur were down to help. Arthur lost his welly in the mud, got burn water in his welly by standing in the burn, and got stuck up a tree. A good day out. Kester’s average was not so impressive, he mainly went on strike and pretended to fall over a lot.

He recovered long enough to help me plant the final tree.

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We’ve had a planting party, extra WWOOFers (one for a day here and there, one for five days), a rural studies class from Kirkcudbright Academy, and friends dropping in every so often. So that leaves us with 200 or so trees left of the original 1020. Here is the finished marshy area at the far west of the field.

P1030335 (Large)80ish of the remaining trees are to go into the large area next to the existing trees, next to the drainage ditch. The rest of this area was planted by the Kirkcudbright Academy pupils, their teachers, and our WWOOFers in a riot of tree planting (Veronika on the left and Korrasut the five-day WWOOFer on the right):

P1030337 (Large)The final 120 are going into the area next to the burn at a much slower rate; our WWOOFers leave on Wednesday and are cutting the grass and mulching tomorrow.

Veronika and I have begun planting trees. We’re planting up the boundaries with the smaller, shrubbier species to help define the planting areas a bit and to spot any wrinkles in the tree-planting process.

We’re doing the shrubbier species at the edges to grade the boundaries a little, as a natural wood may do. In other words, smaller trees at the edge with the larger ones in the middle, each size taking up its own layer in the available light. By the end of today, we’d done the edge of our biggest planting area ready to be filled in.

P1030331 (Large)So far this is 100 trees in two mornings, which equates to four weeks’ worth of work for me and a WWOOFer. You can see why a planting party is a good idea.

We are getting faster as we improve the planting technique, which means that when people arrive to for the planting party I’ll have a decent process ready to go. This is the current iteration of the process, using at least four people per team, which is my estimate based on the number of people who say they’ll be coming:

  1. The measurer takes the stakes and marks out the location of each tree by quickly stabbing a stake in the ground. This allows all holes and trees to be spotted right from the start by any people following on. We lost a few holes in the marshy ground before starting this technique. The measurer becomes the staker at step 5.
  2. The distributor then distributes the tree guards to each stake position. All the hardware is now where it needs to be. The distributor becomes the protector at step 6.
  3. The digger digs a straight slit (bare round) or a t-shape (grass) next to each stake. The digger can help stake or attach guards when they are finished.
  4. The planter plants a tree in each slit. The planter can help stake or attach guards when they are finished.
  5. The staker positions the stake properly and bangs it in. The stake goes on the windward side of the tree.
  6. The protector places a tree guard over every tree and attaches the guard to each stake. Each guard has a lip that is designed to avoid rubbing (it bends out the way so the tree doesn’t rub on the hard plastic rim). This should be at the top of the guard.

With two people on a team, the measurer becomes the digger then the staker and the distributor becomes the planter then the protector. The first two steps can be done by a few people until their roles are needed, I imagine. As some of this is still theory based on our planting today, it could change.

Veronika finished the morning by planting the banks of the ditch nearest the burn. It looked beautiful with the tiny trees and I’m hopeful it’ll just get better. I’ve promised to send Veronika a photo in 20 years.

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We took delivery of the trees this morning, only four days late after a classic delivery farce. Glossing over that, WWOOFer Veronika and I piled 1,000 stakes by the gate, stacked 1,000 tree guards in the field and put 1,000 trees into the garage. It didn’t actually take us very long because it’s all neatly packed into bundles; the real work will be getting all that into the field, separated and planted. Here is what 1,000 trees looks like:

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Not quite a wood yet (just add 15 years and voila).

P1030320 (Large)We’ve got five planting areas, split into wet and dry. Wet areas are getting willows, alder and bird cherry; dry areas are getting oak, birch and hawthorn. The photo shows the trees that are going into our little marshy area at the east of the field: alder (Alnus glutinosa), bird cherry (Prunus padus), goat willow (Salix caprea) and grey willow (Salix cinerea).



March, and our profusion of snowdrops are beginning to fade from luminous white to delicate papery grey. There are still drifts of alpine white among the trees but these are beginning to be overtaken by the pointed acid yellow buds of daffodils preparing to flower. On the grass, in places, there are purple and white crocus forcing their heads above the green blades and, best of all, one or two highlights of buttercup yellow crocuses, including one slap bang in the middle of our winter puddle pond. That particular golden bloom comes from the bulbs we planted this autumn, so is especially gratifying. Most of our spring blooms are inherited and we’ve been marveling at each new discovery, as well as taking the opportunity to move clumps around and add some extras in pots.

In late Autumn, I moved two old Belfast sinks from the back of the house to the front, to benefit from the sunshine. I planted this with perennials and bulbs in shades of blue and green. Pleasingly, all the plants seem to be coping well with the winter and a cheery purple anemone is the first bulb to flower. The luscious green curls of tulip leaves are also growing up through the mulch of gathered seashells used to dress the top of the soil.

