Saturday, 30 November 2013

Three tree wooden coffee table

Well not just for coffee, but a low table perfect for the living room. Thought I'd have a bash at making one of these as the next level up I suppose from a stool. I bought a lovely solid section of sweet chestnut from a timber yard and then worked it all by hand.

It was rough sawn, so I plained all the top and sides, just sanding the end grain slightly. Partially augured 4 holes for the legs so as to blind fit the oak wedges to splay the tenons on the Ash legs. The legs were all made from one log, quartered and trimmed up with an axe and shave horse.

The stretchers are Hazel poles made from an old walking stick I made a while ago, and a recently made digging stick used to source some burdock roots. Had to use these, as they were nicely seasoned and materials were on the low side. The tenons are just whittled on with my knife, and glued into the holes made by bit and brace.

I lick of Linseed oil, a dry in the warm followed by a natural waxing and its ready to rock : )

I really enjoyed making this table and hope it lasts many years in our house. It might.. dare I say it, even be child proof !

Thursday, 31 October 2013

My foraging buddies

There's been a bumper crop of wild food this year with Sweet Chestnuts reaching a really good size. The kids and I have had some great walks up in the woods checking out the local produce, and kicking about in the leaves.

No big projects for a week or two, just wandering about and taking it all in.
Roasted chestnuts in the wood stove is definitely on the cards though :)


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Hawthorn and Crab Apple Fruit Leather - Recipe

Fruit leathers are an alternative to jams and jellies, when wanting to preserve a glut of fruit. They are really tasty and great trail food too, lasting up to a year without the need for a heavy container.

You can make them without cooking up your fruit if its just the haws being used, by just mashing them all up with your hands and a small amount of water, then separating out the pips and most of the skins.
But this time I thought I would add in the crab (and 100g of elderberries to make up the weight of fruit needed) and follow the recipe below by Pam Corbin, explained in "Hedgerow" by John Wright.

500g of chopped crab apples
500g of Hawthorn berries
100ml Water


- Stew for 20 minutes
- Push mixture through a sieve, into a saucepan.
- Add 150g sugar, heat the mixture stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Spread the fruit purée thinly onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and place in a low oven 50-60    deg C for 12-18 hrs. until dry and leathery.

You can roll up the leather in a clean piece of parchment paper and twist the ends of paper like a sausage, for storing up to a year if properly dried.

I tend to eat mine through the weeks after making it simply storing cut up sections in the fridge, then transferring to a small container when off camping.

Fruit purée on the left and pips, cores and skins on the right.

Dried and ready to go. 
This batch has a lovely sharp taste from the crab mixed with sweetness from the other ingredients.

Rose hip syrup recipe

I've made this a few times now, and love to put it on my porridge and pancakes. Packed full of vitamin C, an excuse for a good walk, and really sweet. What is there not to like (well a few scratches but its all good fun)

Some of the hips I gathered were already going soft while others were rock hard. 
Luckily boiling them up helps to soften the flesh and release the juices.

Separating the juice from the mush

Here is the recipe I followed, although I scaled mine down a bit because of the amount of hips gathered on the last trip. It was reprinted in the River Cottage Handbook - Hedgerow by John Wright. An excellent read and well worth buying if your into foraging. Its also floating around on the web. There are other ways to make it too, but I like the fact that even back in the war years people were bothered about preserving the vitamin content by following this method.

The directions given by the Ministry of Food during the war for 2 pounds (900gm) of hips.


Boil 3 pints (1.7 litres) of boiling water.

Mince hips in a course mincer (food processor) and put immediately into the boiling water.

Bring to boil and then place aside for 15 minutes.

Pour into a flannel or linen crash jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid has come through.

Return the residue to the saucepan, add 11/2 pints (852ml) of boiling water, stir and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Pour back into the jelly bag and allow to drip.

To make sure all the sharp hairs are removed put back the first half cupful of liquid and allow to drip through again.

Put the mixed juice into a clean saucepan and boil down until the juice measures about 11/2 pints (852ml), then add 11/4 (560gm) of sugar and boil for a further 5 minutes.
Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once.


If corks are used these should have been boiled for hour just previously and after insertion coated with melted paraffin wax.

