To that end, we've been dealing with two enormous trees, we had cut down, over nine months ago. Our plan was to incorporate their natural decaying process, into the landscape. But where do we put two, 30 meter trees, so we could still access the land they were felled on?
First felled, August, 2016
We intended to build some retaining walls into the landscape, which would help us garden more effectively. Because it's hard to garden on slopes, with gravity taking water and nutrients down hill. By using terraces however, we get a more manageable landscape. The tree logs would help us in this endeavour.
Downside, is the short term, intensive work involved. Upside is, it should last as long as the landscape does. So a more longterm pay-off, for the short term sacrifice.
Being more organised
David rolls logs now, like some people roll yoga mats. But we weren't always so comfortable, working on this scale or intensity. As former suburbanites, a lot of the perceptions which gave us security, revolved around ready-made solutions, on demand. Without those solutions on our acreage, we felt subject to it's scale. Believing it required more from us, than we were capable of giving.
Compost, mulch and plants, could always be purchased in large quantities in suburbia. How could we make it happen ourselves, on the scale we were working with, just involving the two of us?
As we pottered around the garden, I was reminded of our former selves, compared to who we are now - dealing with tonnes of carbon, like we were taking a walk in the park.
What is the difference between rocking up to a landscape supplier, or nursery with your trailer - and moving tonnes of carbon at home, by hand? It sounds simple enough, but it's, time. Time is the difference. However, it's a little more involved than that.
Obviously, we worked on a time scale, which enabled us to get the job done in stages. David had to clear the area, by removing lantana, other weeds and decaying wood, we left earlier. You can still see some of them, around the tree.
Time was not just important on a physical level, however. As the passing of time was also working on "scale", for us. Evaporation over time, removed moisture from the logs - making them lighter to move. But evaporation also, shrunk the wood, prying the bark away from the logs.
Time also allowed the seasons, to transform the bark, so we could use it as mulch. Several bouts of rain, combined with a little heat and the organisms drawn to such conditions - and even our 4 year-old, could get into the action, of breaking up tree bark, with his hands. He reveled in it.
I'm not attempting to discredit the benefit of having landscape suppliers and nurseries. But I do believe we become unnecessarily intimidated by nature, and all it's raw forms of material, when it's not pre-prepared - or packaged in a way we understand.
We're not use to seeing time, as a component of large scale, resource management - or that we (small as we are, compared to nature) can manage through a different understanding of using our time.
The above picture, looks organised, so it's less intimidating - but there are several vintages of raw materials, we had to gather and prepare. First, the large tree logs, moved into place, to build a retaining wall. There are large sheets of bark, sitting on the logs, which came off the tree too. We broke it up, by hand, into the mulch you see on the ground. There are wattle prunings, we put down, just to cover the soil quickly. As breaking up the bark, takes a little longer.
Last of all, are the older and smaller tree trunks which had aged in this area formerly. They weren't finished decomposing, even though they'd gotten a head-start on the new logs. What those olds logs were doing, were acting as a soil conditioner for the plants we moved in.
Starting to plant area
Talk about instant foliage effect. Only it's not so instant. I've been nursing this Philodendron Xanadu, in a pot for years. It started as a small plant, and outgrew it's pot regularly. So even though it now looks like it's always been in this landscape, it's still took "time" to grow to the size, it has.
Which is something we don't always get to appreciate, when we have the luxury of buying nursery plants, for that immediate head-start. I personally love nurseries, and glad there are businesses (large and small) dedicating their time to growing so much plant material. I wouldn't want there to be no plant nurseries.
But as our economy winds down from the demands of our time, fossil fuels, freed up for us (ironically) we have to become re-acquainted with the scale over time, equation again. We have to see a way for ourselves to work with tonnes of carbon, moving through our gardens. Rather than feel like it's beyond us, because it is so big.
Lower retaining wall
After preparing the site, David moved the logs into position - burying some, so the tops were (more or less) even. He laid two, on their sides, to use as stairs. This wasn't just a retaining wall. It was going to be a place for kids to explore as well. Peter loves this area. So does the cat!
