I was hoping to have this up on Saturday, but my internet connection was spotty at the summer cottage. So here it is again on a Monday, from the train 🙂
This week’s goal was to finish up the branch work in the main field and get to the other, easier sections of the property.
Monday I added another couple square meters to one of my border hedgerows and planted left over sunchokes there. With those in the ground, I could proceed back to the big clean up.
I finally finished up the main area on Wednesday, which measures, by area the tree’s covered after they were cut, about 2,500 square meters or over half an acre for Americans out there. Then consider that some of those trees were close to a hundred years old and you can imagine just how much biomass I’ve been moving around these past few weeks. Oh, and one other thing: most of the spruce had three trunks: the main one, which was about 2 meters tall, then they split into two where they had been topped some decades ago. So each tree was more like two.
As I was nearing the end, I kept noticing the remaining poplars that need to be cut in this area. A large portion of my growing space is losing 3-4 hours of direct sunlight in this critical time. It is only with those trees gone will there be enough sun to make this thing work, so I’ve got quite a bit to do yet.
Before moving on to the easier trees, I took a quick break and worked a few hours on the young poplar stand I had cut to make room for more beds and provide a lot of useful pole wood. Poplar is a joy to work with after dealing with all that spruce. Smaller diameter branches can be easily snapped off with a kick from your boot, loppers can cut 2x larger than stated with a tiny bit of pressure, and the saw bites through without any of that sap building up.
Late on Thursday I got a start on one of the two remaining poplars by the main house and was done with both of them by Friday around noon. I have a feeling that after chipping, those three (there was another larger one I cleaned up weeks ago as it fell into the neighboring park) poplar will provide enough wood chip for deep mulching the children’s garden and there might be some spare to start mulching the apples.
The last hour on Friday’s half day was spent lopping branches off the final three willows in the future forest garden. If I work hard on Monday, I might be able to get them finished in a day. They aren’t quite as “easy” as poplar, since they branch rather strongly (the poplars quite straight with low angles between offshoots), but still a totally different business than those spruce were.
Now my hope is to have all the branches of everything done by Tuesday afternoon. That way I can rent a chainsaw (or bring one from the cottage, lets see) and safety gear and get to work shortening the trunks and making mushroom logs. Once those are done, the remaining wood can be rearranged and pathways laid out so that the professional grade chipper can get to all my piles.
As a note, I’d like to share that cutting these trees surely does mean the death of what were some of the dominant individuals in their area, especially the spruce. Still, I won’t be surprised if many of the birch and definitely all of the small hardwoods spring back next year. I think it is worth pointing out that many of these species evolved alongside megafauna and are exceptionally resilient beings. Although their main trunks may be gone, their root systems live on and are probably right now activating some dormant buds on their stumps and shallower roots.
Peter Wohlleben, a German forester and author, has written a new book called “The Secret Lives of Trees.” I’m attaching a link to a short interview he gave to a Scandinavian talk show in which he describes his interpretations of the recent scientific studies that helped drive him to write this latest work. Some of the language he uses might be a bit uncomfortable for people as the plants are being described rather anthropomorphically, but I think that is simply a rhetorical device in order to make his ideas more approachable.
I, for one, happen to think he’s onto something here and that there is a wealth of information supporting the core of his message; that is, plants aren’t simple mechanical beings that happen to be biological, rather, they are living beings with their own way of experiencing this world. I have great respect for these trees as individuals, even as their death came by my hand.
At Lillklobb Permaculture, I’m not going to be shy about the fact that we can’t have life without death. What I think matters is how we approach the issue. Like slaughtering an animal, cutting hundred year old trees is not something one should do so often that one loses respect for them. I aim to use every possible part of these trees to bolster the sites productivity through edible and medicinal mushrooms, the creation of mulch to protect and nurture the next generation of trees, and use the rarest straight portions for infrastructure that supports the dissemination of information.
So while it does pain a part of me to have decided to do this, my outlook is on a future where many more species- including humans- get a chance in the sun.