It is advisable to use small bottles as the syrup will not keep for more than a week or two once the bottle is opened.

Store in a dark cupboard.

Source: The Hedgerow Harvest, MoF, 1943 and the BBC Radio 4 Website

Wild food harvest - Rowan and Crab Apple Jelly

The trees, bushes and woodland floor have all been groaning with seasonal food recently, so I decided to grab some while I had the chance. The baskets and containers helped to sort out the different sorts before preparing into various goodies. Ive used these containers before for gathering, and the bramble basket is great, but you cant beat an old army canvas respirator bag around the neck. It keeps your hands free and the stiffer bag, helps when throwing in the food.

The first thing of many I thought I would make this year was Rowan and Crab Apple Jelly.
I used, as is often the case, a recipe by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. There's no point me rewriting it as its just fine as it is, so click on the link for the info :) Recipe

I scaled down the ingredients as I just wanted to try out one jars worth for a bit of practice this time round.

Its a really simple recipe to follow, and the fruit is easy to gather.

I think this might go down well with the haul of venison and game I have at the moment.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Bushcraft Practice - Part 3

Last part of the trip to the woods, and crafts started to dominate my time.

After eating up the roots I had some time to kill as it was dark, and the fire was burning nicely after collecting lots of firewood and kindling to see me though the night. During the days forage, I managed to get some still fresh Birch Bark from a recently fallen tree. Just enough to kindle a few fires, and make a container.

The bark ready to go, and some round sections of seasoned Oak for the bottom and the lid.
I whittled and trimmed up until bedtime, and managed to finish it

Took some pictures in the morning, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.
The double tabs were an accident as it peeled off the tree like this due to a knot in the wood, so I worked with the shape.

The medulary rays, and staining in the Oak were a pleasant surprise, and I'm glad a persisted with the handle, as I would normal place in a strip of leather, which I didn't have to hand.

Today's task though, was to try out different materials for weaving. I'm an amateur at weaving baskets and the like having only made a couple from material growing in the countryside, but I like a challenge.
Above are the Hazel wands I experimented with. Great for withies, and making woven hoops.

I tried Ivy, Hazel, honeysuckle, and here in the picture spruce roots. By far the best though in terns of flexibility, ease of gathering/processing, and quantity available, was the Bramble.

I ended up making a Mellon Basket for future foraging using Hazel for the frame. The end sections were tied together at one end with spruce root, the other bramble. The root was more flexible, but harder to gather requiring more energy and a longer walk. This is when the penny dropped, so back to the bramble patch it was. They even feed you plenty of sugar at this time of the year as you strip off the spines.

Fruit sugars wearing off, it was time to raid the rations. Wholemeal bannock made in the billy can, and some soup to prepare for weaving.

DaDa! Quite chuffed with it. Especially as it absolutely chucked it down with rain the minute I started weaving and didn't stop for around 15 hours. I Stoked up the fire and quickly gathered a load more firewood including seasoned Oak, and was confined to quarters, but one of the best experiences I've had. Loved it! 

The roof finally met its match with three wet days and this final downpour, so I ducked into the bivi bag. Just shows you how much time you need to spend on the shelter. The next day was the start of the deer in a day course but I still wanted to stay in my shelter that evening. When time allowed after the course, I sorted things out a bit more by adding more material to the roof, and getting even more firewood and kindling in. Everything was soaked, but through the use of feather sticks and the remaining dry wood stored at the back of the shelter I got things roaring again for the last night in the shelter. 
 It was the first clear night, a little chilly with a gentle breeze, but the blanket and fire was enough to keep warm for a few hours at a time with a few stokes of the fire on each waking. 
Moon and stars were in full show with the Owls hooting away.

A cracking trip and looking forward to the next.

Bushcraft Practice - Part 2

Carrying on from Part 1, I decided it was time to eat some of the countryside!
Now that I had got to know my way around and had seen some interesting resources, I set off with my hardened digging stick, and billy can

These blackberry's were particularly sweet, and the brambles had given me another idea too...

The badgers have a tough time digging as there is hardly any soil on this chalk and flint ground. It dosent seem to stop them and just shows you how strong they are.

