Monday 12 May 2008

Coppicing Revisited

field view

Look at that, isn't it gorgeous? I keep meaning to start a blog entry and then I look outside and all I can think is wubbawubbawubba with a big stupid grin on my face.

Anyway, to more serious subjects. When we bought the place I had high hopes of two sorts of coppicing - a willow coppice, where my dreams were of therapeutic basket weaving and quiet evenings of crafty handiwork in front of a roaring fire - and a firewood/green woodworking coppice to provide the necessary wood to keep that fire burning and materials for Paul to use on his pole lathe and other treen.

I have to report it's not gone quite as I expected.

The willows started off well enough but ground preparation was poor and they were stranded, a deliberate decision that with hindsight was wrong, away from the house and towards the edge of the property deep within a field. The first year they hung on in there and M. Briche who kindly cut the fields for us that year was most assiduous in avoiding cutting their heads off with the hay cutter but the grass grew in over the winter and the deer ate their fill and by the next year there was nothing for the haymakers to avoid. The plot was dead, destroyed, abandoned. I still hope to restart this project now that we've got some idea what we're up against but I think the deer fencing is going to be a priority that must be in place before I spend money on more cuttings.

And then the eucalyptus grove, which should have trees five feet high this year has shrunk to three living trees and a few stumps from 20 or more seedlings planted. I'm hanging onto the stumps because eucalypts have a remarkable facility for sprouting from the lignotuber but frankly I'm not confident. In this case, as well as the deer (and the marks of rubbing and nibbling are only too clear) the fast growth and evergreen nature of the trees was against them. They got too tall for their roots and when the winter winds came they rocked back and forth until they collapsed.

I'm disappointed and still think that eucalyptus has a place in our coppice programme but in the interests of keeping things moving I've decided to fill the gaps with ash seedlings from around the farm and several trees we brought with us for hedging but which are still in their pots. They must go in the ground this year or they will never thrive and even if they're not the best for wood production they will help form a nursery grove around trees that are. I have a few eucalyptus seedlings that will also go in to replace the losses and these will have to be staked for a year or two.

Quite what we do about the deer I'm not sure. Individual deer proof tree guards are expensive but so is deer fencing. I may just have to sit out there with a shotgun all winter, firing over their heads until they get the message.


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