Friday 31 March 2023

Makita DUC353 Cordless Chainsaw Review

I've had my cordless Makita chainsaw for over a year now and thought it was time to review it. I recorded a video back in January but after using a Sthil Cordless chainsaw I had to re-evaluate what I thought about it! 

Check out the video below to see what I think about it. A great tool for the smallholding or homestead, but only good for smaller stuff - currently, technology seems to be moving at a pace! 

 Have you got a cordless chainsaw? What are your thoughts on them?

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Caring For You Wooden Potting Tray

Okay, so this video isn't for everyone - it's for people that have purchased a potting tray from me in the last few years. I want everyone to get the longest life possible from them so I put together some care instructions. All you need is a brush, a cotton rag, some linseed oil and some gloves. It takes about 10 minutes tops, and is really worth doing.

Thank you to anyone that has purchased an item from me. It makes the world of difference to us as a family and to my little business.

You can view all the ones available for purchase by clicking here.

Sunday 26 March 2023

Maker Of Fine Wooden Garden Items

 The last few weeks I've been working really hard to increase my stock levels of all the items I sell (as well as the more unusual one off items I sometimes make and sell). 

I'm trying to make sure I have a full range of products out there, including different sizes and types of tool boxes, 3 different wire bottomed baskets and potting trays in 5 different sizes

There are a few items that I end up making a lot less on, but I enjoy making and think they're a quality product. They also help to complete the range of items I make. I'm trying to see myself more as a "brand" than a small manufacturer. 

One of those is my seed boxes, I do these in two sizes and sometimes in reclaimed materials as well as the carved fronts. I'm currently making a batch with the carved fronts to them, all the carving is done by hand. This helps me be a better craftsman and also has a lovely handmade feel to it. 

Hopefully I'll be able to list these boxes for sale by the end of the week. I need to slice them all open now, add the hinges and dividers, then give them a coat of Danish oil to finish them. Once that's done I have some magazine article work to do and then more stock to make! 

What item would you like to see me make and stock in my shop?

Friday 24 March 2023

A Month In - Dealing With Type 1 Diabetes

So it's been a month. 

That's two lots of Libre 2 sensors, twice I've had to hold my daughter down as I fix it on to her arm. 3 empty insulin cartridges, countless needles, lots of sensor checks and lots and lots of dips in blood sugar levels with the accompanying spikes. 

I have described trying to figure out the insulin for her levels like being a safe cracker, only the combination keeps changing on the safe.

Initially we were chatting to the hospital (who have been great) every time we were adjusting her carb to insulin ratio (for the fast acting insulin). But we have been given the go ahead to start tweaking things ourselves, adjusting what's given very carefully. It's funny as she has a real handle on it and will chat to me about what she thinks the ratios should be as well. I'm keen to promote this as it's something she's going to have to get used to. 

It's interesting as we can plan for certain things, like we keep her breakfast insulin slightly higher, so we know her blood sugar will drop in the morning, but that means she can have a mid morning snack without having additional insulin. 

So far I'm still going into school each day to give her an injection for lunch. I'm hopeful she's going to make the jump soon and inject herself. We've said we can talk about pumps when she does and also that will mean a phone - something I'm not keen on her having but will be essential and is kind of essential now anyway as she needs quicker contact with me. 

At least I work from home and school is only a mile away. It's been nice to see her at lunch time and to have a little glance into her class each day - I must say they all seem to be working hard when I look in! A lot of the kids know me (from scouts and running the play group a few years back), so I always get lots of "hello Kev" which is nice as well. 

I've adjusted my working day a little bit to fit in. Obviously I can't do my casual carpentry work on site at the moment like I sometimes do (repair work for an estate normally), so it's been workshop work all the way. I've been having lunch earlier so I have it just as soon as I get back. This means I do have to alter my "lunch dates" with my dad as we will both often have our lunch "together" and just chat on the phone while we both eat, even though we're a county apart. Hopefully this won't go as it's something I really enjoy and helps keep us close. 