Feeling humbled by the badgers, I thought I'd dig up a Burdock root in this chalky ground.
I picked an area of ground just off one of the tracks through the wood thinking it would be easyier, that the track surface. 

It's hard work wherever you do it! Loads of calories in the root though, so there was a gain.

Silverweed. These tiny little tubers are much easier to gather, but to gather plenty takes about the same amount of time as digging up a large burdock root. I think they taste nicer though, especially when cooked.

Only company for that last couple of days was the military, using me as a target. Must have stuck out like a sore thumb on the heat cameras.

Back for a break, and brewed a spruce tea.

I kept finding the Hazelnuts on the floor. I assumed they were nibbled off early by the grey Squirrels, but though I'd give them a whirl anyhow.

Roasted in a scrape under the fire within the Ashes, they revealed empty shells or very undeveloped nuts. Shame, as I eat them most days at home and they are a great source of fat in the wild.

          Later on as it got dark, I prepared and boiled up the roots gathered. Very nice they were too
Then I setted down for the night in the debris shelter. I had a great nights sleep compared to other blanket camps using large fires. The reflector really worked well, It rained in the night, but not as heavily as the previous one, and all was well.

Bushcraft Practice - Part 1

I recently escaped to the woods for several days, the first three to camp and practice skills as much as possible and the last two were part of a weekend course running on the site I was using. The woods are the stomping ground of Joe O Leary from Wilderness Survival Skills, and as I was making a trip down from the north for the weekend courses, he was very generous in letting me camp on my own in the woods leading up to them.
A quick meet up and tour of the main site, and I was left to my own devices.

Its a really nice woodland, dominated by Hazel coppice, Oak standards and many more mixed deciduous trees of various age class. Just for good measure there were blocks of coniferous trees. Materials were not on the short side here! I really like camping out on my own when I have a lot of things I want to practice or try out for the first time. I can just dedicate every minute of the day to them with no distractions. The complete opposite of my normal day to day life. Meeting up for a laugh and a joke with other folks later on is equally enjoyable, and balances things out nicely.

First job was to set up a tarp to dump my rucksack full of modern gear, while I got started on building a natural shelter. I didn't quite get the job done by the first night getting easilly distracted by other things, so kipped under here for ease.

Next day I moved in. Fire reflector, cooking/drying tripod, bed and roof made.
Just a blanket for the evening as it was fairly warm and I planned on a large fire too.  

Used a well supported fallen Ash tree for the roof support. 

Ferns for the roof over the hazel rafters, trapped on by the larger limbs

Then I decided to go for a walk and check out the local area. 
Great chance to practice map and compass work, and pacing out to track junctions.

Reaching the edge of the woods, and very nice it was too.
Started to glimpse a few of the other resources on site as I moved around.

Getting back to camp with some wood, feeling hungry and needing a brew, 
I carved a spoon burning in the bowl so I could eat and stir in style :)

Other parts coming up....

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Spoon carving demonstration and my Painted Wooden Cooking Spoons

I recently demonstrated Wooden spoon carving with Axe and Knife, at the 2013 Chatsworth Country Fair. It was part of a larger green-woodworking, Flint Knapping and Countryside promotional event for Derbyshire County Councils Countryside Service.

We even got judged, and won the best educational stand!

Quiet moments and some whittling while the coffee gets to work.

Most folks were interested me axing out the blanks for the spoons.
It was a good opportunity to interest folks in carving and promote courses and other greenwoodworking events such as the one I've been helping out on for several years. The Elvaston Castle woodland Festival.

John and Val Lord were with us again, promoting flint knapping and Creswell Crags visitor centre.
Its great being able to work with such lovely and skilled people. They are hoping to make the festival too.

I really like this simple design of cooking spoon I've been working on designing. They are made from Cherry and work really well in the pan, food, and hand. Nothing all that revolutionary about the design, but getting the angles, bowls and handles to work well and then replicate several times is quite rewarding. 

Once a few more were made, dried and finished I made up some home made egg tempera paint using natural ochre pigments, and set too jazzing up the handles. 

If you like them , pop along to a show and have a fondle!