Regular readers will know that, as well as being co-creator of the écovallée family yurt camp, an extreme gardener, parent, ethical copywriter, small(and-getting-smaller-all-the-time)holder and other things, I am the keyboard player in a wedding band called “SouthWest”.

In the last band practice, we shot some film, including interviews and bits of songs, which I’ve spent some time turning into this:

When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, have a watch and let me know what you think. Some readers are industry professionals, and they might want to contact me privately to tell me exactly where my transitions could be smoother and my edits made tighter – all of which I will note and apply to the next video.

If you haven’t done this kind of thing, I highly recommend it. It’s given me a huge respect for people who work in TV. It’s hard but creative, and you could tweak the film forever, although at some point you’ve just got to stop and call it finished. A bit like coppicing – there’s always another tree you can cut. Just one more before lunch.

Here’s how the very long-term coppice experiment is going at the moment:


You can see last year’s blog post here, for reference.

My old log cutting bench has seen its last season:

As I was sketching out a new, improved design, I remembered something that friend and helper Alex mentioned a few years ago. She said she’d made a log cutting system involving uprights with many logs stacked on top of each other. I guestimated she meant something like this:

This is how many logs you can cut in a couple of minutes, the first time you used it:

It’s a huge efficiency in time and energy (physical and fossil fuel). There’s at least one log lift less required than with the previous bench, and it may be close to perfect. It will also mean only one large pile of sawdust (for animal bedding and compost toilets), instead of several small piles with the old, portable bench.

This is a Mark I experiment to see if the gaps and angles work. It’s based on the width and blade length of my chainsaw, to produce the 40 cm lengths required for our main woodburner. We have a second burner that uses 25 cm lengths and I’m still thinking about that.

(Worth mentioning that, going into my fourth winter in a yurt, I’ve never been so prepared when it comes to fire wood. I have dry wood in various locations, and have even got the beginnings of a pile for next winter.)

(Also worth mentioning that I’m hating the new blogger interface that I’ve been forcibly migrated onto. Instead of struggling with it, I’m going to start looking for another platform. I’ve stopped following other blogs that have migrated but please bear with me.)

During the winter of 2010-11, I started a long-term experiment in coppicing. This meant cutting all the overstood sweet chestnut from a patch of woodland near us, with a view to using the new growth for heating in about seven years time. Some young chestnut will be layered and others will, no doubt be taken for fencing by Her Outdoors.

Although each tree was carefully cut at an angle to shed water, then stacked for burning during the winter of 2012-13, the effect when I’d finished was dramatic. Here’s the photo from February 11th 2011:

Some of our chickens were killed by an unknown predator early last year, which gave us the chance to transplant a few healthy ash saplings to add a bit of variety, but otherwise we left the area completely alone. And this is what it looks like today:

If a millionth of a millionth of the life seen in this image was discovered on another planet in our solar system, it would be heralded as the discovery of the millennium and radically change the way our species sees itself. But this is what we have, literally in our own back yard. To be honest, having been completely responsible for the first photo, it’s a bit of a relief.

More on this, much later.