My daughter has been a little star, she doesn't seem to let it bother her. Although that said she is always fairly stoic when it comes to showing her emotions! She seems to be her happy self, she doesn't enjoy the injections or having the sensors fitted, and who can blame her, but it's a small part of the day in the grand scheme of things. Snacks are a bit of a problem and she has been woken by her alarm in the night and dealt with it herself by taking the sugar needed. 

She was incredible when she started back at school, her teacher came to me and said that she just came in as normal and dealt with all her diabetes stuff like it was something she'd always been doing. She's had a lot of sudden drops which she's dealt with instantly and in a way that hasn't over corrected and gone too high. She chats openly about it with me (and her mum) and looks at the graphs with us as we try to figure out what we can change to make it all more level and stable. As well as figuring out the right type of food and snacks for her as well. 

It's early days yet, the initial shock is gone, now it's just a constant background of work to try to keep things as normal as possible for her (and her siblings) and try to prepare for the bumps in the road we know are going to be coming. 

Thursday 23 March 2023

Making & Kolrosing A Felling Axe Handle

A while back, in the bleak mid winter (around January) I had an idea for a magazine article, I wanted to do some more kolrosing and try it out on an axe handle.

Of course I could have bought a handle and tried it on that. Instead I thought I'd make the handle from scratch and renovate an old axe head back into service. My friend found me an old 6lb felling axe that had been hung the wrong way round (for use as a sledge hammer I think). 

So I removed the old handle, tidied up the head, gave it a sharpen, then made a new handle for it from ash. 

Tuesday 21 March 2023

What To Sow In March

On Sunday the sun was shining and the birds were singing. I decided it was time for a bit of gardening. Nothing too strenuous though, I fancied a bit of seed planting! 

It's one of my favourite things to do, sow seeds and dream about future harvests. 

I decided to film it as well, showing what I was sowing. I still have lots to do and lots of prep in the garden. I need to clean out the polytunnel, clear some garden beds, move muck to fertilise them, build new compost bins, the list goes on! 

But it does feel good to have the time critical jobs done, tomatoes, leeks, kohl rabi, beets and salads sown, all to start growing and feed us. 

Watch the video above and let me know what you're growing and what you think I've forgottem - there's bound to be something!  

Sunday 19 March 2023

How NOT To Take Down A Damson Tree...

So with winter nearing it's end I still had one more tree job to complete this year - to take down a damson tree and replace it with a pear. 

I planted this tree ten years ago and it has reverted back to it's rootstock and never produced any fruit. So I decided enough was enough and it was time to take it out. I had purchased a Black Worcester Pear to go in it's place, on a big rootstock, so I needed to get a move on before it started to grow where I had healed it in. 

I wanted the pear to go in pretty much where the damson had been though, and I knew if I just cut it down the damson would sucker like mad and throw up lots of shoots. So I took the drastic measure of pushing it out with the digger. 


Hopefully this new tree will establish quickly and grow well. I couldn't quite believe the growth of the damson over the last ten years - you could almost grow that for a timber tree! I've put the trunk and big branches to one side and hopefully I'll make something from it later in the year. Damson is a lovely wood to work with. 

Watch the video above and let me know what you think. 

Friday 17 March 2023

Automata - Making Wooden Mechanisms

 Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to read our last post and those that got in contact with us. We're going through a period of adjustment but are getting there slowly. 

The week we got back from hospital I had some magazine article deadlines (kindly extended for me as my mind had been on other things). I needed a bit of a lighter woodworking project to occupy me. 

I'd been thinking of trying to make a bit of "automata" for a while (after we visited a great little museum in Stratford for the eldest birthday in January). So as the idea had been in my head so long I decided it was time to make it. 

It was fun and I think I learnt loads from making it. I know I'd approach the project a little differently next time (I'd probably make some mocks out of card first, rather than going off my sketch on the back of an envelope). 

But I filmed the whole process and I think it makes quite an interesting short video. Give it a watch and see my little man trying to chop the chickens head off. Let me know what you think! 

Have you ever made a wooden mechanism like this before? What would you like to me see me make in this type of style?

Sunday 12 March 2023

The Worst Week Of Our Life - Type 1 Diabetes

So a few weeks ago we had one of the worst weeks of our lives. 

