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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Well beyond my lifetime

[risa] These are pussy willow twigs, or something very like that, from a tree we found growing by the creek when we got here sixteen years ago; the species seems to grow to be about forty feet tall, with a sort of slim profile like a Lombardy poplar, and then after twenty to thirty vigorous years, the main stem begins dying. The growth of side shoots or suckers at the base is quite aggressive, and so we have used these shoots as beanpoles when they reach about the thickness of a broom handle.

Each year, some of the beanpoles sprout leaves and roots, and we've taken to planting them around the place. Those that make it become new trees. A lot of them do survive.

I've cut and firewooded the main stem of the parent tree, this winter, and, not being willing to toss the live twigs that were left over, I gathered them up, pruned each one to a single stem, and set them in a bucket of water. With rain coming, this seemed the ideal weekend for this activity.

With a medium-sized mattock, I paced around the grounds, stopping every twelve feet or so, and hacked away about a saucer-sized bit of sod, then reversed the mattock and sank the pick up to the handle in the center of the scalped area. This creates a narrow hole, ten inches deep, into which to insert a twig, or sprig, which should be packed tight so that wet soil, not drying air, cozies up to the stem all the way round. The sod can then be piled upside down on the south side of the stem to provide a little cooling shade at ground level; later, when the grass begins to grow again, I'll put down a grass-clippings mulch for each sprig as well.

Each sprig got a little bit of orange flag, near the bottom rather than the top, so that the flags won't contribute to wind problems (much). Over the summer I will watch for leaves, and if there are a lot of them I'll remove most, to give the little sprigs -- hopefully trees -- a better root-to-shoot ratio. They will need to be watered; I'll try once a week. With any luck this will make a little woodlot that can be coppiced for fuel and beanpoles for the next few decades -- well beyond my lifetime, but that's the thing with trees.

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