Posted in Event Review

Coppicing and Charcoal-making

This weekend, we supported Alex and Selene Cole from Little Foot Yurts, Gaspereau with their annual November workshop on coppicing and charcoal-making. For the last eight years, Alex has been coppicing red maple on Andrew’s property across the road. The red maple is found on the floodplain above the Annapolis River. Coppicing is the practice of cutting the tree so that new shoots grow up from the main stem.

coppicing
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is an annual cycle. After eight years, we have poles, two inches in diameter suitable for yurt construction. A second product from the residual branches is the making of charcoal. For this purpose, the branches are cut into lengths and packed into an airtight container. In our case, a recycled milk condenser. By burning, excluding the oxygen, the wood converts to charcoal. Both of these practices are traditional woodland skills from Europe.

Other by-products of the coppicing cycle are firewood to heat the home. Also wood for the creation of corduroy woods roads. These practices together offer an alternative model of small woodlot management, where you have mixed deciduous woodland.

For more information on the workshop and yurt construction contact little foot yurts.
littleFootYurts

Last week, as part of our research into landscape change in Cumberland County. We went to GeoNova, the Geomatics Centre in Amherst. Our interest was to obtain aerial photography for Heather’s family property at Hansford. We were able to purchase images at ten-year intervals from 1965 to 2015. This will allow us to map the end of farming, forest regrowth, and later-cutting. We envisage undertaking a similar analysis for our property in Annapolis County.

harryThurstonGaspereauPress
Harry Thurston. Gaspereau Press

Visiting Amherst, Oxford, Pugwash and Truro we are able to make comparisons of small towns in rural Nova Scotia: the cycle of service centre, decay and re-invention. At the Dayles Grand Market in Amherst, I  picked up a book by local author, Harry Thurston entitled Keeping watch at the End of the World. This book of poetry from Gaspereau Press is described on the back cover in the following terms.

“Harry Thurston explores ways in which poetry stands sentinel at the edge-places where known and unknown meet. Whether that frontier lies between land and sea, present and past, health and illness, or youth and ageing”

Thurston lives at Tidnish Bridge. With prompting from Sandra Barry, I subsequently revisited his 1990 book. Tidal Life. A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy.with photographs by Stephen Homer.

Another find at the GeoNova office was Nova Scotia Nature Map published in 1993. It was based on the book, Natural History of Nova Scotia.

Given the assault on our forested and marine landscape, perhaps it is time to revisit these 1990’s publications, to update them, and make them available to the schools.

Returning home, and stopping at the post office in Bridgetown, I found that they too have second-hand books. I picked up Thomas Merton, The True Solitude. Two passages in this small book caught my attention.

Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them‘. p.33
and p.36, in relation to poetry,
The poet enters into himself in order to create. The contemplative enters into God in order to be created“.

Merton was both a monk and a poet.

Addendum

On November 28th at 7:30 pm at Kings Theatre, there will be a screening of Andrea Vandenboer video on Climate Change and the Human Prospect. The film documents the retreat at the Thinker’s Lodge in Pugwash, October 2017. Both Timothy Habinski and Gregory Heming attended the retreat and will be on hand to answer questions on the implications for the Municipality of Annapolis County.

Acknowledgements

Sandra Barry for encouraging me to pull Tidal Life off the bookshelves. Alex and Selene Cole for their consistent enthusiasm for sustainable forestry and traditional house structures.  Heather Stewart for her support and companionship. Edward Wedler for his graphic contributions.

References

Harry Thurston. 2015. Keeping Watch at the End of the World. Gaspereau Press.

Harry Thurston. 1990. Tidal Life. A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy.Nimbus Press.

Derek Davis. 1993. Nova Scotia Nature Map. LRIS Amherst.

M.Simmons, D.Davis, L. Griffiths and A. Muecke. 1984. Natural History of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Departments of Education and Lands and Forests.

Thomas Merton. 1969. The True Solitude. Selections from the Writings of Thomas Merton. Hallmark Editions.

Little Foot Yurts  .little foot yurts

Footnote.

I loved the title of this poem by Harry Thurston in his 2015 book. Dedicated to Sandra Barry.

Geography: on first discovering Elizabeth Bishop in a used bookstore in Manhattan.

 

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