Tag Archives: Woodland Trust

A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Write a Blog

Or, as the Chinese proverb says: A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop. I’m dubious about many of these so-called Chinese proverbs, but the content is accurate, even if the attribution is not.

I’ve been unloading the stress of the day by complaining about roadworks, emails and various other things when I thought I’d look up the ten worst days in history. Compared to them I’m doing well. I have not been killed, tortured or rendered extinct today. Nor am I hungry, thirsty or in fear of my life.

In fact I’ve had a more than adequate day. It would have been better for the absence of roadworks, emails and the variety of other things that happened, but we did make jam and  biscuits, we did start to get the Technicolour Dreamcoat song right and we did have a visit from a representative of the Woodland Trust, who thanked us for our efforts in tree recording, gave us gifts and delivered copies of the latest report. It’s nice to be appreciated by someone. Sound people, the Woodland Trust, and I’m not just saying that because I’ll be needing a job in a month’s time.

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Our Woodland Trust Reports

Quite apart from the work they do with the farm, they have supported Quercus in various ways over the years and always treated the group with respect. Working with them is one of the main things we are going to miss when we leave because it’s a proper project with the possibility of important results. It’s a bit more serious than looking after a few hens or making biscuits, though I do like chickens and biscuits. Mainly biscuits, if I’m honest.

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Biscuits

 

Anyway, back to smiling – it makes everything seem better. I could have made myself quite miserable by moaning about my day, but instead I’ve made myself happy. (Though that may be because of the biscuits).

 

 

 

Trees, trees, trees…

 

Life isn’t all bird feeders. Some of us (as Julia told me meaningfully) have serious work to do. Today, the serious work was measuring the micro-climate in the agroforestry project. I’m not sure how long we’ve been doing it now, but we’re getting to a point where we will have to measure the trees again. That will be easy, as they aren’t much more than sticks at the moment. What we need to do is start taking photographs of ourselves standing next to them, and take the same photo every year.

It’s amazing how trees creep up on you. I grew up opposite a church. The grass by the roadside was a wide, clear verge. For some reason they decided to plant trees there and one day a thicket of weedy saplings appeared with sticks and tree guards. They looked ill and we all wondered why the church was bothering.

Those trees are now gnarled birches with fissured trunks and green algae. They look like they are a remnant of ancient forest, though I’m sure I was in my twenties when they were planted. Before you say anything, no, I am not that old.

One day, these twiggy sticks will be an orchard (admittedly a long, thin orchard), and one day our measurements will be a Woodland Trust research project. It’s amazing what patience can do.

As Warren Buffett is reported to have said: We are sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. 

 

 

Agroforestry

I’ve been asked for more detail on the agroforestry project we’re running. If you aren’t interested in agroforestry/permaculture the next few minutes could be quite boring. If you are interested, you may find the next few minutes lacking in detail; as with so many things, I have a wide but shallow knowledge of the subject.

If I say it’s also known as alley cropping it may help you envisage what I’m trying to describe. The video here gives a good explanation, though it’s American so the crops differ.

The idea is that although we give up some land to the trees they will have financial benefits when we crop the apples and other less quantifiable benefits, including shelter, micro-climate, biodiversity and  organic matter.

The organic matter will come from the leaves in autumn and the smaller prunings, which will be left to rot.

Biodiversity will result from the trees giving homes to a range of birds and insects. Hopefully this will result in some form of biological pest control, though I’m not sure that it won’t also offer a have to pests. I must look that up.

The final benefits are shelter and better micro-climate. That’s what we are trying to measure. Common sense tells you that the trees will act as wind breaks and that it should be warmer in the alleys (if the wind is coming from the side). As with  a lot of common sense, nobody has any figures to back it up. There are figures on the internet about the wind breaking power of trees, and their capacity to form warm micro-climates but it seems there isn’t much evidence to back it up.

At the moment we measure the wind speed and temperature at various points in the alleys every month. The Woodland Trust has provided the equipment and training for this and we send them the results each time we measure. We also measure the trees once a year, though it’s not very difficult at the moment with them being shorter than I am. The test will come in a year or two when we see if we’ve been able to remember how to use the inclinometers.

