I´m Erik, and in this blog post I will share with you some of my basic experience with forest work. Most of the knowledge was passed on from my friend Marko, who has spent a considerable amount of time amongst trees.
When I was told that a forest needs to be taken care of, my first reaction was:
If a forest can´t look after itself – who can ?
In his book “The World Without Us”, author Alan Weisman points out that in most places on the Earth, the natural development of flora – when left untouched by human hands, and after going through various stages – finally tends to end up as wild forest. So why not choose a Taoist approach, and just let nature work ?
Well, first of all, because we humans have the opportunity to help this development. Secondly, because we also might have preferences to which kind of woodlands we actually prefer to have around us.
Patches of different kinds of trees can be seen from a distance at Quinta da Mizarela: Part of a protected nature reserve, the green leaf forest from the old times is still visible, and can provide nuts, berries, chestnuts and solid chestnut wood, as well as light green and cooling shades in hot sun. Most of the area, however, is dominated by pine trees – fast growing, commonly used as burning wood, but with poorer qualities for carpentry. A newcomer is the eucalyptus, grown in monoculture fields across Portugal (mainly for paper production). Eucalyptus are very dominant to the environment as they exhaust water resources with their deep roots, and also evaporate chemicals poisonous to other plants. That said, standing next to a huge eucalyptus tree is awesome – and they smell wonderful.
Our motives for interacting with this forest was mainly:
- creating space for the green leaf trees to prosper
- thinning out the pine forest; clearing out half dead trees, creating more space so bigger trees can develop, and thus decreasing the risk of forest fire.
- keeping the eucalyptus under control
So, equipped with a machete and a saw, I was fortunate to spend some days working in the forest, surrounded by the smell of fresh tree sap cooking in sunlight and the hearty sound of chirping birds.
Brambles, ferns and other plants are important as habitats for wildlife as well as in the creation of new soil – for instance after a part of the forest has been cleared. But eventually trees will outgrow them and thrive towards the sunlight. Having helped this tree a bit on her way left me with a satisfying sensation:
Pine logs – especially straight ones – are needed for Markos carpentry projects, like building raised beds. So I cut off branches, which I left near to the ground for fungus to feed on and to stimulate microorganisms – but not in piles, as they dry and burn easily or become natural trellis for more brambles to climb on.
We now have a bunch of logs, ready to be used for constructing trellises in the garden beds: