Things are slowly starting to move again. December and me, we're not getting along very well this year.
But as a silver lining, one of my contacts finally came through, and I've gotten access to a local orchards apple wood cuttings. So far I've collected two car boots and one back seats worth of wood, and discovered that green wood really is difficult to get burning. Given that one of my concerns regarding the last lye attempt was that the wood was too old and dry, I wanted to try and burn this lot at maximum sap. Incidentally, the minimum drying time is approximately 2 days in the boot of the car during "I though this was winter" temperatures, followed by 2 days indoors in a heated home. And even at that the wood was still fighting with me somewhat, and the fire tried going out twice.
But now the grate is cooling, and all the wood has successfully been reduced to fine, whiteish ash. I'll leave it there three days, then scoop it into a bucket to keep. I'm due a few more loads of wood in January when the orchard pruning restarts, and I want to wait until I have as large an amout as possible so I know how many leaching attempts I'll be able to make.