Tuesday 5 August 2014

Burning blackthorn brash wood

I had a busy day yesterday burning piles of blackthorn cut during the hedging process in February/March. We tried to burn the stuff then, but it was too difficult to ignite, even when we used copious amounts of kerosene [paraffin] oil.  The wood burns a lot better now having had the chance to dry during the summer months. We've found the trick to starting the fire is to use a pile of cardboard boxes to start the fire. The methods we learned years ago as scouts about starting camp fires are just too slow and painstaking. The main problem is that nettles, thistles and grass have grown up through the piles of blackthorn branches making them difficult to move to the fire.  It is hot sweaty work hauling branches two at a time to the place of the fire. You definitely need tough hide gauntlets to protect your hands from the vicious thorns on these branches.

It was easy to create roaring two metre flames with little smoke in the fire. It was too hot to approach within three metres at times, but it needed constant work to feed the fire. We're now left with just three large piles of branches on our side of the fence. They were too difficult to move due to the interwoven branches, thistles, grass and stinging nettles. I think I will carefully burn those in place, making sure the fire does not get too big and damage the nearby fruit trees.   I'll use the flame gun to create some fire breaks.

This leaves several piles of thorn branches in the neighbouring field which will require disposal before the stock fence is installed to protect the hedge.

During the work I was also reminded what a pain horseflies can be at this time of the year. I'd last come across horse flies in the Black Forest in Germany when I was a child on holiday. On one of the days I had neglected to use insect repellent and was bitten on the back of my hand by a horsefly. Fortunately I spotted it fairly quickly and received only a minor bite. It was itchy rather than painful, The insect was promptly squashed. It is the female of the species which needs a feed of blood before it can lay its eggs. 

Horse Fly
I have found that Avon's Skin So Soft Dry Oil which is sold as a cosmetic is actually quite an effective insect repellent. It contains citronella in its formulation. I was a bit dubious at first, but bought a bottle as a trial. I have found the flies do not bother me on the orchard when I've applied this stuff. I'm not too keen on the DEET  based insect repellents as I've seen what those can do to plastics.

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