Thursday, November 12, 2009


We will remember them :
I was back in our woods yesterday, with my super sharp Japanese pole saw carrying on with the task of taking off the side branches of a hectare of Corsican pines, part of the first thinning of this parcel, for which I’ll get an EU subsidy, that is IF I get it done by the end of January. To that end, we’ve asked for volunteers. We quickly got our first offer from a chap called Simon but rather put him on hold as we were expecting a deluge of prospective helpers once the two magazine adverts hit the newsstands and would then have a logistical exercise in dovetailing everyone’s dates. We waited and when the anticipated deluge turned into a drought, we called him back. He apologised—for that is what English people do, even when it’s not their fault—but, having not heard from us, he’d gone on and made other arrangements … bugger!


The proverb comparing birds in hands and bushes comes to mind; I think we learnt a lesson there. We hope to see Simon in the future but we have had one other enquiry from Graham, who has his chainsaw qualification and wants to come for a fortnight … phew! The more side branches I cut off before he arrives, the easier the selective felling will be, that aside from its main reason of reducing the size of knots in the timber when they are eventually felled.


As it was Remembrance Day, I kept an eye on the time and at 11am, I stood quietly with my hands clasped in front of me, bowing my head, my eyes closed for two minutes silence. It’s precisely at moments like these when you realise how noisy “silence” actually is. The raucous whine of a distant chainsaw, several reports of a hunter’s shotgun (evocative but hardly appropriate as this is the moment when the guns of WW1 when silent) and, more pleasantly, birdsong and other rustling sounds of the woodland.


For the two minutes, I thought of my maternal grandfather,Arthur Swan (pictured in his fire watchers uniform for WW2, with the medals he got in 1918) who spent just twenty days in France before being shot in the cheek, losing a couple of teeth, thereby obtaining a rather dashing scar and home leave. I brought to mind other images and pondered the words of the Ode of Remembrance.


On my way out, I checked a stump of a sycamore tree I felled a couple of winters ago and inoculated with pearl oyster mushrooms. It’s already given us its first flush of succulent champignons and I’m happy to report that it’s started to fruit again, see photo. The round things in the top of the cut surface are the tops of the pre-inoculated carpenter's dowels that I hammered in soon after felling. I shall keep an eye on it over the next few days, hoping to catch it when ready and ripe and before either a the maggots or a Frenchman with a keen eye and a wicker basket does.


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