Last year we had a fabulous coppice; the woodland was coppiced not just my husband, but by a friend who is a forester. While the woodland began to grow and the cut chestnut stools started to shoot again, we had piles of timber sent out by the articulated lorry load. Each load was sold for renewable energy sources, firewood and/or fencing, however, with the price of timber at an all time low, fixing a price for the remaining chestnut sitting on our milling area became a real sticking point (excuse the pun!), resulting in unsold stock.
We have been talking about security here for a while, we managed to divert a footpath that ran straight through our property, removing any danger of walkers ‘meeting’ forestry machinery or any unwanted characters on our land. Once the footpath was diverted around our property and with an aversion to fences in the woods, we found in the Winter months that we were just as exposed, so we have been toying with ideas for a more ‘natural fence’.
Woodland, should and must be enjoyed by those who visit it, so chicken wire or a close board fence just isn’t the right fit here, it doesn’t last and it isn’t natural, so yesterday we set about our alternative fencing.
Stacks and stacks of timber in sticks made a fabulous backdrop for photos, as well as becoming a wonderful habitat for birds, bugs and squirrels. It also served us as a fabulous ‘screen’ from the surrounding footpath. We have nothing to hide here, but the security aspect is of great concern. So this is how our idea came about.
A large bank that surrounds the milling area and under the pine tree plantation, we decided to swallow the cost of unsold stock, and turn it into our very own Wood Pile Wall. Stick form is not only a little messy, it is also not the safest way to store timber for a long period of time, so my husband got to work with his chainsaw and cut the sticks to sensible lengths and the stacking of the wall began.
Of course you would have to have been living on another planet if you haven’t heard of Lars Mitting’s ‘Norwegian Wood’ book. A book about chopping, stacking and drying wood the Scandinavian way, a source of inspiration for our woodpile wall, however as much as a lovely idea as it would be, our wall won’t be following sculptural stack, ours is more of a standing round stack, but without the load straps and wire.
Lars Mitting’s ‘Norwegian Wood’ begins with a poem by Hans Børli, a Norwegian who was lumberjack by day and poet by night.
The scent of fresh wood
is among the last things you will forget
when the veil falls.
the scent of fresh white wood
in the spring sap time:
as though life itself walked by you,
with dew in its hair.
That sweet and naked smell
kneeling woman-soft and blond
in the silence inside you,
using your bones for
a willow flute.
With the hard frost beneath your tongue
you look for the fire to light a word,
and know, mild as southern wind in the mind,
there is still one thing in the world
you can trust.
– Hans Børli
With the woodpile wall started, it is already so much nicer to look out on compared to the sticks cluttering up the place. Looking out of the window and seeing the solid woodpile wall in all it’s majesty, the result of just one days hard work and continued journey building something so aesthetically pleasing serves as a wonderful reminder of all the coppicing work last year. The natural rings, the colours of each piece of cut timber has created something really beautiful.
My husband, on a break between jobs, decided to press on with this to get outside and get active, and the process of cutting and stacking, whilst repetitive, is something that really becomes almost meditative. Our daughter loved getting involved in something that has already made such a difference in the landscape here. Handling something of substance, something so natural, each piece a different shape and tone to the other, it is a job that really served to soothe and slow the mind.
While moving timber, we also discovered a Peacock Butterfly that had sadly been attacked by a predator, most likely one of the toads that lives in stacks of timber; the poor thing was very broken, so we removed it from any danger of our work and let it take itself off to a safe, quiet place in the new woodpile wall.
This too was something that myself and my daughter became engrossed in. With very little we could do to help, we watched quietly in wonder and admiration of this broken butterfly.
It wass a touching reminder of an incredible film I watched a while ago. I hate to use the words “Inspiring” as it seems far too trivial for such an important journey travelled by one man, his incredible wife and family. Unfortunately, I knew how the events would turn out from what I had read some years ago, but despite the sadness, it was quite simply one of the most uplifting and profound films I have ever watched and something that keeps popping into my thoughts, especially when facing my own health issues.
As I watched this beautiful butterfly, my thoughts were with the Whitfield family, the beautiful Vashti and her cubs. I am thankful everyday for her sharing her wonderful husband Andy’s journey with the world in the film ‘Be Here Now The Andy Whitfield Story‘; I am one woman in a tiny corner of the world that has become even more present and aware as a result of watching their enduring strength and love.
The day we started our woodpile wall was just one of those days that seemed so inconsequential at the time, however, when reflecting and taking the time to stop and observe what we achieved, as well watching my husband and our daughter so happily engrossed in the process of creating something together that will last, in such a magical environment, watching the beautiful butterfly so broken, it was actually a day of reminders of how fortunate we are to be where we are and to be with each other in that one day, in each little moment together…
We have a way to go yet with our woodpile wall, but I wanted to share the start with you and revisit this post when we finish some time from now, below is a snapshot of our starting point…