Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wood work

I nearly bought a wood this week, well, I got as far as enquiring about it and seeing whether anyone else was interested (two friends were), before finding it was gone anyhow. Learned some interesting stuff, some financial; that woodland is between £4,000 and £8,000 an acre, and is free from capital gains tax, but also exploring some more interesting questions- why would I want a wood, and what would I do with it. And what about others ?

I'd want to crop some wood - but then I still haven't bought the woodburner I was looking at in September. I'm good at collecting wood, not so good at consuming it. I'd also want to encourage wildlife, to plant new trees, to pollard and watch nature taking its course. To feel that the land was being productive and protected, contributing to the balance on global warming, a lung ideally in or near to our conurbation. Which the wood I'd found would have done, but it was a bit scrappy, and out near Ferndown, a bit of a way away. And most of all, learned that if we are to secure some woodland, we'll have to be ready to move fast. And ownership of space (other than one's home) is a concept that I struggle with. Stewardship, and safeguarding for people to enjoy/use now, and to preserve for future generations is more important.

On my driveway, I have had a pile of twisted willow that I cropped last autumn from the tree in my back garden, the second time I have pollarded it. The first time around, I chopped the many branches into short sections mostly for kindling, but something Andrew Hope mentioned in a Transition meeting made me consider how wasteful that was. He suggested, especially with reference to pine wood, full of resin, that it would be advantageous to make rough garden furniture, use it for 10 years, and then burn the wood. Although my willow for the fire involved zero fuel miles, I could do better.

And quite a while ago we had gateposts planted, on the basis that we'd go out and buy a gate to match the lovely sunrise gate that Clare designed and a local gate-maker constructed so long ago that it is now falling apart and needs to be dragged open and shut. But we never have. So, I finally got around to some sort of construction,

Of course the great thing about working in your front garden is that there is the possibility of conversations with neighbours (assuming they are not shooting past in their cars).  I am not sure which of the two comments I had whilst hanging the gate was more helpful - "Ohh that's rustic" said one, and I think it was genuine. The other,  whilst I wss busy attaching the hinges, suggested that it wasn't straight. She giggled, and it's true, but sorry, it never will be straight.

In the sense that I have done more than one half of the first driveway, I'm over a quarter the way there. How long it takes to turn the rest of the stacked wood into the other gate, and how I stitch the halves together, or whether the design is consigned to the fireplace, time will tell ! And I'll have to wait awhile for the regrowth to replace the sunrise gate, assuming it lasts that long.

Wood grows on trees, but not instantly !

Friday, 4 November 2011

Greek Tragedy

It is indulgent Sailing on the Ionian shores of Greece, but when living for two weeks aboard a small yacht, you are conscious of economy of use of water, electricity and fuel. And each port we visited gave insight to the locals resilience, and sadly the effect that sun-seeking people from Northern Europe (mainly Britain and Holland as I saw) are having on the landscape and the population, and the way they use their land.
We sailed some of this area about 10 years ago, and Petriti on Corfu, one of the least developed ports on the island, provided perhaps the greatest contrast. It is still described as an unspoilt fishing village, with a few tavernas, and the harbour is still mostly populated by fishing boats, ranging from the unbelievably small to quite sizeable craft with an array of lights to lure the fish to the surface.
There were several fishermen on the harbour wall, using techniques I had never seen using a rod to catch a small fish, then attaching a hook on a hand-reel to the live bait, getting the fish to swim out in search of bigger fish. These may have been leisure rather than commercial anglers, but one in particular was there all evening, and back at first light, with several hand-reels on the go.
Last time we were here, there were a few smart villas, but most of the houses were modest, set in fairly large grounds, with citrus fruit and olive trees, livestock and woodpiles, a ragbag of tools and toys around the yard, and evidence of the family links with the sea. But now, many of these have gone, replaced by far larger buildings, several to an old plot, with far less growing space.
In the centre, close to the harbour, is a field, full of ancient olive trees, pollarded to around 3 metres high, but as thick as adjacent olives 10 times that height. A couple of handmade 'for sale' signs in English and Greek were nailed to trees. There was a woodpile, a tethered donkey, and a load of chickens and turkeys roaming the site. In one corner was a small shed, and an old wooden boat. Walk around the plot, and a big hoarding announces yet more luxury villas. As a sizeable plot, this will be a whole estate before long.
At a time when we are coming to recognise the values of pastoral life, those who still have this in their grasp are being lured/forced to sell up their greatest asset - fertile land, to plant sterile buildings on. It is ironic that whilst we were in Greece, there were general strikes, and riots in Athens over the planned austerity measures, and yet truly sustainable (if subsistence) existance is being pushed aside to support affluent leisure.