Us and Trees - What we can do

I am working on this article for our next Sunday Session. Though this is not finished, I feel this needs to out there for you to read and contemplate while I still work on editing and improving this. 

It was a rainy day today, so I working on this awhile,  I still have not had time to get more photos posted into this article. I do not think this will be possible now well into next week. Eventually, some video clips will arrive here too, in the near future. 

Please bookmark and re-visit this article when you can. Also, consider attending our Sunday Session of this at Carrowcrory next Sunday afternoon from 2pm.  If you cannot attend that please contact me for future dates

Please RSVP in advance here, to attend as we can only host 25 people.



Woodland Cover In Ireland?

At the remarkable first Woodland Festival in Co. Leitrim, this month, I learned a lot more about tree and woodland cover. The conversations I had with people within what seems to be a limited tree passion within Ireland was remarkable. Woodland passion seems to be growing quickly, at last.

Through what I learned at that festival. combined with what I have experienced from my own work,. I have added 'Us And Trees' to the Carrowcrory Sunday Sessions catalogue.

What I am covering through this article is
  • History of Forest Cover in Ireland
  • What Forest Cover we need now in Ireland to balance essential 02 with CO2
  • Growing Hemp for quick CO2 absorption results while new trees grow
  • Forest Learning for All of us
  • Small steps that can de-carbonise our local environment
  • My surprise discovery about the Tree Labyrinth here at Carrowcrory
  • Actions to change from any demoralising anxiety to restoring self esteem 
  • Trust in the Living, before the Dying
  • What actions can we do now
  • Your own Tree Sanctuary?
  • Serving you a 'Tree Sanctuary Hub' to help you through all of this
I will start with some Tree Facts that I picked up via Anita Patil of TreeChange.ie

USA
It's people are 5% of the world population
Uses 28% of world's resources
Consumes what 4.5 planets need to produce a year to stay balanced

EU (28 countries)
It's people are 7% of the world population
Uses 20% of world's resources
Consumes what 2.8 planets need to produce a year to stay balanced

Ireland
It's people, living in Ireland, are0.06% of the world population
Living with the lowest forest cover in EU. including those awful plantations
Consumes what 3 planets need to produce a year to stay balanced

History of forest cover in Ireland

There are some ugly propaganda myths about forest cover history in Ireland. Sometimes it is all wrapped up in a sentence like "Ireland was covered in forests until Cromwell and the English came and stole them to build their ships and create their empire.".

Added to this is "Cromwell ordered all of the trees to be felled so he could keep an eye on Ireland". To me, that is like the modern belief that the government reads all of our emails, despite how we each do not have time to read our own emails.

The other question is, if Cromwell did clear the forests, 360 years ago, why has replacement tree cover not been planted? Some very fine Oak and Ash could be present now if people had done that?

I feel that this timeline is much closer to the truth. 

I have linked up what I understand from forest passion people who have researched into forest cover history in Ireland, to learn more about what they could do to compensate today.. These forest people I learned from are not fanciful tree hugging hippies but people who really live and breathe the forests as best they are able to around today's Ireland.

Forest cover after the last Ice Age

According to them, forestry started covering Ireland after the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. Elsewhere I have heard and read that this was 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. I do not think we will ever correctly know. Just knowing it was a long time ago is enough for me :-)

The first trees species said to have been established from this ice age transition were Juniper, then Willow, then Birch,

What we call Ireland today seemed to have had almost 100% woodland cover 8000 years ago. It was this time, maybe earlier, that the first known humans came to this land. They were said to have been from the Sahara rain forests and rivers. They headed north due to rapid climate warming that was causing the Sahara land to dry up and become deserts. Meanwhile, land of what is now Ireland was changing to become home to rain forests and rivers. These first people, to what is now Ireland, are said to have truly been part of the forests and water as this was their lifestyle and life saving.

Forest cover among the New Stone Age people

This forestry was reduced to 80% about 6000 years ago due to a second race of people entering the land we call Ireland. These people were from a culture that has invented and developed calibrations, genetics, order, and even language. They were of a culture that settled to farm for their food and shelter. This included clearing forests to create fields. These people were the first cattle people, though for a few thousand years it seems they did not kill cattle as they valued the milk and cheese from them, and their working abilities. Cattle was also currency and status ofwealth for these people. Forests were not. Does this sounds familiar?

So, during their age, about 20% of forest cover of Ireland was cleared by them for their agriculture. Only 20% clear felling seems small and not devastating. For awhile, the megalithic population was small, but it did grow quickly, and their population growth caused many challenges.

Forest Cover during the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Age people

By 3000 years ago forestry cover in this land now called Ireland was down to less than 50% cover. In addition to clearance by agriculture, charcoal making had become a major industry. Charcoal was needed to extract metals form ores. Initially this was for creating metal farming tools, but later moved onto weapon making, especially during the Iron Age..

Interestingly, forest also started to become respected a little as it was now a vital crop for the charcoal industry. It was probably at this time that the origins of what became Brehon Law based on council and mediation rather than the later court and judgement systems. Chieftain trees and Ogham language took on a leadership role. This founded tree and language education and created a new human elite culture.

Forest Cover during the Vikings Age people.

The Iron age had accelerated charcoal production, and when the Vikings arrived the seized Oak and Ash for vast shipbuilding. During their time, before the Normans arrived, native forestry cover reduced to about 20% of the land.

Forest Cover during the Normans Age people

For the Normans, only 20% forest cover was a challenge. The Normans seemed to have been the first to introduce plantation forestry into Ireland. They introduced Sycamore to quickly to increase the woodland stock, but it seems they also revived a native woodland forest culture..

By later Medieval times, the Normans had integrated with the Gaelic Irish to become the new Gaelic culture full of a new use of Ogham, respect for ancient trees, and a firm Brehon Law system. Unfortunately, elements of the Ten Commandments system of criminality, judgement, and punishment was creeping in too. Gallows Trees were phasing in.

And then came the Spanish

 Maybe the French and Portugese too. These colonialising Europeans came to trade with these Normo-Gaelic chieftains, who were learned in both Gaelic and Latin languages. This trading took away about another 10% of forest cover land, leaving about 10% cover.

Then came Cromwell

When Cromwell arrived, the most blamed culprit for stripping Ireland's forest cover, Ireland has about 10% forest cover then. Certainly, squirrels could no longer swing from tree to tree from one side of Ireland to the other. So, the ugly brutal Cromwell actually introduced Beech trees to Ireland as a forest plantation crop for future navy and construction dreams.

At Cromwell's time charcoal making was still in full swing because metal working was in demand. Wooden shipbuilding also in continuous demand,

From about 1800

By 1800 forest cover in Ireland had dropped to below 1%!

The wealthy lairds landowners then sort of started to do their bit by assigning large chunks of their estates for growing tree cover. This planting extended way beyond native species. The lairds travelled and brought home many trees of many species from around the world. This was done in the same spirit as bringing home tiger and elephant trophy heads. All of this was to brag about their travels and adventures, With their wealth they were able to do this.

Strangely, the legacy of them doing this tree collecting is that there are now tree species in Ireland that have gone extinct around the world. They are still here in Ireland, still alive and fit within the still existing gardens of these estate houses and castle.

From 1800 there was also a small band of heavily ridiculed pioneers who believed in the necessity of returning native tree woodland cover in Ireland.

The Parnell family who took over Avondale around 1800 are famous for their tree growing trials to discover which species would be best for increasing Ireland's forest cover. Beech trees became the favourite for awhile, but sadly Sitka Spruce has since taken over. About 90% of Ireland's 12% tree cover is Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir trees. Yes, they absorb some CO2 and give out Oxygen but they also cause eco damage to the local diversity, and break up communities due to their corporate management that is sometimes brutal.

If you are unfamiliar with what is Native to Ireland,

here is the list ..

Trees

Alder
Ash
Aspen
Birch Downy and Silver
Cherry Wild and Bird
Crab Apple
Elm
Hazel
Oak Sessile and Pedunculate
Rowan
Scot's Pine
Whitebeam
Willow
Yew

Shrubs

Blackthorn
Bramble
Broom
Buckthorn
Dog Rose
Elder
Gorse
Guelder Rose
Hawthorn
Honeysuckle
Ivy
Juniper
Spindle
Strawberry Tree

Growing conditions for these species need to be considered. 

Where are these native trees and shrubs most happy?

Birch, Pine, and Holly grow best on peaty and acidic soils, though in East Scotland have been amazingly successful at stopping sand erosion and sand storms.

Alder, Willow and Holly are best on wet soils, and we would not have been able to have grown and enjoy our Tree Labyrinth Garden at Carrowcrory if it was not for these trees.

Oak, Ash and Hazel grow best on drained and nutrient rich soils, and now these thrive well within our Tree Labyrinth Garden after it was drained well by the Alder and Willow.

Ideal requirement for Ireland is 25% of the land given forest cover. 

This was pointed out in talks by Western Forest Co-operative, and the web site of  TreeChange.ie 

Both agencies agree that help is needed to create this cover in a way that forms connecting corridors, such as thick hedgerows connecting the woodland and forested areas.

The Woodland Festival was a wonderful presentation of native woodland and native tree plantation management. It included how to introduce the pioneering trees into a barren land, like bring in birch, alder if wet, willow, and maybe hazel if drainage is ok, and let nature create a woodland or forest.

I feel woodland management is still a great idea in any native forest as the balance of wildlife is now far less. Us humans can do some of the work such as clearing like grazing and thinning to make up for the wildlife now missing or may be extinct..

There is recommended constant pruning in a woodland so all can breathe and be balanced, even if we seem to be making decisions over nature. Pruning actually helps some species grow to return the nature balance, despite our control and interference.

It is wise to thin Birch and Alder every 10 years. Then thin other trees, except Oak and Ash and Yew, every 15 years. Oak and Ash is best thinned every 25 years. Yew needs very little maintenance

Coppicing is also terrific for maintenance too, and better for yields for us. Coppicing increases yields from woodland, yet is kind to all living things around. With coppicing, you can cut back Willow every 3 years, Alder every 4 years, Hazel every 8 years, Ash 15 years, Oak 25 years.

I loved seeing the use of  cattle at the Woodland Festival. 

I had only seen dray horses to drag pruned, thinned, and coppiced harvests from woodland, before. I was told that cattle are more popular around the world for this. I was told that cattle doing forest work have been happening for for 1000s of years. I do believe in the use of cattle and dray horses for forest and woodland management. It seems far, far better than mechanical vehicles, more efficient, and probably less expensive to run.

Growing Hemp While The Trees Grow

On social media there are several memes encouraging us to consider growing hemp instead of trees. To me this seems to often be encouraged by the stoners, or former stoners, as part of relating to something that brings back great memories.

Jesting aside, Hemp is actually a wonderful plant for both absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and pumping out our essential need of O2 into the atmosphere. I am going to look at hemp imagined in quarter acre pockets, as more people have access to that amount of land than they have to an acre.

Quarter acre of hemp will absorb 2 or 3 tons of CO2 and pump back the same in Oxygen.

It is possible to grow two crops of hemp per year. So that could mean 6 tons of CO2 absorbed and 6 tons of Oxygen released, from just a quarter of an acre.

With trees, it is likely that you would plant 250 trees in quarter of an acre. Some people plant more than that, 2000 trees into quarter of an acre is possible, I am told, but for biodiversity purposes lets stay with 250 trees. That is something I am familiar with from my own planting and growing experience.

Also different species of trees absorb more CO2 and give off Oxygen more or less than other species. Alder and Hazel are powerful breathers. Oak is also a powerful breather but need to be spaced out further than Alder and Hazel, so Oak lacks in CO2 consumption over a specific area compared to Alder, Hazel and Willow.

On average each tree over 10 years old, would consume 20 lb of CO2 and release 20 lb of Oxygen per year.

If you have 250 trees over 10 years old on your quarter acre that is 5000lb, or 2.5 tons, (American tons), of CO2 absorbed and Oxygen released per year..

Compare that with growing hemp, and a hemp crop is seen to be very useful. The cottage here at Carrowcrory has a huge amount of Irish grown help in it's construction.

My main concern with hemp is that it is a monoculture crop. Repeatedly grown in the same spot without supporting biodiversity, Hemp would eventually introduce monoculture problems.

Hemp could be grown among young tree saplings for a few years. That could be very handy. Hemp is an amazing nitrogen fixer so growing it through early new woodland days is like providing a power feed for sapling trees.  Hemp is well worth considering for that purpose, as well as being a useful crop.

Essential Forest Learning For All

At the Woodland Festival it was great to see Forest Schools represented in Ireland.

I first came across Forest Schooling in Scotland several years ago when one of my sons, Holly, became a Forest School and Coastal School teacher within a network called Wild Things in Morayshire. It did not seem to be long before he ascended into actually teaching teachers to become Forest School teachers throughout Scotland, and then into England. Sadly Ireland missed out. Today. Holly is a consultant helping primary and secondary schools bring in Foresrty, Coastal, and Outdoor education into regular curriculum equalling importance and qualificationwith maths, sciences and languages.

Forest School has now arrived in Ireland!  

It seems to have been founded by Trisha MacLaughlin in the Sligo area a few years ago. What a feather in the cap for Sligo's beautiful native woodlands and for Trisha's drive and initiative. Trisha has taught others and her inspired Forest Schooling has now quickly networked out into 30 Forest Schools around Ireland. The one within Brigit's Garden, Co. Galway is fast becoming very well known.

The Principles Of Forest Learning

Trisha does present a set of Principles of Forest School learning for the use of the current network of Forest Schools around Ireland, mainly for young people

I have bent these Principles here to introduce an idea of us all adapting principles into our adult approaches to woodlands, experiencing them, learning from them, and teaching our experiences and wisdom from them to others.

The Core Principles of Forest Learning and Sharing, I feel are ...

Learning about the woods, learning about forests, trees, and all life within them that holds it all together. Learning how to become part of the Woodland Culture rather than complete control of it.
In short, developing our tree hugging longings into a a way of life.

Engaging in regular sessions with trees, to understand woods, and forest land, and how to develop a relationship with them. Learning how to have relationships with woodlands that are not of egotistical and profit motivated control, but actual bridging relationships between ourselves, the trees, and all live present.

Forest Learning that is community shared,  that includes becoming part of a community of people sharing the same intentions to learn, experience, and relate to woodlands again, and to each other. Can humanity become a woodland tribe again?

Forest Learning for health protection and therapy is essential too. Through forest learning and experience  we can become confident, independent yet team working. We become much more imaginative and intuitive. We become trusting of our intuition and instincts.

Through Forest Learning we are couraged to face risks and carefully assess risks quite boldly. while adapting to the place and environment around us. This strengthens our instincts, sensory perceptions, and visionary mastery. We learn not to become entirely enslaved to our academic priority culture. There is none of the 'if you can't spell it, it can't exist' culture in the woods.

Through Forest Learning we culture imagination, and we bathe and trust in mystery, folklore, and mythology. Through this we become visionary, problem solvers and creative. This is why I introduced poetry and story telling in the woods to encourage this fulfilling connection, visions, and expression.

The overall wonderful principle of Forest Learning is understanding how we could be part of a woodland as part of it's living family, rather than than be its predator.

Practical small steps we can do to de-carbonize the environment

We may ask, what practical small steps can we do to de-carbonize the environment and help to restore our degraded eco-system?

These steps should include regenerating woodlands, re-wilding native areas, and planting native species woodlands and then let nature partially or mainly manage them as well as ourselves.

How can we do this if we have small outdoor spaces, or no outdoor spaces to manage?

My surprise about the Tree Labyrinth here at Carrowcrory



So what have we here at Carrowcrory for Forest Learning?

Here at the Tree Labyrinth, one of our Labyrinth Gardens, we have over 350 various trees that have converted the Labyrinth into a small woodland, yet sustains a labyrinth path for contemplation and connection. As a woodland the Tree Labyrinth is very small, but it does live like a woodland. It feels like visiting a woodland.

For visitors here who wish to expand more into this contemplation and activity, I do follow up guiding quests within the native tree forests around Co. Sligo.

The Carrowcrory Tree Labyrinth is 11 years old.

Going by the calculator on TreeChange.ie ...

It appears that during the past 10 years, our Tree Labyrinth has absorbed CO2 that is over 1000% of our household energy CO2 use over this time, or over 200,000 miles in car. I certainly do not drive the car enough to achieve anywhere near that. I think over 10 years I have driven less than 20,000 miles.

The Tree Labyrinth here covers only about a quarter of an acre. What if just half an acre covers more than the CO2 output of household energy plus car and travel output? This indicates we could all do something that is not of a major scale?

Many people do not live in homes with half an acre to do this on, though. So I will shortly discuss ways to make this possible,.

The wider world issues, how can we help out?

Concerning information ...

Rain forest is currently being reduced by 27 soccer pitches space every minute around the world through fires and clearing.

Twice the size of Ireland becomes desert every year due to forest clearance.

Forest clearance pumps up over 9 billion tons carbon into the atmosphere annually.

That is the carbon stored in trees that would cover a third of the size of China.

85% of wildlife species at the risk of extinction due to this seemingly out of control deforestation.

Why is this forestry being cleared? 

Mainly for the rearing of beef as the world appetite for beef has soared in recent years, and so has the world population. This means many more mouths are getting a taste for beef. Even all around India where once, not long ago, cattle remained as sacred as they seemingly were in Celtic ancient times. Now many Indian people are beef eaters.

Increasing human population around the world is causing more intensive competition for land use. A lot of land has become unusable due to becoming desert, being polluted with radioactive contamination. pollution, and becoming too dangerous to live in due to human abuse regimes.

Through the rest of available land, humans compete with each other for housing, growing and rearing food, industrial production of stuff to wear, eat, for our homes, communications, entertainment, travel and more ... and then there is forestry, that sadly seems to stay at the bottom of the ladder and is the least considered.

What is not realised is that without forestry there would eventually be no food, housing, and stuff. Forestry is beyond 'The Tree Of Life'.

Forests are the Trees Of Life 

We can truly change our psyche from suffering demoralising anxiety into inspiring self esteem through some simple actions.

A priority is we need much more woodland cover to replace what has been taken. Ignoring this, I feel, is brutal smash and grab ignorance.

More than ever, despite being heckled with 'tree hugging hippies' slurry, I feel it important to empower people to engage with nature to become their faith, their church, their partnership, their service. Clean water is as important as tree cover too, but my own focus is connection of ourselves with trees and wildlife, and the water that shares with woodlands.

This is such a vast undertaking so we question about how we can do our part to reverse climate change and environmental damage? Alone we are each one mind, a pair of hands, and 24 hours a day.

From that 24 hours ideally we need 8 hours for sleep and dreaming, 8 hours for the joy of social and learning, and 8 hours for our labours of service. Unfortunately, it does not work that way because due to our culture of 'do as you are told' beliefs, we are pressured into labours way beyond 8 hours. Often these labours are damaging the planet rather than relating to it.

Our Trust In The Living, Before The Dying

This is subjective as I created a Tree Labyinth here with lots of help, especially from Claire Roche, woofers staying at Carrowcrory, afternoon volunteers from time to time, and financial donations support from around thew world.

From conversations at the Woodland Festival 2019, and the information available from TreeChange.ie, and other Native Woodland support services such as Woodland League's Forest In A Box scheme

It appears that the CO2 absorbed by those trees of the Tree Labyrinth, here at Carrowcrory, is more than the CO2 I release from home energy needs, car driving, and other travel. If we could all do this compensation, then I am sure it would become a great help to the planet if the idea caught on.

Maybe this is not a world viral idea like Facebook was, going from a few people to billions of people within 10 years/ The important thing is not to actually prey on our minds questioning how much our efforts are helping the planet.

The priority focus seems to be on how much such an effort with Forest Cover is helping ourselves. That sounds selfish, doesn't it?

There seems to be major choices about translating what 'helping ourselves' is.

There is the psychic realm that believes that 'helping ourselves' is about acquisition, about being pampered. No matter what we acquire and how much we are pampered there is always that thirst for more, more, more. It is that thirst that has activated and created corporations, military for conquest, and gangster cartels that trick us into their enslavement lairs with promises, We can add religions here too.

There is also the psychic realm that believes  that 'helping ourselves; is trust in the flow of life, of love, and how we can apply that spirit through our minds, and hands. I still call it 'helping ourselves' as this is about being happy, being effective, and feeling the love, without being enslaved, suppressed, and demoralised.

So, what can we do?

First thing to consider is election times. We are supposed to have representatives that represent and serve the most popular requests of the people so that major changes can evolve to satisfy our majority interests. In practice, this is not so now as the representatives we vote for become part of the payroll of corporate, military, and even gangster cartel operations. Fortunately, religions seem to no longer be the puppeteers in many countries now, especially not in Ireland.

Too many people vote though habit usually, for candidates based on
who can get the petrol prices down
who will not introduce carbon tax
who will seem to give us the most opportunities to become wealthy
who will make health care easier and cheaper

I am shocked daily by vitriol and bile expressed by people in response to any suggestion of being involved in saving the planet. The common attitude seems to be

"That's for other people to do,
the hippies, make them useful,
get the unemployed off of their arses to do something,
but don't take my money and time to save the planet,
and don't ask me to learn something new., I'm ok as I am.
By the way, how's the match doing?".

Thank and be careful who you vote for,but please vote honestly, for the candidate closest to how you think. Tactical voting I feel is usually a waste and dishonest to our needs.

Your Own Tree Sanctuary?

By holding and sharing ourselves through trust in life here are some options to consider. Again, this is subjective from my own experiences. So please convert this to flow through your own faith and expression.

If you have access to at least a quarter of an acre of land, I highly recommend creating your own Tree Labyrinth or Tree Sanctuary of some kind. This could be a quarter of an acre or more of mixed natural species trees plus some native tree hedging around your land. Ensure your choice of native trees are suited to the land conditions, around your land.

 If you have more land available than a quarter of an acre then consider more tree planting space or allow that space for growing your lower level herbs, fruit, vegetables, and some wild space for other creatures to live and breed in. You could asign some space for hemp growing too.

If you do not have access to at least a quarter of an acre, such as living in an apartment, then think about joining with others as a co-op. Together you can collectively get access to land. Ideally eighth of an acre per person is idea, or think of that as 8 people maximum to an acre., You may be able to join an existing local co-op?

Ireland has a Neighbourwood scheme 

This scheme is part funded by government, though the application process is very complicated. A Neighbourwood can be established on unused government or church owned land. Sometimes it can be upon private land converted into a trust to allow a Neighbourwood to flourish without fear of re-possession.

It is is possible to get access for creating community woodland on private owned land but this can be fragile. Owners are owners. Many of them are unable to create and manage vast woodland cover themselves and need all of the help they can get. Of course, they could just let it all go wild and let nature handle it all with no intrusion from ourselves.

Even so, we are part of nature who need to be fed, sheltered, and try to stay healthy so we need woodlands, at least to be part of our living.  If we become part of that woodland, then the owners, though seemingly open and generous, do have their own secret agendas and often they eventually reveal and demand that we abide by them. This is why a trust and lease on private land is best.

Another option is form a Co-operative.

To do this, collectively fund an area of land through purchase or rental and learn how to share this together democratically through processes of council and voting. You will need a system of meditation through which to pass disagreements, challenging ideas, and disputes. A Co-operative needs and equal investment to get started or to join.

Tree Sanctuary Hub Service

I am now offering a 'Hub Service' to hook up people to each other and tree cover opportunities. The bare bones web site is here. I will work on this and hopefully have plenty of entries through this winter.

I will also have a tutorial site up, but that is not ready yet.

This selp inspired practice does not stop with creating some Native Tree Cover, or the creation of shared woodlands. We do need our herbs, and food producing gardens and small fields as an extension to the woodlands, but none of these as a replacement.

It should always start with the core small space of native woodland. Then expand from that with the land you have access to, and find more land if you can. I know some people who started very small, then the adjoing land owners have become impressed and offer some of their land to tag on. That has not happened to me yet, though. .

Most essential is the realisation that being part of a woodland is as re-charging and as nourishing as the lovely food that you may grow at your community or co-op garden's raised bed..

Please let me know what you are doing to help increase woodland cover, and this includes creating hedges too, and I will include it in our Tree Labyrinth & Sancturies hub, with your permission.

Enjoy your woodland sanctuary

If you own or manage a woodland, are a community woodland member, or woodland co-op member, or wish to create a Tree Labyrinth or Tree Cover Sanctuary please click here to let me know

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