I didn't say anything at the time as I think we were all coming to terms with it (and we still are and probably always will be). So I just kept posting as normal. 

But I know many people on here have followed this blog for a long time. Some pretty much from the beginning, 11 years ago, you've watched our little family grow up and see our children be born and blossom into amazing young people. 

Our eldest had been very tired and down the last few weeks of term. We kept asking if she was okay, and put it down to hormones and being tired at the end of term, I was worried she was a bit depressed. We then went for a day out (to Harry Potter world) and she really wasn't herself. the next day she slept in (very unusual) and then was tired in the day as well. 

We took her to the doctors and, after a bit of a stressful run around, went straight to hospital where they had phoned ahead. When we got there we went straight into resus where about 8 or 9 doctors and nurses were waiting for us. 

She was unfortunately diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This came as a massive shock for us. And as they tried to stabilise her, bringing her blood sugar slowly back down and get her rehydrated. She was very dehydrated and although she had been drinking loads the fact she had no insulin in her body meant it just got flushed straight through her. 

The next 24 hours were really stressful. She had great care all the time from the hospital as they tried to get her levels back to normal, giving her fluids via a drip and slowly injecting insulin into her body. Keeping her in the high dependency unit for the first day. 

Obviously we wanted to know what had caused this, but type one diabetes has no known cause, it just happens, her body has stopped producing insulin, which means she can no longer process carbohydrates. It's not caused by diet or lifestyle. 

We also beat ourselves up a lot for not getting her there sooner. But the changes in her were so slow and she kept doing her normal routine (even baking cakes after school). 

The next few days she really quickly improved in her condition. The learning curve was pretty steep when it came to learning about diabetes. It seemed like we were flooded with knowledge, and all of it so important.

Basically to keep her alive she needs to have two types of insulin every day. One is a slow acting, to be taken once a day that works at a low level, all the time. The other is a fast acting insulin that needs to be taken every time she eats any carbohydrates. 

So for every meal we have to work out the carbohydrate in what she'll eat, then make sure she has the right level of insulin (correcting for what her currently blood levels are at that moment as well). 

First time out for a trip to Hereford

In the future she can be fitted with a pump, but she needs to be able to inject herself first, so we're using this as an incentive. The pump still needs lots of working out, and changing every three days, but it will save having quite so many injections. 

For our stay at hospital we tried to make it as "normal" as possible. I brought her brother and sister in each day (her mum stayed there with her), we were allowed out into Hereford for trips out, in fact we were encouraged to, to get used to reading her levels and figuring out what to do in different situations. 

After the cinema trip. Almost felt normal. 

We even had a great trip to the cinema. 

She was so pleased to go home! We all were! That first night with the five of us back under one roof was so good. And yet it was like having a new born back in the house, we had to keep checking her levels and adjust to suit. It's been a bit like being a safe cracker trying to get them right at night (annoyingly her body still, intermittently, produces a bit of insulin randomly, for the next few weeks, which can make her levels crash or peak for what seems like no reason - annoyingly called "The honeymoon period"). 

She has a sensor on her arm, which makes it so much easier than finger pricking, She can scan herself and we will know her blood sugar level then. They have better tech which links to up to 5 phones all the time, but the funding has just been pulled for that. So we'll sit and wait hopefully for that to come back. 

We're slowly getting used to our new normal. Luckily I work from home, only a mile from school, so I'm going in each day (she's only been back for one so far) to give her the injection for lunch. And I can work out tea and try to make it as easy as possible for her. 

She has coped brilliantly with it and seems to be coping much better than me or her mum. The first week I was an emotional mess. 

She came home and that first morning back baked a cake to work out what carbs were in the whole thing, then worked it out per slice! I was very proud of her. Her brother and sister have been great as well, helping to work out what she's eating, and just generally being great siblings. 

Things not to say to me or my child-
"Well it could be worse" - Yes it could. I know that, it could be a hell of a lot better as well. Please don't say this to someone who has just had their child become disabled in a matter of days. She'll be dealing with this for the rest of her life. 

