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Felling Trees is Hard, Poo, Birch Tapping & Ruin Advice needed!

Been coppicing and chopping down Trees this weekend. Not properly, but in our own small way which is last minute & messy but with clean cuts and great reverence for the Trees! This might sound a bit soft to some of you but I can assure you I'm not as fluffy as you might think :)

Coppicing doesn't pose a problem to me but felling a Tree does. I spent some time sitting with how I feel about it and trying to understand why my needs were important enough to take down the Tree. Truth is they aren't really. However, in order for us to be able to afford the land we have to make a living. Leo makes incredibly beautiful things from wood that, if sold, could enable us to continue to care for the land. We also need fire wood for next winter and we need wood for building. [EDIT: Thanks Coyopa! I should have mentioned how, by felling these trees, we're enhancing the life of the coppice & the health of the standard trees we've elected to leave.]

Since humans began we have had this relationship with Trees. Treating them almost like a parent, taking them for granted until it's almost too late. Well, I think we're in the 'almost too late' part of our relationship with Trees.

My sense of this gives me the motivation to share as much of what we do on the land and with Trees with others. That way, I'm hopefully giving something back to the Trees, helping to fight their corner and showing them how grateful I am for what they give me.

Which is why I'm planting 6000 trees on the land! Exmoor 6000 Trees Project

I have to say that I wasn't sorry to see this giant Laurel go. It was dangerous to fell as it's very snappy & we didn't take the top heavyness off of the branches before felling. However... it's mostly down now and I'm excited to see what pops out of the ground now the Sun can get to it!

Leo found this little noggin in an Ash tree branch, where a small mammal sat and tested these nuts for nutty goodness. I don't know what little mammal made these holes... hopefully one of you can tell me! Click the picture to see it bigger.

I went for an explore along the river to see what I could see. I didn't see any sign of Otter sadly but it was very beautiful down there and there's a lot going on!

I found this poo amongst the Hazel trees next to the river. What did it come out of? Click the picture to see it bigger.

I also love trying to spot the female flowers of the Hazel tree ( I do like other, exciting, things too!)! You can just see it bursting out of the bud in the middle of the picture below. I remember the first time I saw one I couldn't believe I'd never noticed them before! Click the picture to see it bigger.

I tried Birch tapping for the first time this weekend and unfortunately my tap was pants. Luckily though we were felling some Birch so when we made a cut into one and the sap started to gush out I ran for my cup. That first spurt slowed down by the time I got back with my cup but it was still flowing!

I did drink some straight from the tree and it was very beautiful. Hard to describe but like very pure, subtly sweet, water with a hint of the smell you get when you cut green wood. I felt amazing after drinking it too, totally energised. I could get addicted to that!

That evening I collected some nettle tops & gentle warmed the Birch sap (I didn't boil it) and made some Birch sap and nettle top tea. It was beautiful and had the same effect on me as it did when I drank it straight from the Tree. I was energised!

The Laurel that was felled is growing on the bank opposite the old linnhe. So lots more light is getting to it now. It got me thinking about how to care for the ruin as I've got no idea about looking after old buildings. So I thought I'd post this photie and see if I could get some advice from you! Help!

Much love,


  1. I share your feelings about trees, Hen - it raised a lot of questions for me about my relationship with the woods out back here when I began to use them for firewood.

    But. The fact is, these woods are overcrowded and no light gets in. By felling a few, the whole wood thrives... Interesting. There's the life of the Tree. And then there's the life of the Wood. They don't always have the same needs. Which is more important?

    Philosophical questions raised by tree-felling dilemmas!

    I take what I need with care for the whole wood as best I can & enjoy knowing that it will become a healthier ecosystem as a result.

    Now. Extend that to humans and things start getting interesting... :)

    (Off into Edinburgh with my scythe ;) )

  2. It's hard to cut down a tree. It took me years to even pick flowers. The i took classes at the New York Botanical Gardens and learned how to prune properly (pruning to make them healthier) and that helped some. Still, it's hard to take a life.


    Birch Sap Wine
    • 8 pints sap
    • ½lb chopped raisins
    • 2lb sugar
    • juice of 2 lemons
    • general purpose yeast
    Collect the sap from a number of trees so as not to overtap an individual tree, which could kill it. The sap should be collected in early March whilst it is still rising. Select larger trees, bore a hole about 1"- deep or a bit less, around 4ft off the ground, place a tube or something similar in the hole and allow the sap to run down. Then put a suitable container underneath and allow to fill. The hole will heal naturally, but it wouldn't hurt to wedge a piece of birch bark over the hole to aid it. Boil the sap as soon as collected, add the sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Place the raisins in a suitable bucket, pour in the boiling liquid and add the yeast and lemon juice when it has cooled to blood temperature. Cover the bucket and leave to ferment for three days before straining off into a demi-john and sealing with an air lock. Let stand until fermentation finishes, then rack off into a clean jar and let the sediment settle. Bottle the wine and store in a cool place for at least a month.
    Birch Tea
    This is an old and effective remedy to combat cystitis, urinary problems, gout, rheumatism and arthritis and to remove excess water from the body. To make the tea, collect the birch leaves (the best time is in the spring when the leaves are fresh) and dry them out of direct sunlight. Put 2-3 teaspoonfuls in a cup and pour on boiling water, then cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Take the tea 3-4 times daily or just occasionally if you need a mouthwash. Fresh leaves can also be used but as the months progress the leaves deteriorate.

  4. Your "poo" looks like a pellet full of fur, possibly from an owl or buzzard, even foxes will cough up pellets.

  5. Don't worry about chopping trees! We're as much a part of ecological weave as any other lifeform, including taking life. Joseph Campbell puts it in a nutshell when he says 'I eat you, and then you eat me' referring to the ouroboros which is life. To avoid killing is to avoid something fundamental to our very being - the ritual confirmation that all living things die so that life may continue as a whole. And the bonus is all the stuff we use after the killing. If you can't kill trees, what about cooking? Where do you draw the line? Is ecological balance more important than ethics? Is quorn, a synthetic meat (which we haven't evolved to ingest) using huge amounts of energy to produce, package & transport, a better choice than organic, locally nurtured, reared & killed meat & offal we've evolved to assimilate?
    I believe it's not black & white, and that respect is the key. It's up to us to learn what that means in specific cases. Too many variables for kneejerk answers, but hey, I've not killed a tree in ages. No need. But I would quite readily if it were necessary, and do it with dignity and respect - no f--kin chainsaws!
    The hazel nut has been chiselled by a great tit - too messy for a mouse. The scat is probably fox - the tapering ends you don't really get with pellets, although it looks like it's distorted from its original shape as the fur had dried & distorted. Perhaps rabbit fur.
    Hope this helps!


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