I am recovering after shoeing today in freezing conditions and came across this picture in the summer of myself with my pony. I give him a cuddle everyday as I dont have much time for the thing I like most which is driving him out. He loves a cuddle and I think he especially likes it because I bought him from a horse dealer who had bought him from the side of the road. He did not know anything about love but does now. If I showed him my hand he would show me his bottom! Now he nudges me for attention. I feel he is a lucky boy but I feel even luckier.
Over Christmas I have been busy thinking about when to put in all the trees that I have pledged to plant. Exactly when is what I am deciding, as I know it needs to be in the dormant winter months.
I came across a really informative website http://tinyurl.com/yf5xsg9
of which I am sharing a paragraph below. One of their core principals is sustainability; one of my core principals.
It is generally accepted that our environment has taken a battering due to the activities of humans, especially in the last few hundred years. We see and hear of the consequences of this everywhere.
Fortunately there is a growing number of people that realise that a change from the ‘old’ wasteful and destructive days is necessary, not only for our environment, but also for our own feelings of well-being.
This is certainly very evident in the tree industry. There are articles on sustainable woodland management, using wood chips as a source of renewable fuel to heat homes, wood burning power stations supplied by locally coppiced woodlands, building more energy efficient timber framed houses, new developments in environmentally-friendly wood preservation, initiatives and grants to plant more woodland and so on and so on.
An International definition of Sustainability often quoted is..
‘Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ *
It implies living with current natural resources, and using them prudently and efficiently and ensuring that their use is within a constant cycle of renewal. In other words, the rate of using them does not exceed the rate that the natural environment can regenerate them. At the same time, whilst respecting this cycle, we are also protecting the environment by reducing damaging practices and attitudes, and recycling, repairing and reusing as much as possible.
It is not going to be easy for all of us to make a change and live in a different way that more sustainable but if we all try to do something then the knock on effect will be very powerful.
I thought it would be an idea to explain the difference in finishes between a beeswax finish and matt black paint.
Beeswax is a natural wax that is applied to the metal as soon as it is forged, while it is still hot. Once cool, it gives the metal a protective coating yet has no colour. The result is a piece of ironwork with a ‘sheen’. It allows the natural colour and grain of the metal to stand out.
Great for the purists who want their metal to look as natural as possible.
It does have a slightly tacky feel when it is new. It will wear away in places after a while allowing possible moisture to oxidize the metal. Some people like this as the metal will age and change colour over time.
Matt black is an all over paint. It is a consistent finish that will wear better than the beeswax and not change in colour over time. It can be wiped clean and made to look new again with some graphite paste. It is more suited in a damp area.
You will loose some of the natural beauty of the steel with matt black but it does have its own appeal and looks great in almost any area.
The photo above is of a piece of iron I finished in beeswax(bottom) and matt black(top). See which one you like best!
A dream came true for me when my wife managed to acquire the field next to the cottage we live in. We both had a dream which was to live where we could see our horses from our bedroom window. We had thought we would need to move a few times before finally being able to afford a house with land. But our dream did come true sooner than we had expected.
This lead to me being able to plant lots of trees for a hedge. I bought 400 one year and planted them all myself. I took advice and bought a variety of trees all British Native hedgerow trees. This hedge is now 4 years old and is really becoming strong. I even got some crab apples this year for jelly! Some have not survived the hot, dry summer and I will be replacing them in the spring.
I have also pledged to plant a tree for each rack that I sell so that I can off set some of the carbon that is produced in the forging process. I have many farmer friends with gaps in hedges to fill in!
We have a friendly farmer who also has an overgrown orchard with various apple and pear trees in it. He welcomes us picking the apples every year.
We as a family have a lovely time. It is such a great pastime picking apples, washing and then juicing them. The apple juice only lasts a few days in the fridge and is delicious drunk chilled. The rest of the juice I put in fermenting bin for approximately 8 weeks or until fermentation is complete.
I make cider every year and my tips are to use a mixture of varieties, it improves the flavor. Also I tend to make it in as large a quantity as possible. This year I have got 2 6 galleon drums. 1 is being fermented with natural yeast and the other has had a commercial yeast introduced. When bottling the cider add a small amount of sugar and the cider will go fizzy!
One of the best parts, of course, is the drinking of the cider! On a summers evening cracking a cold bottle of sparkling cider that you know exactly where it has come from and have made yourself is such a treat.
It has been that time of year when tomatoes are abundant. I love fresh tomatoes and I do like them at the right time of the year because they are sweeter and meant to be eaten when ripe. I decided to see if I could preserve them somehow so that I would be able to eat our home grown tomatoes for a little longer.
Firstly I washed all the tomatoes and left them to dry naturally. I then cut them in half and placed them on a grill, cut side up, to allow the air to circulate. I covered them with a generous amount of rock salt and herbs de provence and then placed them in the oven at its lowest setting so that the tomatoes dried out rather than cooked. I left them in the oven for 6 hours then took them out and checked that they were all done equally. I removed and allowed to cool naturally. They can then be kept by placing them in an air tight container but I decided to put them in oil. I could not help but tuck into them and they are absolutely mouth watering.
As I am a farrier I am pretty much always in the countryside mostly surrounded by mud and horses. As I was leaving a yard I got out to close the gate and saw to my amazement a huge crop of mushrooms just inside a paddock gateway. I figured they were field mushrooms because of their position in the field, shape and smell and (most important) a good field guide told me so when I got home. I picked all the best ones.
It was the weekend and I got up enthusiastically to cook the mushrooms. I firstly checked the mushrooms very carefully for any maggots as they can crawl up the stems into the head of the mushroom. I then washed them thoroughly and rough chopped them or you can leave them whole. To cook I heat up a wok, which lives on my pan rack, and then I choose to fry butter and a whole clove of garlic with the mushrooms in it. Pan fried like this and then piled onto hot buttered toast is the best weekend breakfast or brunch at this time of year.
I have very lucky to have a lovely pair of swallows nesting in my forge this year. They were busy as bees feeding their young. Swooping around above my head it was a pleasure to have the company while I was busy myself making utensil racks for some clients.
The pair raised 3 broods and the last of them were very late to leave. Mum and Dad had flown away in the first week of October. I took this picture in the second week of October and it was another week before they had gone. I hope they make it!
It is inspirational to me when such a small bird can travel so far. If you are determined to succeed then anything is possible.
Spring is coming. We are all looking foward to better weather and longer days.
When I am not in the forge I can be found out and about in Suffolk shoeing horses. Its hard work and has to be done in all weathers so when it is raining I long to be back in the warm forge making pan rails etc.
The weather can really affect our lives, even our moods seem to follow it! If you love to watch the weather then you should think about buying a weathervane.
I love to look out of the windowg(next to the woodburner of course!) and see what the weather is up to. The wind can change completley within a few hours so a weathervane can if fact help you to plan your day.
All of our weathervanes are hand forged, even the letters making them the best on the market. We can make a weathervane in many different designs so if you fancy being a weather watcher from the side of the fire like me then look at this page: