Harvest can happen at any time of year and we are just in the process of bringing in our first crop for 2020.
In these uncertain and worrying times, it is wonderful to be able to still participate – and write about – something normal and positive. This last two weekends, my family and I have begun harvesting our first ‘crop’ of sustainable fuel from our land at Cae Non. Due to the almost continuous rain this past few months it is much later in the spring than we had originally intended but, despite the hindrance, all is now going very well. Even so, we have been working under quite difficult conditions, wading about in a good six to nine inches of water, mud and slutch and regularly getting our feet firmly stuck fast. Mud and cold water have splashed everywhere and tool handles have had to be regularly wiped clean, too slick and slippy to handle without the danger of the them flying out of our hands.
Our much-loved five acre plot officially came into our possession in June, 2011. The following January I spent some interesting days out in the bitingly cold wind and rain/hail planting my first small stand of willow. I had no idea what I was doing and set the willow whips far too close together – lesson learned for next time! We also put in a small patch of alder at the same time and these have also just been cut for the first time.
I cannot say that it has not grieved me to see our first trees – which I have talked to, loved and encouraged to grow – felled to the floor, but I always knew that that was our plan. I know that they will rise again. Indeed they are already doing so! We have not clear-felled but left some of the trees so that the land and the wild life aren’t impacted too drastically. It will be another seven years before they are coppiced again and the landscape will flow backwards and forwards between sparsely dotted with trees and more heavily wooded; a constantly changing palette of colour, shape and texture.
In the meantime, my son has been wielding a nifty little petrol-driven chainsaw; otherwise it would have taken us all week to fell, trim and log our first crop. We shall transport the logs back to where we live a car-load at a time. The first lot arrived yesterday. The car was not as full as it could have been but once my menfolk noticed the bulging tyres, (green alder is a very dense and heavy wood) they decided that they had packed in enough!
Meanwhile, I was left back at home to clear out a part of our very ancient greenhouse where the firewood is to be stored. Over the summer it will dry out naturally to a certain degree, to be finished off to a kiln-dried consistency later in the year in our Aga ovens. (Agas are simply wonderful! They fulfill SO many domestic functions – apart from cooking – mine is like having an extra member of the family in residence.
It was a glorious spring day… washing was flapping animatedly on the line, the blackbird and robin were conducting a duet from the top of next-door’s fir tree, I spotted my first bumble bee of the year and the blossom on the cherry tree is just beginning to emerge.
Of course, there is always a downside to everything. In this particular case, I was so enamoured by the energy and beauty of the natural world reawakening that I didn’t pay enough attention to what I was doing. Suddenly, I found myself doing a brief pas de deux with a knobbly stick which had become entangled in my skirts and the next thing I knew, I had fallen flat on my face on the unforgiving concrete floor. I will not dwell upon the loud groaning noises which I made for a while before the pain and nausea subsided and I was able to pick myself up. Suffice it to say that today I have knees which are an impressive grey, yellow and red, an arm wonderfully grazed and I feel as if I have been hit by a bus.
But the first of our logs are in! A little insurance and assurance against the possible freezing temperatures of next winter. Meanwhile, I shall thoroughly enjoy concentrating on and enjoying the spring. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you can stay well and do the same.