Saturday, 5 March 2022

In praise of wood

When we bought this house a year and a half ago I was only vaguely aware of how many trees came with it and what maintenance they would require. Apparently several other French people had viewed the house and although liking it very much had shaken their heads at the amount of garden taming would be required. We didn't, being silly and romantic English folk, and it was a sunny August day with butterflies, blooms and bird song; winter cutting back not something figuring in the mind.  So, here we are in Early March. The forsythia, primulas and daffodils are carpeting the garden, a yellow and pink reminder of the glories to come throughout spring and summer. Yes, it is a lot of work but I feel privileged to take it all on and provide a place for the insects and birds of the area, and Lord of all natural stuff, they need it; there's more and more industrial farming using crazy amounts of precious water and covering fields with one-use plastic. 

The wood covers about half of our land, oak and ash, the latter pollarded over the decades for animal fodder and firewood. And now it's our turn to carry on the system. Luckily, Ezra, our son is staying here this year and loves cutting wood, in fact the whole cycle of cutting, stacking and storing. There is something incredibly satisfying, especially in times of such uncertainty to stand in one's wood shed after a hard morning's cutting and wheelbarrowing logs and know that we have fuel for the next two years ready to go. Of course it is a cycle that has to be kept going; the ash logs need to dry for a year and a half before being burnt. We'll start again in the autumn.

Our garden also borders a railway line so the tallest ash trees had to be trimmed too this year for which we asked some help of our professional gardener who I call on only for the biggest jobs. We felled about six decade-old trees and now have wood enough for most of 2024's winter just from those trunks.

While Ezra and Mark were chainsawing and moving wood, I was on branch stashing duty. I love this - making a fence out of the discarded thinner branches of the trees. We had assumed we'd have to fence off the whole wood on arriving here but time has moved on and no wire has been bought for this purpose, so using the tree offcuts is ideal, and free!

I'm sitting in front of the wood burner now, a log from 2020 giving out a wonderful heat on this dark and chilly March evening.

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