It also served as extra seating, when we had the kids' birthday party, recently. We swung some piñatas from a nearby tree, and spectators came to our new seating arrangement (complements of 12 years, or more of stored carbon). All to watch blindfolded children, wave a stick, in hopes of hitting the target.
So this labour of ours, was not just for the purpose of improving soil fertility so plants could grow. It was also about making this site more accessible to people.
To this end, we also used some of the branches as steps. Nothing fancy. Just a practical purpose, for the raw materials we had available. The goal was to use all the trees. Which we still, have yet to do.
When I work on a scale like this, I wonder why myths about food scarcity for the world, perpetuate. Nature is putting this stuff out there, in more amounts than people can handle. But it's not as simple as rolling up to the nursery with a trailer, or the supermarket with a car.
I don't feel as nervous about food security, with first-hand experience of the fertility being dropped in my backyard. I'm not feeding our family on the stuff we grow yet - but I am developing a better understanding of the resources being accumulated by nature, for that purpose. I just haven't worked with them as much, as I've worked with nurseries and trailers. It takes a bit of adjustment, to be comfortable turning so much raw material, into something you can use.
Upper retaining wall
This is the upper level, being put into place. The walking track created, to move the materials, will remain the access area for the garden. This track snakes from the upper level, down to the lower level.
Flowing areas, create better access - especially on slopes, where terrain can be more challenging to navigate. Our design reflects what we are capable of achieving in our younger years, so we can use it to our benefit, in our older ones. Succession is nature's original trademark, and it has taught us to appreciate all the stages, over time - to use them for future benefit, as well as, the present.
Backfill, come walking track
This is the continuation of that flowing track. Or rather, where I'm standing to take the photograph, is the end. Plants under trees, grow better at the drip-line, or where the canopy of the tree ends. As they don't have to compete with so many tree roots, robbing them of nutrients and moisture.
Building a track, was a better use of area around the tree trunk, than planting foliage. We will be planting other advanced specimens, from my container collection too. But they will be vines, designed to grow up trees. So being close to the tree trunk, won't be an issue for those particular plants. But the track will remain clear for access.
Without those migrating birds, we'd probably have an infestation of beetles, and a lot of dangerous, 30 meter trees, threatening to fall over.
Signs of life
You can see where the beetle bored into the wood, and where the larvae has traveled. It's so beautiful, and part of the indigenous life-cycle of the tree. It plays host to a food source, for a migrating bird population.
I expect to hear the cockatooes' cries again, come June and July. Which is when they take their new fledglings, on a hunting lesson. And in so doing, those birds will leave their droppings behind, to fertilise the trees again.
There's a lot happening in our bushland, which plays over time. But then we come to utilise some of the resources, to make our lives a little more functional again. The lesson here is, what we end up removing, should be balanced by what we return. Because it is only time, which makes up the difference. If we squander what we return, we only squander our time, playing catch-up again.
Because only time can take resources, grown on the property, and let the seasons prepare them for use. Then there is the time we choose to work outside, moving those resources around. So much of my understanding of how plants grow best, started from that limited view of immediacy. How quickly, can I get what I need, and bring my vision into being?
Yet so much of what's important - the building blocks that give life to people, requires a lifelong devotion to doing without. What we have achieved, only happened because we went without, while nature was busy, growing the means to provide the rest. Then we went without rest, and time for other things we wanted to do, when it came to putting the new area together.
I'm not against bringing inputs in. They can help too. But the danger is when we become entirely dependent on inputs - that we feel deprived or insecure, when we cannot acquire them, in a timely enough fashion. That scarcity mentality, and all the fears that go with it, can cause short term decisions - instead of planning for the long-term. And we are all in it (I hope) for the long term.
Feeding people and eco-systems takes time. So how are you spending yours, and what have you enjoyed learning along the way? I imagine there are quite a lot of stories about who you used to be, compared to who you are now.