What could be nicer than spending a day in the woods, making something and chatting with lovely people in between breaks for coffee and homemade food? My most recent spoon carving workshop was hosted by Kith Homestead, just outside Harrogate who have a beautiful setting and are wizards with a dutch oven!
We started the day with a fresh silver birch log and, using axes and knives the group turned it into a fabulous set of cooking spoons while learning the safe and effective skills to carve and create.
A wonderful setting with wonderful conversation, people and spoons. If you’d like to join me and learn to carve your own unique wooden spoon, visit my courses page or sign up to my newsletter for future dates.
Martin contacted me wanting to learn to scythe at his site in Cumbria where he has started to grow wildflower meadow plants in a nursery at his home. Meaburn Wildflowers is based up in Dufton where Martin has a beautiful nursery setup along with several acres of meadow in the family.
We spent a brilliant day together while Martin learned to mow, honing and peening the scythe blade for super sharpness and easy cutting. This will allow him to not only manage his own meadows but also advise his wild flower customers about the benefits and use of the scythe for managing meadows.
I’ve been in Leeds teaching the team of gardeners at York Gate Garden how to scythe in their wildflower meadow.
I’d never heard of the garden but it’s a beautiful, hidden gem in the north of Leeds and absolutely immaculate which is testiment to the passion and expertise of the gardeners and volunteers. Like the formal garden, the wildflower meadow was looking fantastic with a healthy crop of yellow rattle well-established and the first orchids showing their heads.
I was there for two full days of training meaning we had plenty of time to look at sharpening and mowing as well as for the team to peen their own blades which they were keen to do once I’d demonstrated how much better they would cut afterwards.
Brilliant days working with terrific guys who really worked hard and developed their skills so they were all mowing and peening well. I look forward to seeing how the meadow develops under their care, it’s sure to be stunning in the future.
Due to demand, I have added an additional Learn to Scythe course date for 12th August 2021. Based at Broadrake bunkhouse in the Yorkshire Dales with views of Ingleborough and the Ribblehead Viaduct, come and learn to use a scythe for managing your wildflower meadow or orchard as well as many other circumstances.
A fantastic afternoon yesterday in Wensleydale, Yorkshire teaching some spoon carving skills to a lovely group of people. The event was organised by Emma’s Dale who wanted just a short course for a group to follow a morning of mindfulness. So I axed out a set of cooking spoon blanks and we spent a few hours together looking at different techniques using the Mora carving and hook knife to finish them off. A beautiful location, great carving, delicious cake and lots of laughter – a perfect way to spend time together.
Here’s a fantastic short film about the Belbroughton scythe works which made scythes for the Nash company. I visited the village in 2012 and sadly there is little left of the works but lots of evidence of its importance in the form of street names, the local pub and decorative ironwork around the village.
What better way to spend a sunny bank holiday than going out to cut the grass? I offered to go and mow a community orchard in Levenshulme, Manchester as the regular volunteers were finding it difficult to cope with the long grass using strimmers and lawnmowers. These are ideal conditions for a scythe and it was in surprisingly good condition and a pleasure to cut.
People often tend to think of scything as a purely rural thing but it is ideally suited to the city too: quiet, safe and capable of working in small areas. We’ll let the cuttings dry for a few days before raking them off and then wait to see what comes up later in the year. Hopefully, as we reduce the fertility of the soil, there’ll be less of the coarse grasses and more wild flowers and grasses.
If you’re involved with a community orchard or meadow, I can come to teach a bespoke course for your group at your site. Details of group courses, private tuition and my regular courses are all on my Learn to Scythe page or email me steve[at]stevetomlincrafts.co.uk
The trees are coming into leaf so it’s time to make beech leaf noyau, a delicious but largely unknown country liqueur based on gin. Beech noyau is very similar to sloe gin in that it’s an infusion of gin with added sugar but instead of using fruit, this uses young beech leaves. Pick them now while they’re still soft then put them in a jar with gin to soak.
Here’s the recipe I’ve been using for a few years now. See you in 3 weeks for the next stage.
A noyau is a cordial made from brandy, gin, cognac etc. This, however, is a classic British version, using young beech leaves. Ingredients:
1 bottle of gin (700ml)
225g white sugar
400ml young beech leaves Method:
Only use very young beech leaves, freshly stripped from the stem. Add these to a bottle or glass jar (with a secure lid) until the vessel is half full. Add the bottle of gin then stopper the jar and store for 3 weeks before straining the alcohol off.
Meanwhile add the sugar and 300ml water to a pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and allow to cool before mixing with the flavoured gin and the brandy. Pour into bottles and store.
During my spoon carving workshop the other week, I made a couple of eating spoons from some lovely local birch. To demonstrate, I made one (on the left) by carving from the bark and the other (right) from the radially split face. You can see the difference in the growth ring patterns in the two bowls.
I’ve a bit more of this birch so I’ll be making some spoons and scoops for my Etsy store, take a look and favourite the shop to get updates as they happen.