When we moved here, I knew we would need a chainsaw. We had so many trees, and our heating comes from a wood-burning fire. In my mind, I could see that after a high wind, it was inevitable we would need to clean up fallen branches, and I knew there were some dead trees which needed to be removed – one of which is close to the house and poses a potential hazard if it falls the wrong way. I didn’t imagine cutting down large, healthy, beautifully-formed eucalypts, yet this is what we had to do last weekend. Three healthy trees had to be removed to make way for a new boundary fence.
It all started with a couple of minor intrusions onto our property. One from a human, and two from dogs. We noticed that the front fence only consisted of a single strand of wire, which in places could be rolled back to form gaps wide enough to drive a vehicle through. As we are also contemplating having one or two grazing animals in the future, it made sense to replace this with a full strength ringlock fence – something strong enough to contain livestock if we do go down that path. Unfortunately, the three trees were right on the fenceline.
Inexperienced at these things, I asked why we couldn’t put a solid post on both sides of each tree, and leave them there. Of course the answer to that is related to safety. The posts would have to be driven right through the root system, potentially making the trees unstable and even dangerous. Also, livestock may be able to shift the posts and squeeze through the gaps. I took a deep breath and accepted that for the fence to be tensioned correctly, and to retain livestock, the trees would need to come down.
All of this sparks a series of questions about sustainability. renewable resources, and the uncalculated value of the trees that were felled. Sure. we can plant new trees to replace the ones we cut down (and we will do that) but think about how many years will pass before our trees will reach maturity. In the meantime we will cut the felled trees into firewood sized segments, pile these up to dry over Summer so we can burn the wood next Winter. In one year, these beautiful trees will be completely gone, while the ones we have planted will still be slender saplings. It makes me realise that living sustainability means more than just replacing what has been felled. It has to include economic calculations that take into account the time, water, nutrients and care taken to develop young saplings into full mature trees. If we understood this value, would we still be using a wood-fired stove? The obvious rejoinder is that at least trees can be grown; can be sustainably managed if people invest into such ventures – but what a long time to wait for the investment to mature!
There is something about a wood fire that is so comforting, so warming – it’s unlike any other heating I have experienced, and I would be reluctant to give it up. The wood we use is from our land. No trucks are needed to get it here, and we don’t end up with a bill in the mail, but I’m sure it is not entirely free either. As I sit by my fire, I will have a deeper appreciaton of the logs I keep feeding it.
Here are some photos of the tree-felling: