Monday, 2 August 2010

Chipping away at the weekend.

Well what can I say. Who is this fine figure of a man in fetching garb? Notice the chiseled good looks, the racing snake physique. Improvement will be impossible I'd say. The epitome of man in human form. But I digress. So dear reader, please relax for a while as further derring-doo into this wayward movement into sartorial elegance will be later in this posting.

Before that a plethora of activity on the birding and moth front. Saturday morning saw me with a few hours to fill, as Julie had gone to a walk plus pub lunch near Calne. So I popped into Hungerford, via the country lanes around this part of East Wiltshire.

I like this part of Wiltshire. Big dramatic skies over unspoilt agricultural land. A landscape which undulates as if with the breeze as it flows and ebbs over the chalk uplands and into the greensand lowlands below. Pastoral southern England at its finest. And on Saturday morning it was breezy and fresh, dramatic clouds scudded across azure blue skies in patterns of movement only nature can conjure up with so little effort, but so much emotion.

I'd hardly driven a mile of so when out of my eye, I spied 3 birds of prey using the wind as a thermal balance, near to Wilton Windmill. I knew instantly what they were but got out of the car to check anyway; three red kites. Sadly as I didn't have my camera with me, just my blackberry, no photos, even after watching them for over 10 minutes gliding and soaring around the aforementioned windmill. It was while watching these that a male bullfinch also popped into view. A good start to my shopping trip.

On the way back from Hungerford, another red kite hoved into view over these fields not far from the village of Great Bedwyn. I love watching red kites as their tail manoeuvres in the wind while they elegantly flap and glide on the updraft. My guess for what it is, is that this red kite was one of those seen earlier at Wilton a few miles away, but who can tell? While watching the kite, a male yellowhammer sang its "little bit of cheese" song from a hawthorn, a female kestrel hovered over the field, a chiffchaff and a large flock of blue, great and long tail tits flitted back and forth amongst the conservation headland and finally 3 linnets twet tewwet'd across my line of vision.

That was the afternoon. Later that same day, Julie returned from her exploits and I offered to create something interesting with a packet of vegetarian mince, a brambly apple and some custard. I make no apologies for the following photograph, save that it was taken along with much mirth by a blackberry wielding female. It's slightly blurred, as Wiltshire's answer to Heston Blumenthal could not remain still, so much to do, so little time to do it!! So I whizzed and hurtled spoons and whisks across the kitchen to produce a vegetarian lasagne, with wholemeal bechemel sauce, followed by apple and blackberry crumble, and sadly sans wine, as we'd drunk it all on Friday. Geordie men are renowned for their tough northern lifestyles, a lifestyle which would exclude any domestic activity, and a true Geordie would never be seen in the kitchen wearing an apron - sadly 17 years living down south have softened me to a remnant of my hard man image .... there is no going back now..... the shame of it all.....!!

Following the meal, we went for a little drivette. The sole reason of this was for me to show Julie the shortcut back to our house I'd taken on Friday evening, which resulted in an additional 8 miles being driven trying to save time (please no comments about men and map reading). But it was a lovely view though, both ways. The sun was far too bright for a picture the other way, so just this view, this time.

And as we came back towards the village, the sun set and one last photo on the blackberry. Readers may be interested to know I have now located my camera and so slightly better photos should follow on the blog from now on (the camera was in my work bag - had been there for 3 weeks and I couldn't find it!)

Later that night leaving the lights on in the house, we had a Silver Y, a Willow Beauty and a common wave inhibiting the smallest room in the house. Last week I tried an impromptu moth trap and trapped no moths at all. I think from now on I'll just leave the bathroom window open.


Okay, grab a chair and sit back. One of the things which took me to Hungerford was to go to the Antiques Arcade and whilst there I purchased 2 wood carving chisels. For a while now, since doing my stone carving course in November, I've wanted to get back to hand on arts and crafts. I've done a bit of woodwork in the past, mainly green-woodwork, and even demonstrated pole lathe turning at the Peat Moors Centre in Somerset a while back, but woodwork hasn't been part of my life for quite a while now.

The need for compost necessitated a trip to the garden centre and while there we perused a kitchen workshop, festooned with wooden objects including wooden bowls. Rashly I offered to make a bowl using a chunk of spalted beech I just happen to have had about my person. Spalting is the process of fungal attack of deadwood, producing "marbling" pigments in the wood. One can never predict what will be inside a piece of wood until it comes out in the woodworking process.

So here is the original piece of wood as collected from a forest. I'd sawn the bottom off so we had a nice squarish piece for Julie to carve herself. But the main body of the trunk lay undecided. Initially because of the two pointy bits, I had wanted to carve a free form sculpture, but a bowl it will become.

I set too with power saws and so on to cut the main shape, always the hardest part. A golden rule in all carving is let the shape of the wood, and the wood itself dictate the shape of the finished article.

And hey presto, a basic outline slowly emerged. It got a lot more messy after that, but eventually after a few hours I had managed to get the basic shape I wanted. Quite a long way to go, but I've set myself to the end of August to get it completed. I won't be using power tools from now on, so everything from here on in will be chiseling and hard graft. I'm hooked, not to mention developing muscles in places I didn't know muscles existed.

In case anyone is wondering, the smaller piece of wood with a candle in it is an off cut with 3 holes drilled into it. Just something for the outside table I knocked up. What I love about working with natural materials is that, such as in this piece of spalted beech, it began as a tiny sapling, grew, then somehow died. I've no idea how old it was, but probably older than me, and now, by creating something permanent, it will live on in another form. True regeneration of wood and woodlands.

I just hope I haven't set myself up for a massive fall with this carving of a bowl malarkey - watch this space.........!

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