Monday 13 November 2023

Brash-hammock put to bed

In June last year we engaged Mrs Bun the Baker Kiwi Sean the Forester for the first thinning of our 1 acre = 0.4 ha. oak-and-other micro-forest. Two days work was enough to put manners on the wood and give the best chance for the best trees. It is policy to plant whips close together to force them to fight each other for light and grow up straight and true. After 15, or better 20, years the best are selected - all very Darwinian. A few thinning cycles later, "we" will be left with maybe a dozen mighty oaks and an thin understorey of fungus and shrubbery. That's "we" in a dynastic sense because it's likely I'll only see the next thinning before pushing up daisies m'self.

Sean left the triage to me. Something should be left for the fungi and microbes to break down and make food for the alpha-oaks. And some of the twigs were too twiggy to handle. In a commercial setting, we would have put all the small stuff through a chipper to max-out the surface area, greatly reduce the volume, and speed up the rot. I'm generally too mean to hire a chipper; preferring to process the brash over many subsequent days and save anything fatter than two fingers for the stove.  In one part of the wood, I created a brash-hammock of this kindling: suspending a lot of straight-enough, thick-enough branches off the ground to dry out.

'Tis the season to be burning. I was making a tour of inspection in Crowe's Wood a tuthree weeks ago and noted that some of the hammock wood was bright with white fungus and some was bright green with moss and some was regrettably black looking. The black bits were associated with little clots of leaf-fall which had acted as a sponge, slowing down the rain-water which was meant to run straight through the hammock.

The Blob has mentioned tool-use by non-human primates a) termite-picker b) status-booster. One other documented example is leaf-sponges; where chimpanzees Pan troglodytes will rough-chomp a handful of leaves and use them to sop water out of a hollow tree. Other tools include: Ant-dip, Fly-whisk, Leaf-clip, Nut-crack, Play-start, Honey-dip, Hand-clasp, Marrow-pick, Leaf-groom, Termite-fish, Leaf-napkin, Self-tickle. I think they also use leaf-sponges to scoop the last tasty morsels of baby colobus monkey Piliocolobus rufomitratus brains. Which !TMI! I share solely to emphasise the hygroscopic qualities of leaves.

It has been SO 💧wet💧 this Fall! I figured that on balance I'd get more 🔥use🔥 out of these branches if I processed the hammock and got them all somewhere dry. And it was so. Tools: bushman bow-saw 600mm blade; saw-horse; mighty anvil loppers; feed-sacks; wheel-barrow. We had a tuthree dry days, and I was down in the forest on several of these, quietly working through the stack and carting it up nearer the house. I do not, under any circs, propose to do a whole day of working ever again: an hour here, a podcast there, and lots of tea-breaks. No hurry to burn it either, once it is out of the wet; but cutting to final length [as R] increases the evaporative surface area. Scraping off the mossy wet water-retaining bark [looking at you mountain-ash Sorbus aucuparia and oak Quercus robur] is worth doing now - the edge of a brick-layer's trowel works handy.

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