Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The right place

Neighbour Robin helping me move a false acacia tree
Sometimes, you actually have to put something somewhere so that you can find out that it’s in the wrong place.  If you follow the permaculture design process as laid out by Patrick Whitefield, you go through five stages (base map, site survey, questionnaire, evaluation and design proposal) before you get the chance to put a plant in the ground.  And then it’s in the wrong place … how did that happen?  

I accept the possibility that I’m incompetent, a second-grade permaculturalist or an under-skilled designer.  Or maybe it’s just part of the learning process and I’ll make fewer mistakes the more I design and perhaps even the experts still make mistakes but their gentle egos prevent them telling us.  Fin, bref, we’ve got some trees in the wrong place.
As our forest garden plan evolves, we have changed the position of several trees.  At this stage of the design process, still on paper, changing things is allowed.  In Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Produce Edible Crops Martin Crawford recommends that we “keep the design on the go for several months, perhaps only coming back to it for a few minutes from time to time.”  The photo shows me “moving a tree” with just my fingertips; you can see that this is the ideal stage to move trees.

Sometimes though, it’s not until something is in place that one realises, for various reasons that it’s in the wrong place and have to reach for the spade…

We’d planted a pair of false acacias (also called black locust, Latin robinia pseudoacacia) to frame an entrance onto our property but didn’t at first realise how large a tree they become and how quickly they grow.  They were sucking water and nutrients from beneath a living willow fence/hedge we’ve planted and, as the “fedge” comes into leaf again, we can see the effect on those rods nearest the tree.  So that tree had to go and as the forest garden design calls for one, we thought of “treecycling” it.  

Now you don’t have to have read Robert Kourik’s  Roots Demystified  to guess that a big tough tree—especially a pioneering, quick growing one—has big tough roots.  Quite frankly, it was a b****** to dig out.  But a young tree is no match for a determined man with a long sharp spade and a bilingual lexicon of swear words to help him along and, as the air turned blue, out it came.

Gabrielle and the repositioned False Acacia tree

I asked neighbour Robin to give me a hand and, with Gabrielle on the lighter end and in charge of steering, we walked it into the field of pasture that will become our forest garden and plopped it into a big hole I’d dug earlier.  5ft 2ins Gabrielle helpfully adds scale to the photo of the repositioned tree.

For any of you who’d like to learn a few French swearwords (gros mots) to help when moving trees, I’d recommend working on a building site for a few days, although I’m not sure that the straw bale house build where I learned mine necessarily implies that they’re environmentally friendly cusses.