At this darkening time, with the first frosts of the season arriving, our firewood supplies become ever more important. It's a huge amount of work each year during the felling season (Oct to Feb) to fell full-size larch and scots pine, coppice ash, hazel and sycamoore, process the wood, and store it well to meet our firewood needs for the following winter. But it's an intimate part of life in the forest and living in a low impact way. We use chainsaws (powered by Aspen fuel which has less fumes than petrol) but much of our felling is still done by hand, using bowsaws, a cross-cut saw and axes. It's so satisfying to work in this way, especially when the tree falls exactly as you planned. Fortunately, for any trees that need taking down in sections or pollarding, we have a resident skilled tree surgeon at hand, Owen, to do the job.
Everyday throughout the year, but particularly during the colder months, one person for each house will be collecting and processing brash, chopping up wood for kindling, and bringing wood into the house for stacking by the burner. It's simply everyday life. And being by a warm burner on cold nights or mornings is the reward. Connection to the element of fire is something most people lack in this country in our affluent, fossil fuel powered world. However, we can only imagine life to be much poorer if that connection were taken away.
The Bard of Steward Wood, Daniel LionHeart, has produced another fine collection of poems for your delectation, delight and insight. Check it out.
I am very excited to be running our first Bird Language Weekend here at Steward Wood, 7th - 9th September 2012. All participants need to have attended a Nature Awareness day or weekend as a pre-requisite. On this weekend we will be taking the bird language to an advanced level focusing on how bird vocalisations, body language and behaviour can be indicators of the presense of other animals or humans. We will explore how to use this knowledge to read the landscape around us, be it an urban garden, or a 'wild' wood.
There are only 5 places left so book now to confirm a place!
Please follow the link for more info and to book online: http://www.natureconnections.co.uk/courses/bird-language-weekend/
Only a few places left for this Saturdays Nature Awareness Day, 4th August. The forecast is not looking to bad, and there is a dry space with wood burner incase of showers. You can book online here.
Have you seen one of these wolves in your woodland or garden? To find out more check out the link: http://www.natureconnections.co.uk/wolf-in-the-woods/
Some of us here are very excited about holding a space at this years Buddafield Festival in Somerset. The festival starts on Wednesday 11th July and runs until Sunday 15th July and we will be running a selection of interesting workshops that are focused on some of the ways that we can learn to live on the land in a good way. These will include:
- Healing Hedgerow - learn to identify, harvest and preserve your own medicine chest from Mother Nature. Through guided walks, balm and tincture making sessions.
- Fire by Friction - learn the principles behind the practice. Crafting of bow and hand drill sets, tree identification, natural tinders and fire lay out.
- Shelter building - exploring different ways to create emergency survival shelters from minimal natural and manmade materials.
- Nature Awareness - learn nature awareness skills, and how to move through the natural landscape in a way that enables you to blend into the environment around you, leading to closer encounters with wild animals.
- An introduction to Bird Language - discover how a knowledge of bird language gives us an exciting new way of reading the landscapes around us, by interpreting the patterns of behaviors and vocalisations we observe.
- Make your own natural skincare - learn how to make your own, completelty natural, chemical free skincare products using native herbs.
If you are interested in booking tickets for the festival or finding out more about it please follow the link below. We look forward to a wonderfully sunny time at Buddhafield :)
For your delectation and delight, Daniel LionHeart (the Bard of Steward Wood) has produced an anthology of poems entitled 'Look to the Skies' inspired by our feathered friends. You can download in pdf here.
I just wanted to announce that I have decided to reduce the cost of the Nature Connection Weekends that I run here at Steward Wood. The reason I began holding these courses was to share with others the tried and tested skills of earth living and nature connection, and spread the massive benefits that a deep relationship with the natural world can bring to our lives and communities. If you check out the testimonials on my website you will see that they have already had an impact on those that attended. http://www.natureconnections.co.uk/?page_id=53
With this in mind I want to make the courses more affordable as I just love sharing these amazing weekends and the woodland with other people, so I have reduced the £200 cost to £150 and the £150 concesionary places to £100, so if you or anyone you know are interested in coming along, just get in touch. I hope these changes make the courses more accessable to people, and if its still out of your price range just check out the dates for my day courses. Follow the link for dates and more info. http://www.stewardwood.org/currentnews.ghtml#news29
Many thanks to all those who came along last year and for all your amazing feedback.