"The technology makes it easier" - It does, it really does, but believe me it's still crap. Yes, it's no longer a death sentence, but it's still rubbish on so many levels. Imagine trying to work out the carbs for everything you eat and making sure you have the right level of insulin for it. Now imagine doing that for the rest of your life.

"She shouldn't have eaten so many sweets" - It has nothing to do with how we lived or our diet, it's just something that happens unfortunately.

"So you can scan yourself, it's like a superpower" - It is not a superpower and please don't patronise her, she's 11, not an idiot. I know you can try to look for positives on all things, but there aren't really any here. We have talked honestly with her about it. 

"She might grow out of it" - as the one lady doing the food at hospital said to her, trying to be kind no doubt, but she was confusing it with type 2 diabetes. She won't grow out of this. 

It's hit me really hard. I'm a self sufficiency expert, someone that has trained their whole life to need as few people and inputs as possible. Self reliance, to be able to provide everything my family needs. I can do most things, I even took up swimming as I was worried if they fell in I wouldn't be able to save them. Now we're dependant on insulin and constant technology to keep my first born alive. 

I'd trade this with her in a second if I could. I wish I could take it from her and have to deal with it instead of her. It feels like such a complication on life for her and it makes my heart ache. 

*I spoke to her about posting this before I did. I wanted her to say if it was okay or not to use these pictures. She knows that this blog is a big part of my life and was fine with me sharing this with people I consider friends and the fact it might help educate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

Friday 10 March 2023

Laying 42m Of Hedge - That I Planted 9 Years Ago!

 The week before last I decided to finally lay the hedge I'd been thinking about for the last few years.

What's really good about laying this hedge is I planted it myself 9 years ago (read the blog post here). 

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Gleaning The Materials For Laying a New Hedge

 So with a 45m (ish) stretch of hedge to lay I needed to get started with finding the materials to do it. 

Being a tight smallholder I didn't want to buy anything for this job, which was already going to cost me a lot of labour, I wanted to find the materials on the smallholding. 

The hedge repair I did a few weeks back had started to provide me with some items, around 50 of the 80 or so hedging stakes I needed. I also needed to find binders and prep the hedge ready of laying, this involved the worst bit - Removing the tree guards! What a horrible job and one that brings it's own level of guilt with the plastic waste. 

Watch the video above and let me know what materials you harvest and manage from your own plots?

Saturday 4 March 2023

Fixing a Gap In A Hedge - Part Two - Dead Hedge & Planting Up Gaps

Please excuse the click-bait thumbnail for the video! Although it does show the dead hedge I weaved to finish my hedge repair. 

I was really pleased with how this hedge turned out, I've even had a few compliments from people who have seen it from the road!  

Doing a hedge is pretty easy once you get going, easy as in it's fairly easy to keep moving forward with it. But it is hard graft - some of the hardest I've done. Chainsaw helmet, chainsaw trousers, heating your whole body up. Thick gloves and long sleeves, fighting big branches of the hedge, unhooking each upright from each other, pulling them down, welding an axe and chainsaw all day. It feels great. I've been doing it again today and my whole body aches, but I know I'll sleep well tonight!

I've got about another 13m to do tomorrow (today by the time you read this) and I'm excited to get it done! No grant money, no one paying me, but it seems the right thing to do to steward the land in this way. 

Anyone else still got some hedge laying to do this year?

Friday 3 March 2023

3 Articles This Month

I know I've already shared a few of my articles this month but this is the three of them together. 

In Woodcarving magazine I make a kolrosing knife and decorate a spatula.

In Woodworking Crafts magazine I make an adjustable arm for the workshop. 

In Woodturning Magazine I make a pastry crimper. 

All three were really fun projects! 

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Another Apple Tree Pruning Video!

 So I think when learning to prune, other than doing it yourself, watching someone do it is a really good way of learning. 

That's my thinking behind doing a number of videos pruning this year. It shows a few examples of different trees and how I tackle them. 

This video shows a ten year old tree (a russet this time) and how I go about pruning it for this year. 

Always a nice feeling when the orchard is pruned ready for spring to start! 

Everyone else got their trees pruned for this year?

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