This measuring will be done for the next 20 or 25 years (I forget exactly, as I won’t be here by then) and will, we hope, be very useful in calculating the benefits of this sort of planting.

 

Measuring time in terms of trees

We started the Woodland Trust recording programme today – a programme that is going to see us take monthly readings for the next 25 years. I say “us” but I’m not sure about the chances of me being here in 2040. I’m more likely to be under a tree than measuring one by that time.

Despite this, it’s good to think we’re involved in an activity which may persuade people to start more agroforestry schemes. It may never be a mainstream farming technique but even if only a few people do it as a result of our recording it will make it all worthwhile. How often do you get a chance to alter the world?

We are measuring wind and temperature data in the fields between the rows of apple trees to see how they modify the climate. It’s not as interesting as measuring the height and spread, but you don’t really need to do that every month.

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It does you good to think in terms of trees rather than human lifespan. Most of the world’s problems seem to be caused by people who don’t think very far ahead and if we all started planting trees for our grandchildren the world would be a better place.

I planted two trees in the garden a few years ago. I’m not really sure how many years, probably about fifteen. I honestly didn’t plan it too well. They were too close to each other and too close the the boundary fence. When I planted them they were about six feet tall and were meant to be trained in a ballerina shape. The neighbour who gave them to me hadn’t pruned them for a couple of years but I was confident I could get them back to form.

Lesson One: Overconfidence is not a good thing.

Three or four years later, with some lax pruning they were small trees and were growing into each other. As the birds were getting more cherries than we were (one year we literally harvested FOUR cherries) I decided the cherry tree should go.

Lesson Two: Try to vsiualise things as they will be in years to come.

Finally, with some properly structured pruning, I have a very productive plum tree, which is now the source of a dispute with my neighbours. They don’t like it hanging over their garden and they don’t like the plums dropping off and making a mess. I’d actually left the branches on as I thought they might like a few plums and might think I was tight if I cut the branches back. Seems I was wrong.

Lesson Three: A gift of free plums is not always appreciated.

 

Tree Day!

At last it’s arrived, the day we’ve been looking forward to for over a month. The Woodland Trust people arrived and it was down to work. We now know about crowns and stems, clinometers and ranging poles. We also have the equipment for the Javelin event in our next Improvised Olympics. (I know everyone else was thinking the same, but we all decided not to mention it until the Woodland Trust people left).

We’re now qualified to measure heights and girths and crowns (both north to south and east to west) and I have a pen mark on my shirt to tell me where the 1.3 metre mark is for measuring girths. As long as I don’t wash the shirt I’m pretty well set up for that.

I still think that it will be easier to measure small trees by making Tim climb them with a tape measure instead of using a clinometer and percentages. Despite this, it’s a lot easier doing it with a clinometer than the way I was taught at school. I can’t remember exactly how we did it but it involved sticks and plywood triangles and much more maths. It also involved a lot more answers because it’s a mathematical rule that the more steps you have in a process involving ten-year-olds the more answers you get. We were all pretty good, and the answers hardly varied at all, a triumph for the instructors considering the mixed abilities of the group. In fact the only person who got the girth wrong was me, but after standing straighter and trying again I got it right. It’s likely that drawing an ink mark on the front of my shirt isn’t the best way of finding the height for a girth measurement.

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It hasn’t suited everyone as an activity, and the temperature hasn’t helped, particularly the icy north wind that’s been getting up since mid-morning, but several of the group have definitely enjoyed it and that’s what it’s about.

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You never know where these things will lead. For an example look no further than lambing. Three years ago most of the group didn’t care for farm animals and were only interested in things like rabbits and guineapigs. Now they are volunteering to come in at the weekend and help with lambing. It’s strange how one thing leads to another, and when you look back over the years it’s amazing how some people change.

Apart from me that is. In 1966 I seem to remember being in trouble for throwing the sticks and for getting some pretty outlandish answers. In 2015 I can only grin and point out that we all have to grow older, but we don’t have to grow up!