The woods are alive with the sound of music, and a whole host of other bird sounds other than song. It truly is a great time of year to learn the langauge of the birds. Follow the link to find out more: http://www.natureconnections.co.uk/?p=175#more-175
When is an owl not an owl? To find out more follow the link: http://www.natureconnections.co.uk/?p=141
We have quite alot of Corvid activity here at Steward Wood, but can anybody help me with this little mystery? http://www.natureconnections.co.uk/?p=77
What a lovely day its been. I have been sleeping outside the last few nights, and its been feeling pretty mild. The birds are getting very busy, lots of song and territorial behaviour, and I have seen some checking out potential nesting sites. I have been picking cleavers and nettles for herbal tea, and Becky, Sky and I even had our lunch outside. Hooray, the light and heat is returning and all this just means even more of an excuse to be outdoors :)
And as if this were not enough, I have a newsflash from the spring ( the one we drink from... )
This afternoon I went down to collect some water as usual, and noticed some pond-skaters that were so tiny that I had to take a second glance to be sure they were there at all! I made an attempt to photograph them for identification, but they are so small my camera did not manage to take a clear image. However they look very different from the ones I see at night, so are definatly a differant species. This leaves me with many questions....
1. Are they always there in the daytime and I just have not noticed?
2. Do they come out at a certain time of day?
3. Do they prefer to feed in mild weather?
4. What do they feed on? ( this may help answer some of the previous ponderings )
Thats just a few for now, Im sure many others will follow. So the pond-skater mystery mystery deepens, and i now have two different kinds to investigate, I will get on to this asap.....
In the meantime, watch this space for further developments on this story :)
Ollie Hornbeam 23rd February 2012
Here in the woods, we have a spring to collect our drinking water from. It comes out of the ground just below my dwelling, is piped down to a sand and gravel filter into a couple of 1000 litre containers, then through a ceramic filter and is finally collected in a stainless steel urn with a tap, ready for drinking. So far so good, we are blessed enough to have access to unpolluted drinking water, which sadly is rare in this day and age. However, a few months ago it occurred to me that even though I had been drinking and cooking with this water everyday for a couple of years, I never went to visit the spring. It seemed strange once I thought about it. I would go down the hill to the communal longhouse, fill a container and then carry this heavy weight back up the hill, passing the spring on my way back. Not very permaculture!
So Becky and I bought a ceramic filter for our house, and I now go to the spring each day and collect our drinking water directly from the source. It has become part of my routine, and as a result, have established a connection ( I even sing a little thanksgiving song to it ) with what is essentially the life line of the community. No water, no community! So what has all this got to do with pond skaters, you may be asking?
Well one of the great things about connecting on a daily basis with the natural world around me, are the endless mysteries that are out there just waiting to be discovered. The other night i went to collect some water, and began to fill my bucket. I had to be careful, or I would accidentally scoop up pond skaters too, and then it hit me. "Hold on a minute, I never have to worry about that in the daytime?"
Yes, it seems that in the day, the surface of the spring is clear of pond skaters, but at night there are several skating around. So I am now trying to establish what species they are, and whether this behaviour is usual for them. What does it mean? But what I really love is the fact that by creating the time to regularly connect, and build a relationship with our woodland home I have become much more observant, aware and curious, to the point of noticing the smaller more subtle things that could be easilly overlooked.
When i first came to Steward Wood, although I loved nature and wanted to live in the woods, I paid little or no attention to what was happening around me, as if its only value was how pretty it looked. I would be completely oblivious to the most obvious of bird language, and never really listened to the dawn chorus. If I had needed to collect water from the spring at that time, I would probably have done it in a hurry and not noticed the pond skaters at all, in fact I would most likely have continued to collect the water from the tap, and never have met the spring at all.
So, I still have the pond-skater mystery to investigate and will let you know of my findings and please share any knowledge that may shed some light on the subject. But for now I am just happy to see that the time I have dedicated to practicing and the core routines of nature connection are paying off, and how very powerful they are as tools to expand our sensory perception, and begin to build a deep knowledge of place, that in the not so distant past would have been common knowledge, and necessary to survive and thrive in the natural world.
Ollie Hornbeam 16th Feb 2012
So, after only just getting used to what felt like an early Spring, we get a sudden spell of proper winter. All well and good for us, with our thermal underwear, and central heating, but i could not help but think about how our bird and mammal neighbours cope with such cold weather?