Thanks to all this floral abundance, I’ve been able to indulge in cutting blooms for the house, gathering two bunches of daffodils today which are now in jugs in the lounge and the kitchen. The coming spring has also encouraged us to crack on with work in the field – before new growth overtakes us. Our new WWOOFer. Audrey, and Matthew have been busy raking off bracken patches in the field and we’ll plant wildflower seeds in the bare soil to give them a bit of competition. The bracken strafing is a project inspired by the Woodland Trust site visit on Friday. We’re waiting for the full report but it looks like the best option for creating a woodland in the field will be to plant trees in stages, starting with the areas close to the current copse and those that benefitted most from the sheep grazing. In these areas we could plants around 500 trees (willow, alder, hawthorn, scots pine) this year. For the remainder, we need to get hold of livestock to turn the soil and beat down the bracken which looks like being our biggest enemy.


Now the house is in a slightly more ordered state and spring is creeping around the corner, our thoughts are turning more to the land. Having planted the orchard at the weekend, Matt today registered it with the new National Orchard Inventory and has also been inspired to book a place on a grafting course taking place locally in March. We’re hoping to take cuttings of the established but struggling apple trees in the garden and be shown how to graft them to create new trees to plant.

We’ve also been in touch with The Woodland Trust to get their help to create a woodland in the field. We’ve had a phone conversation and provided them with a site map and an outline of what we hope to achieve. The next step will probably be a site visit to discuss our options. If it goes well we’ll come up with a planting plan and the Trust will provide all the trees, stakes and protectors we need, shouldering 60% of the cost – we just have to plant them.

We finished this flurry of administrative activity by finally registering as WWOOF hosts. This brilliant charity brings together those working land in an organic and sustainable way with those who fancy trying it out or sharing their skills while travelling. The basic premise is that we provide bed and board in exchange for a few hours’ labour a day working alongside us. This will be pretty essential for planting the woodland and there are all sorts of jobs we could do with a helping hand on – fixing some of the stone walls, gleaning and chopping wood, preparing the vegetable patch…


Plunton on Sunday afternoon from the veg patch gate.

The Indian Summer weather slightly caught us by surprise this weekend but as we had lots of plans was most welcome. On Saturday we went up to Lanark for the Smallholders and Growers Festival. It’s a small one-day agricultural show aimed specifically at what most farmers would describe as hobbyists – that would be us! There were really useful stalls covering everything from bee-keeping (Solway Bees are based just down the road at Twynholm and said we could pop by any time) to pigs and cattle and renewable energy. We picked up leaflets on several sheep varieties, poultry (including, ex-battery hens) rare breeds, pigs and even Dexter cattle. We’re unlikely to invest in livestock of any sort until the Spring but it was nice to ask stupid questions without feeling a fool! Perhaps most useful was the forestry talk Matt and Iris attended. The Woodland Trust will come out and do a free survey to help us plan our wood and will provide ongoing help and grants of up to 60%. We’ve asked their local rep to give us a call to see what we can do as we’d like to get trees groing this autumn if we can.


The revamped planters (and Iris getting her sandals on)

Saturday evening and Sunday were given over to landscaping. We inherited two old Belfast sink planters with the house which were languishing by the rotten back door on the north side of the house, where they were getting very little sun and had consequently failed. I’d emptied them of their contents last week so on Saturday we moved them to the front of the house and raised them up on bricks removed from the old kitchen inglenook – they fit perfectly either side of the kids’ bench against the front of the sun room. We cleared out the clogged up plugs, filled them with crocks for drainage and topped up with compost. I’d picked up some plants at the Festival so I then planted in some spring bulbs and a mix of lavender, nepeta, a crawling sedum to drip over the front and cover the damaged rims and a small spiky grass. I’m pretty pleased with the final effect and hopefully they will do well in the sunshine and not suffer too much from the exposure. We’ll be gathering more shells from the beach to top dress them to cut down on weeds. If this weather holds out that might be today’s outing with Arthur and Kester.

Sunday saw more graft in the form of preparing a rabbit-proofed area for our veg patch. We have decided to site it at the end of the front garden against the existing boulder walls. It’s a south-facing slope and we’d already sunk the gateposts and a couple of fence posts through the week. By lunchtime we’d sunk the rest (and located a drainage pipe) and strung galvanised wire across the top. In the afternoon we fixed on the chicken wire. We have left a flap of about 30cm on the ground which we will hide under the turf to stop rabbits burrowing underneath and we folded over a similar amount at the top to reinforce it. It’s not the most attractive structure but it should work to protect our crops from rabbits and, if necessary with a bit of reinforcing, deer and the odd escaped sheep from the field. Matt is finishing off the gate as I type, using bits of scrap wood from projects in the house. The kids, meanwhile, had a ball playing in the garden in the unseasonably warm weather!

The finished fence...well, almost.

The finished fence…well, almost.

This week’s tasks – well, Matt is off to London for the day on Tuesday so there’s a logistical nightmare to sort out as he needs to drive to Dumfries for the train. I’m hoping to do more jam-making, looking into soap-making, there’s a parents’ meeting on Friday morning and a Harvest Service in the afternoon which Iris will be taking part in, which also means looking out tins and jars for donating to the local food bank and then we have a weekend off as we head to Kerry’s wedding in Alnwick on Friday afternoon and meet up with lots of old friends. Phew!