Into the woods at last! What a relief it was to be able to replace a picture of a forest on a computer screen with a real one! No problem that it was just the size of a stamp and that the long strong vines of the invasive blackberries were like living booby-traps, ready to wrap around my ankles and throw me to the ground. The pleasure of being able to exert my winter softened muscles was worth the expected stiffness, sore shoulders and fight against the blackberries.
This particular patch of oak trees was planted about 20-25 years ago and was ready for the first thinning. About one third of the oaks had grown well and would probably turn into well formed oak trees in the future. About half of the trees looked like gangely teenagers trying to impress their peers, earnestly elbowing their way in the surrounding living space. A small number of trees had not survived the competition for nutrients and light and had turned into fast-food restaurants for birds and insects.
According to the the forest ranger about half of the trees could be removed so that the remaining trees could grow on to become fine examples in the future. This meant that alot of the “teenagers” would lose their battle to become part of the forest family but would get a new career opportunity – as edible wood. I had arranged that a tree worker with a chainsaw would go to work in the forest felling the marked trees. The tree trunks with a certain diameter would be cut into a length of een meter so that they would be easy to carry out of the forest. I had calculated that about 400 meters of logs would be produced. The distance to the roadside varied between 10 and 100 meters. Although I could probably carry 2 logs at a time because they were not so heavy it still meant that I would have to walk back and forth somewhere between 200 – 300 times. Not an efficient and effective way to build those muscles. Time to bring in some help.
A young man, a fresh graduate of the University of Wageningen, had informed me a few weeks earlier that he and a couple of friends were hoping to start their own Edible Wood Farm. He had the know-how but had lacked the ingredients – the logs and the inoculation plugs. Every year I have need of assistance to get all of the logs out of the forest. I had the logs and enough plugs but missed the muscles. A spreadsheet showed enough opportunities and an agreement was quickly reached: muscles vs logs.
The three young men arrived on the morning of their adventure full of good humor. The fact that they had totally miscalculated how they would get to the forest (train stations and forests don’t grow next to each other in the Netherlands) and had to walk the last 6 kilometers did not dampen their spirits at all. With no ado we filed after the sturdy tree worker and began on the ardous task of carrying the logs out of the forest. We made the most of the good weather (cold and sunny) and enjoyed not being rained upon and having to slip and slide through the dried up mud at the edge of the road.
At the end of the working day my muscles were beginning to feel like muscles again instead of a sagging loaf of bread. A wonderful feeling! My forest colleagues were discovering that they had muscles… not so wonderful. On the way back to the train station they were looking forward to a warm bath, putting their feet up and a weeks rest before the next planned working day.