Okay, so some mammals have a fur coat, and Deer hair is hollow and therefore very insulative, and birds have their downy feathers to help loss of body heat, but how many of us in the modern world would spend a whole day out in sub-zero temperatures even if we had layers and layers of the warmest outdoor clothing available to us?
This leads me to wonder about the many ' comforts ' that we take for granted in the modern world, and what the cost is of having them. Throughout most of my childhood, I was brought up in a double glazed and central heated house and therefore spent most of the time disconnected from the natural changes in weather and temperature that were occurring outside of that comfort zone.
Do not get me wrong, as i type this i am sitting in my very warm dwelling, and am very grateful for it, but due to the nature of my current home (and structures i have lived in over the last 5 years, ie: not insulated as well as a modern house, and no central heating or double glazing!) by the time i get up in the morning it will be as cold in here as outside, and we then have to stoke the burner up again and wait for a good hour before our room starts to feel warm again, and you know what i kinda like it. It leaves me feeling more connected with the natural cycles that are happening just outside my 6 walls (we live in a hexagonal shaped house), i wake up and straight away can hear the birds chattering and singing, the breeze blowing against the walls, and if it rains the sound of every drop that hits the tarpaulin roof. So i now find that i am able to feel comfortable in colder temperatures, and have become a little hardier then i was a few years ago, and don't need it to be sunny and warm to go outside. I am not saying that being comfortable is always a bad thing, but is being so comfortable and warm all the time, for most or all of our lives, useful to us if we cannot bare to step outdoors in the slightest shower of rain, or sudden cold spell? Or as seems to be the English way, to be constantly complaining about the weather?
Either way, i am glad we have got to experience a little bit of Winter before the Spring is truly upon us, my main concern is for the birds. They were really starting to act like it was time to breed, singing, getting territorial and pairing up all of which uses a lot of energy, and now they may need to get back to conserving that energy to make sure they survive the below freezing temperatures, and then have the chance to make preparations for when the breeding season gets into full swing.
I give thanks to the ancestors that came up with the ancient and magical methods of fire making that has helped our species to survive to the present day, and gratitude for this knowledge being passed on down the generations,to the present day for us all to share. Here's to the fire that warms us, both in our homes and the fire in the sky :)
Ollie Hornbeam 5th Feb 2012
We are in the testing stages and very close to producing electricity from wood using wood gasification and an old converted petrol generator. This is an old technology (used during the second world war fuel shortages) to produce gas from wood and run an internal combustion engine on it. We have had a great deal of help from Dean and Kerry from Meadow Forge on the fabrication of the filters etc. (thankyou). Why spend money on expensive PV panels when we have millions of little solar panels growing on trees! More info on our progress coming soon.
After many years of planning and construction the first part of the cycle and equestrian path will be complete.
To mark this event we are going to hold an opening event at the Steward end of the track on:
Monday 30th May from 2pm to 4pm
There will be tea and cakes available.
Please cycle or walk from the Moretonhampstead end of the track (just down Brinning lane on the left).
Big thanks to Devon County Council, Moretonhampstead Parish Council, Moretonhampstead Development Trust and Dartmoor National Park Authority for their work on the planning and construction.
This event has been organised by Moretonhampstead Parish Council (01647 440041) and Steward Community Woodland (01647 440233)
Tribal Mind Fusion will be a day of community, culture, art and sustainability in Exeter. All are welcome to this family-friendly event at St. Sidwells' Community Centre, Sidwell Street, on Saturday 14th May. See you there!
The road was closed for two days while the bridge was installed over the A382. A massive crane had to be brought in and assembled on site in order to lift the metal bridge. Work started in the afternoon of the 24th and the bridge was lifted on at about 10pm.
Work continues on the Wray Valley Trail. Most of the path has now been layed between Moretonhampstead and Steward. Work is due to commence on the bridge at the end of this month (March) when they will need to close the road for a few days.
It is now possible to book courses hosted at Steward on the website. Payments can be made by Paypal or credit/debit card. Please have a look at the courses on offer for 2011.
Clearance work has started in preperation for the Wray Valley cycle and equestrian path, the first stage of which will run between Moretonhampstead and Steward. This section is planned to be completed by the end of March 2011. The cycle path having been a long time in planning will eventually extend to Bovey Tracey, mostly, along the route of the old railway track. Some more details are available in a report made by the Herald Express in 2008. We will also post updates on the progrees here.
