Forestry

26th January. Forestry half-day in the rain, with Matt.

Matt and I arranged to go to the land this morning. It was dull and rainy. I was
wearing a wax coat. One of two I bought many years ago for us both for the land.
Matt thought they were too thick and bulky and they are but I felt warm in the jacket
without a jumper on underneath. On the way, I suggested that we finish at
lunchtime, if the rain persisted. I wondered if saying that might deplete Matt’s energy,
but by 12 noon I was ready to leave. (I hadn’t slept very well the night before; my
head was full of stuff to process from having talked about crowdfunding with Matt last
night).

I was soaked to the skin and the rain was dripping off the hem of my jacket
onto my jeans. The wax jacket obviously needs attention. I have never worn
over-trousers -it feels like I’m wrapped in clingfilm and my legs can’t breathe.
Somehow in the past I’ve always managed to get away with it. These days the wet
weather is affecting my body more. Since starting this project, waterproofs have
mostly been either second hand or something that just turned up in the toolshed from
volunteers who have left them. It may be time to look for some good quality rain
clothing as I really enjoy working in the rain.

By 12 the sun started to come out but I think the thought of going home at lunchtime depleted my energy for doing a full day’s work. It may also have been that I was fearing more trees being felled, I wondered early this morning if I had decided to fell the trees for Matt’s sake because he suggested doing it, maybe I said yes because of attachment, not for the sake of the trees. I felt guilty for them. I feel like a murderer. Then when we got there and he gently considered which ones to fell by hand. It seemed again like a reasonable
thing to do. I remember Boris (the brother of Mo, who used to own the land) coming
onto the land, soon after Matt left and saying “your larch needs thinning”. I was
overwhelmed, how could I deal with that with everything else I had to do? Then an
hour later, I remembered that a couple of larches were already falling down and I
thought “they are thinning themselves out”.

That was my guilt this morning, we were choosing which ash trees were to die, rather than the trees themselves. Maybe I didn’t have to make the choice. At the same time, I remembered being at Alison’s, walking round her 5 acre woodland and noticing how tall and thin the trees were. I was inspired by Alison, who I met several years before buying the land. I stayed in the hut in her and Tristie’s woodland (see The Past story) and there was a notice on the door which said something like ‘Do not pick even a leaf off the trees’. I loved it. It is the antithesis of the past where trees have been felled as if they have no meaning,
no life of their own, as if they belong to us. I do not own the trees on the land, I am their
guardian and it’s stupid to think I own such a dignified living being. Who do I think I
am?!

So, always a dilemma, I wasn’t going to stop this process though, as that is what I
did constantly in the past with Matt and it understandably drove him mad. This time, I
finally felt ready to help the trees get some space. After the others had been felled
though, I felt grief, I was embarrassed to feel it so I kept it in, until the other day,
when I cried for them. I know they have left room for the others to grow stronger and
there is firewood now, but a tree being felled is always a cause for grief to me.

Matt started to chop into a tree with the axe while I sawed up some larger
branches of wood we had felled on previous visits. I filled a large wheelbarrow with various sized branches and took them to the wood pile. Meanwhile the ash had
fallen but wasn’t quite off the stump. It got caught in some branches of the trees
around it so Matt got the rope and tried pulling it to the side. It wouldn’t budge so he
cut the last bit and the end of the tree disconnected and fell to the ground. I started
to cut off the smaller branches with the loppers and the bow saw while Matt figured
out how to bring the rest of the tree down. He started to saw through the about three
metres up but it became too hard so I put my shoulder underneath it to lift it up so he
could carry on. Finally, he got through it and could process the rest. While he took up
the heavy main stem, I finished processing the smaller branches and by 12.30pm we
had finished.

I am trusting that the trees know we are doing the best we can do for them. We had
chosen to fell one of the ash trees as many of them have ash die-back and they
need all the help they can get. I found out about this in the summer and so read The
Tree Ogham, the handbook for communicating with trees, a book which tells us
about the underlying energy and spiritual guidance each tree has to show us. It told
me that the ash takes on our heartache and there has been a lot of that. I read that
biochar is helpful for ash die-back so I created a simple form of it by mixing wood ash
and humanure compost together.

Kim came down to help me distribute the mixture. I thought we would have to clear around all the trees and somehow put the mixture around the base for it to be effective but we soon realised that this would take days and days of hard labour. Kim pointed out that we didn’t need to do that, we just needed to do a ritual with the mixture. So, we chose one tree to communicate with all the rest and we cleared the grass around it and put a handful of biochar each around the tree stem. We both said some kind and encouraging words to the tree while stroking it gently. On clearing the grass Kim found a wooden spoon on the earth
which had been lost years ago, so we decided to just bless the outer trees and use a
spoonful of biochar to intentionally charge the earth around the ashes. After a few
hours, the job had been completed. I think this work really helps the trees and it
certainly helps my attitude towards them. I think about what we did with love every
time I go down there.

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