The temperature at night has begun to dip below zero but politically it could not be much hotter. This frenetic period in bringing in a vital budget and a National Recovery Plan 2011 – 2014, has meant the garden is firmly on the back burner at the moment, except as a foraging area for ingredients to make the life sustaining sandwiches needed while one is away from home.

Thoughts turned to timber during a presentation from the IFA, the Irish Timber Growers Association, nurseries, sawmills and bioenergy companies at the Joint Oireachtas Climate Change and Energy Security Committee during the week. As with the Grow It Yourself movement, growing some of our food needs is only one aspect of self-sufficiency. Growing some of our timber needs helps soak up carbon dioxide as well as warming you, at least twice! Once when the wood is cut, and again when you burn it.

There has been a steady increase in the amount of forest cover in Ireland. In the last 100 years, this cover has gone from 1% of land to 10%. However the EU average is 36% and we are still importing wood to meet our timber needs although sawmill companies like Glennon Brothers in Longford are exporting 2/3 of their timber output to the UK and France at present. Greenbelt Ltd in Virginia, Co Cavan, established in 1982, is planting 3,000 hectares of new trees on Irish farms every year. None-So-Hardy Nurseries in Co. Wicklow have just collected up 15 tonnes of acorns which when sown will hopefully grow to become 1.5 million oak trees.

Back home in Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, there is now a lean-to wood store for logs which I burn over these winter months in a small wood stove. The logs I buy are from local forest thinnings. They are ready cut to 10 inches or so to fit the small stove. Although they are not fresh when I buy a quarter or half tonne, I stack them anyway and burn those which were drying and seasoning for atleast a year.

Alongside this bought in wood, some apple tree boughs and other prunings are useful with tinder to get the stove lit before the logs go in. Apart from heating the house, the garden wood and the bought-in wood end up as useful potash in the form of wood ash. However, peat or coal ash would not be suitable for the garden.

If I had access to more land, I would indeed plant trees, principally to soak up the excess carbon dioxide which is accelorating climate chaos and to enchance wildlife habitats, as well as provide wood and timber. Even with only a small garden, the prunings from the apple tree in the back and the rowan trees out the front generate enough wood to keep the stove going for a while, long enough to boil some garden peas. Hard to credit such a small garden not only grows the food but also supplies the fuel to cook it – if the pot is placed on top of the wood stove for a few minutes.


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