Wednesday 30th January – at last. This was the first day of felling the trees needed for the next batch of edible wood. The small forest plot in the east of the Netherlands was in dire need of thinning as many of the trees had been growing for too long too close to each other. The forester in charge had selected future trees with healthy straight trunks and trees in the nearby vicinity had been marked with bright pink spots of paint. These marked oak trees were slowly getting ready for a new profession, not as firewood but as edible wood.
Trees in the Netherlands are not particularly tall. When I came to the Netherlands straight after completing University in Melbourne (Australia), I was quite surpised (and pleased) that there was something akin to forest in the Netherlands. Many native eucalyptus trees in Australia can easily reach heights up to 80 meters – very impressive. In the Netherlands people are generally tall but the trees are small. Most of the oak trees that I have worked with the past few years have fitted perfectly into a wheelbarrow once the tree trunk had been cut up into several one meter pieces. Quite handy really.
Working with logs intented to become edible wood means that care has to be taken not to damage the bark. The bark has an important function of protecting the wood against infection from competitive fungi and for ensuring that the log does not dry out.
This means that use of machines in a forest is limited and often restricted to chainsaws, wheelbarrows and people power.
A tree should be respected and the wood honored. Most of a harvested tree can be put to good use. The diameter of the logs needed for edible wood is between 8 – 18 cm, easy enough to carry out of the forest. Damaged and thinner logs/branches make wonderful firewood and logs with a larger diameter can be used as a natural pedestal for a sculpture or as a tree trunk seat. The crown is left behind to break down and decay so that it can become part of the ecosystem and feed the forest floor.
It is always hard physical work getting the logs out of the forest. Something that I always look forward to. Every year there are different people who are willing to work alongside me in the forest, expecting to get dirty and using it as a means to test their physical strength. Many logs this year were on the heavy side with a diameter above 20 cm diameter. Too heavy for me but not for my smiling strong forest helpers….