I've just been sawing down a dead elm at the bottom of the garden. There were three trunks originally and I've managed the first two alone with a handsaw.
I began felling last week and published a short account with accompanying precautions:
*CHEERFUL DISCLAIMER: The following pictures are NOT intended for educational purposes. I do NOT recommend this way of cutting trees down to anyone and if you are mad enough to follow the manner presented here you do so at your own risk.Having said that I had great fun, one or two scary moments, got several week’s worth of firewood and ended up soaked in sweat – terribly masculine!It was speaking with Rose on the phone on Saturday and her stories of the wild men and women in the New Zealand outback that got me off my backside and up the dead elm. What I’m doing here is tame in comparison. But I felt very proud (in a good way!) when the first trunk fell in exactly the right place, i.e. not on me!Maybe I should open another blog/twitter account: markintrees?
Where I live in the Suffolk countryside there are elm ghosts in every hedgerow. Elm burns well and thanks to this dead tree we'll keep warm with the woodburner for the rest of the winter. And talk about renewables. Underground the tree itself is actually still alive and growing again from suckers.
Since our engagement with TN2's Stranger's Circle two years ago we have hardly used our central heating (oil-fired). The first winter of 2009-2010 was cold and it was tough. Sleeping with more clothes on, hot water bottles in the coldest moments and endurance were the order of the day. We used the woodburner once or twice a week.
Last winter was also cold for months on end. We still felt it, but it was less gruelling now as our bodies had acclimatised. I started to feel uncomfortable in centrally heated buildings and got used to wearing thick (and thanks to the Give and Take Days in Bungay, free) jumpers.
This winter has been mild so far. But when it is cold I only feel it when I'm sitting still for long periods (writing blogs for example). When I'm sawing the elm it takes about five minutes before I'm completely warm, sweating even. As Adrienne of Transition Lewes reminded me the other day: "You know the old saying: you warm yourself three times, once cutting the wood, once carting it and once burning it..."
As peaking fossil fuels get more expensive, both for companies to extract and get onstream and for consumers to buy, either directly for household or transport, or indirectly as goods, our whole sedentary lifestyle and desire for comfort will be challenged. Our physical bodies are archaic, they are made for balance between movement and stasis and to respond to weather. We need to get out more!
I used to order my wood in, put the heating on whenever it felt the slightest bit chilly and would never have dreamed of cutting down a dead elm, let alone by myself. Now the combination of environmental awareness, low income, high prices for all fuels including firewood and being in Transition make me approach energy in a very different way. And I feel better for it.
These may seem like small steps. Insignificant. But at this point we need to engage with the source of our energy, both as individuals and communities, with an eye to our common future in any way we can. Whether we are on Energy Lookouts, attending meetings to oppose gas fracking, carsharing or sawing our own firewood, each is a move towards resilience in the coming energy-lean times.