December 04, 2010

The Original Five Old Saules

The original five willows
The five old pollards

These are the original five willows that formed part of the boundary of the bief
The rotted out stumps of some of the rest remain... 
a hazard as one walks the bank.

As you can see, these were in desperate need of conservation.
Already, branches had rotted and fallen, trunks split and trees were leaning after their overweight branches!

The work began in earnest in 2005, with 30" bowsaws...
a big error on my part as the sap was frozen and blunted the blades very quickly.

A Stihl chainsaw was later purchased to speed up the work and make the cuts cleaner and safer!

But trying to fell leaning, frozen timber...
especially willow, which breaks unpredictably, is dangerous.
You need to take time to study the line of fall and care, especially when ten foot off the ground, about how the butt end is likely to move.
I got very good at fireman's slides down the ladder!

If you look at the willows in the picture on "About the site" you will see them near the end of the longere... 
only one was left to be pollarded* [they are called tetards in French].... 
but you will see that they are quite a way away from the bief. 
This, we think, is because they were planted to skirt the back of the forge at this point, sheltering it from northerly winds.
The forge itself,  sited on the meadow side of the bief,  was a bloomer furnace... 

a tall chimney-like stove, filled with the raw materials... 
charcoal, lime and ironstone... 
and then fired.
The undershot water-wheel would have powered bellows to raise the temperature of the firing and possibly a drop hammer to beat the metal from the slag. 

The molten metal was drawn off at the bottom.
A very inefficient process, judging by the weight of the slag to be found on site.

We will be writing more about the forge and the Touraine Iron Industry on the Touraine Flint blog in the future.

The intention is to recreate that original line of willows.
However, our neighbour Richard owns the bief and has a four metre right of access along the north bank for maintainance work.
To respect that access we are planting the line five metres back from the bief.

Other corridors have been planted to help wildlife move in safety.
Further corridors and clumps will be planted, to be managed on a cycle of five to twenty years... depending on the crop required and the wildlife to be supported

* The view must date from about 2007/8, as the orchard is visible on the south bank [the pretty pattern of mowing at the north-west end of what will be the growing field.]


kathandroger said...

We have wood of acacia-as you know, not a native of France but a quick growing hardwood used especially for fenceposts-they will allegedly last up to 80 years without treatment. I am cutting some new posts this week, but doubt if I wll be around to test the longevity!

drofmit4108 said...

We are currently removing barb wire fencing [slowly]... so where possible I am trying to re-use the old chestnut posts... the ones along the bief usually come out quite clean... others break off at ground level.
However, these tend to split quite easily, so are being re-sharpened and re-used as markers, short stakes and the like.... all the barb goes to the tip at Grand Pressigny.
I need to find some long chestnut or acacia poles, though, of about 5cm diameter to replace the 'treated' pine [actually looks more like larch* to me] that has now rotted after five years on our raspberry, tay and loganberry lines! [*The five year rot seems to indicate that as well!] athe reclaimed ones are just not long enough. Saw some acacia at the new Bricomarche at St. Maure.... but when I went back... so had someone else... earlier!!
Oh well.. no hurry! Currently trying to get 100 plus little willows dug up and moved!!

kathandroger said...

Come and help yourself to some acacia poles-we need to thin them out anyway, and they are ideal for the garden at that diameter-give us a call-05 49 85 41 09-roger.

Tim Ford said...

Thanks Roger, I will... just as soon as I've got me little willows in the ground.... and ploughed up the new beds!
Never used a plough before... this is a single furrow jobbie behind the BCS two-wheel tractor we've bought for mowing. Found a bit of stuff on U-Tube [mainly in Russian... but very well filmed.... I shan't let Pauline take pictures of my first attempts though!!
Probably in a couple of weeks if that's OK.

kathandroger said...

Guess what mower/rotavator/plough we have?-Yes, a BCS!-A 740 Model I bought over from UK. Wonderful machine, always starts first pull, and ideal for our steep slopes. We made hay for the sheep last year with it and I am making some more implements for the same task this year. My ploughing didn't go too well though-the ground was too hard, but I found the rotavator did the job well, and we have converted a bit of the field into what is now a very productive potager. Good luck!

drofmit4108 said...

I hadn't logged on yesterday... busy getting ready to plant and we hit Chatelleraut in the morning [well Auchan] .... now I know what you meant this morning!! I asked Pauline to get us an electric start diesel... it is a bit too heavy to counter balance the cutter bar properly, so Trackmaster are sending out a couple of plates to fit on the blade end.... apparently it is the combination of the heavier engine and the lead acid battery. We've got the cultivator kit... I'm going to try the spud lifter as a stone lifter... might work for some of them? We've also gone for the chipper/shredder... wood chip for paths and shreddings to make our own compost. Managed to get some willows up, tarnsported and in before people came calling this afternoon. Hopefully the weather seems to be set fair for this week [but cold] so should be fine for planting. Colder the better, but not freezing, and the plants will go back into dormancy for a while.... won't be such a shock for them.