Thursday, 12 May 2016


A Hidden Gem

 I hadn't realised quite how overgrown some parts of the Woodland Field have become and somewhere behind all the greenery is a fully functional Blacksmith's Workshop.  I've been through all the photos and I can't believe I haven't got a single good clear shot so it's time for a bit of imagination here folks.  Take in the aroma of sweet woodruff and walk, in your mind past the Pine, Larch, Liquid Amber to the mighty Ash...

Blacksmith's Shop in camouflage behind the trees 

That would be up the mown wide strip (expand the photo) beyond the composting toilet until you are in a secluded  place shaded by Oak, Field Maple and Ash.  You'll see a steel chimney rising towards the sky,  a stable door with a rustic log seat under a cobwebby window,  large chopping block and a waterbutt...

Oh and there are all the girls but they have a fantastic nature although they're not overly helpful when the honey is being stolen but Ness always gives plenty of warning when she's going into extraction mode!

Now this is the composting toilet complete with resident blackbird who regularly has three broods a year and who will definitely tell you off every time you nip in.  There is a privacy screen but I've never had any problems with voyeurs and the air conditioning is excellent - never had a single breakdown, reliant on wind power!


And finally what I had hoped would be happening....

The point of all this you may well ask??

I had thought that with the amazing anvil and all the wonderful tools I'd collected together that I'd make my own tools and use them for Green Woodwork.  I discovered in about half an hour - well probably 5 minutes that being a Smith is not for me.  I'm just not a natural and it didn't matter how many times I sparked up that forge or played with the bellows or walloped the steel - I just couldn't connect with this ancient craft.  I admire tool makers, it requires an exceptional knowledge and I would like to give someone an opportunity to take on this workshop and make something from it.  Preferably tools & money.  So I'm offering it to all aspiring Smiths.  We are very lucky in our situation here in Essex and there is a connected mains water supply to the Woodland Field.  Access is excellent from the nearby M11 and M25 and it's in a beautiful setting.  I hope any applicants will make useful things in addition to gewgaws but it's entirely up to them.

If you or anyone you know is interested then get in touch...

Oh and I'm going to be messing around with axes over in my Bodger's camp so I WILL take some good photos of everything that looks interesting...

Friday, 6 May 2016


Stinging Nettles - Friend Not Foe

My Woodland Field has an abundance of stinging nettles (Urticaceae dioica) and not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I'm very keen to use whatever I can get my hands on that's FREE.

Nettle Pesto

This is one of Ness' recipes and as usual she's a bit vague about the quantities for this type of thing.  Her justification is that it's not one of those baking recipes where you need to be meticulous about measuring - it's more a matter of personal taste.  Wear thin rubber gloves when picking and handling the nettles for obvious reasons.  All I can say that as usual with her ideas it tastes fantastic...

1oz or thereabouts fresh breadcrumbs
1pt (Ness uses a plastic measuring jug) young nettles or tips of older plants.
1oz strong cheese grated
1clove garlic
1/4 pint of your favourite oil or a mixture of whatever you fancy... 

1.  Toast the breadcrumbs in a dry pan over the fire until golden - shake often or they'll burn.
2.  Pick over the stingers discarding all but the thinnest stalks.
3.  Fill a bowl with freezing cold water & keep chilled in the fridge /freezer.
4.  Half fill a large saucepan with water, bring to the boil & immerse the nettles.  Drain the water             immediately into a jug and keep for later.
5.  Plunge the wilted nettles straight into the icy cold water, this retains the bright green colour.                As soon as they're cold remove & squeeze out the water.
6.  Put all the ingredients into a blender on a slowish setting & gradually trickle in the oil until              you have a pesto of your favourite consistency.  Add salt & pepper if you like.

The reserved nettle juice that you wilted them in is great for stock but even better chill and drink as a refresher after some hard work bodging...

Other brilliant uses include soups which can be hot on cool damp days or chilled on wonderful hot summer days with blue sky and blowsy white clouds.  A favourite of ours is also a light fragrant white wine which improves with keeping.  It is crisp on the palate and is a pretty greenish gold colour absolutely smashing - literally if you are unfortunate enough to have a greedy appetite where homebrews are concerned!

Ness giggling in the stingers!

And of course nettles were traditionally used as cord.  It doesn't take long to beat of the wet green flesh and to end up with strong linen type fibres which actually are very handy & durable if you haven't got string in your pockets.  I was particularly impressed when loading the washing machine not long ago to see some new shirt of mine that ness had ordered from a Fair Trade shop was made from something called ramie - I'd thought it was linen.  On checking I find it's a nettle of some sort or other and Ness tells me that when she was at Liberty they stocked a complete range of table linen and the USP was that it was made from nettles.

So as far as I'm concerned the humble stinger is a great friend indeed...