This camp exists to publicise and take direct action against Shell which plans to drill 80 boreholes in the Sruth Fhada Chonn estuary in Ireland, a EU Special Area of Conservation. Shell is starting a massively damaging scheme of work shortly and people are needed to help! Campaign websites: www.rossportsolidaritycamp.org/ www.shelltosea.com/
Licence application and more details from Shell and other stakeholders at www.corribgaspipeline.com/index.php...
A big thank you to everyone who made this such a sociable event this Saturday. About 70 people came to enjoy the sunshine and woodland and take a tour around our dwellings which were open for the day. We hope it was as interesting for you as it was for us - thank you for sharing your enthusiasm, ideas and constructive criticism, and for your donations. We hope to see everyone again soon.
An incinerator plant, ash treatment facility and landfill (in planning jargon, a "Resource Recovery Centre") is proposed to be built by the company Viridor, sited on the banks of the River Yealm, two miles from Ivybridge (pop. 15,000). The centre will handle 275,000 tonnes of waste a year, transported by HGV. The access road will be built through ancient woodland. For more info see the Viridor proposal at http://www.viridor-consultation.co.uk/index.php?contentId=162 and read about the potential impact at http://www.riveryealm.com/ This site also has links to the Facebook protest and info pages.
It is not too late to express your concern to Devon County Council. Address your correspondence to the planning officer Sue Penaluna, Re: Application Reference DCC/2975/2010 "The New England Recovery Centre". You can email your letter toThe Planning Officer, DCC, County Hall, Exeter EX2 4QW.
An expensive incinerator that must burn rubbish to justify its existence will not encourage solutions to the underlying problems of resource consumption, over-packaging and inbuilt obselence. Waste can be managed efficiently by a community company, creating opportunities for community building and education, demonstrating methods of reducing and recycling waste. It encourages local economic development, by offering employment, skill-sharing and networkng. Proper Job in Chagford is an excellent local example and this could be replicated across Devon.
Chris & Owen have purchased a LT15 Wood Mizer mobile sawmill and it has already been put to good use, sawing up the Scots Pine that was felled, cut and stacked over the winter. We now have lots of stacks of seasoning sawn planks.
The forthcoming launch of the Permaculture and Organic Growers of Exeter - POGOE. Everyone who would like to see more growing in Exeter - whether it be of food, communities or green spaces - is welcome to come to network and be inspired. Wednesday 7th April, Global Centre, 17 St. David's Hill, Exeter, 6-9.30 pm. Launch begins with a showing of 'Farm for the Future' at 6. From 7.30 the space is open for informal discussion. www.pogoe.org
Another successful Permaculture Course was held at Steward Comminuty Woodland from the 1st to the 16th August. 16 students attended and all have gained a permaculture design certificate. The course was tutored by Peter and Aranya with some sessions by community members.
We raised nearly Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£250 towards are planning appeal costs on a great comedy evening held at the local pub, The White Horse, on 10th August. The acts included Craig Campbell, Lee Canterbury and Aaron Custance and they went down a treat. I haven't laghed so much in a long time!!
Despite the awful weather we had on Saturday the 6th of June we had about forty people come and visit to see the community, our dwellings, gardens and renewable energy systems (and of course for the tea and wonderful cake!). Thank you everyone for coming and braving the rain and thank you for the donations made on the day. We also had a small celebration in the evening after the open day to celebrate our planning success.
We received a phone message this afternoon from Andy Goldring, one of our planning appeal witnesses, telling us we might want to check our email. On checking the email, we were delighted and overjoyed to find the decision from the Planning Inspectorate granting us permission. We have been granted temporary planning permission for 5 years (until 30th June 2014) with conditions. Read the press release or more on our planning pages.
Our Planning Appeal Public Inquiry took place from 28th to 30th April 2009 at the King George V Sports and Community Centre in Moretonhampstead. We felt our case was well represented. More details here.
We have finally given the website a major overhaul making it more functional and up to date. We now have a system in place to make it easier for our non technical people to update the website. Feel free to browse around. If you have any comments on the website please let us know.
The planning situation is on going. We have submitted all the paperwork for the public enquiry. More information on our planning page.
Steward Wood's newest resident is baby Isaac, born on the 24 March weighing 8 pounds 6 ounces. Congratulations to mum Mel, dad Seth and brothers Ash and Finn.
We have released a programme for the courses of 2009 - 2010. We are running a lot more courses than in previous years now that infrastructure has been improved on site. Courses are mainly run by residents of the woodland however some involve external tutors. Please have a look.