Such a beautiful day here today, a real indian summer day, lots of sunshine and the start of all the colours coming through in the trees. When I got in this morning the sun was shining through the mist and the dew on the spiders webs. As the air warmed the spiders seemed to sense something and decided it was the right day to start ballooning. This is the term for the way their young disperse on certain days in september and october. Lots of spider species do it, and its a pretty clever evolutionary trick. They make their way to the tops of the trees and bushes, spin a length of silk and let it get caught in the breeze. The silk carries them away into the air and they float off to populate new areas. They can be carried for many miles, and have been recorded right out at sea. But what you tend to notice is the way the breeze often blows them together and the strands hang in groups across the trees. Lots of them had been making there way across Swan Barn Farm and quite a few had landed in the oak tree next to the new building.
On the inside of the building today we started putting in some of the chestnut laths on our internal walls. The picture below shows the patch of coppice we cut last winter for the timber frame of the building, this woodland also provided the timber to make the laths.
Laths are horizontal strips of wood which are nailed across panels prior to being covered with plaster. They provide the structure and the plaster that binds onto them provides the finish. We will be using earth plaster, more on that later.
The laths were made for us by Justin, a local coppice worker who makes his living in the woods around Haslemere. Along with a number of other products his team cut a series of four foot lengths out of the timber that they felled last winter, these lengths were then split into blanks and the laths were cleaved off the blanks.
A froe is used for the cleaving process, this clever tool can be steered through the grain of the wood to ensure you get a nice straight even lath (after you have learned how to use it well).
A billhook is then used to trim up any rough edges.
Prior to bundling them up for delivery.
Sweet chestnut is a naturally durable hardwood, meaning they should last well, they came from a coppice so they have been grown in a sustainable and renewable manner. Finally, cleaving them by hand rather than sawing provides the ideal surface for the earth plaster to bind onto, all in all the ideal material for our walls, and the whole process took place within a stones throw of the building.
The internal walls of the new building are made of a sawn sowftwood stud frame onto which we today started nailing laths. The interior of the walls will be filled with sheepswool insulation. They are positioned so the plaster will cover them as well as sneaking through the gaps in between and binding around the back of them.
We are using copper nails, as the tannins in the wood would attack steel nails and damage them. With the colours of the copper nails and the grain showing in the sweet chestnut it makes a pretty attractive looking wall, it almost seems a shame to plaster over it.