Offgrid Living Ireland  from Dogs & Coe

WONDERFUL WILLOW

I have always loved trees. When I was a child my most beloved memories are of my Dad making the trees in the park talk. Of course I know that they didnt really but I never lost my awe of those majestic forests, so it is no surprise I favour a more wild approach to my land than some.

The willow bank

2 years ago we finally got around to getting a digger and moving the mounds of earth removed whilst our new house was being built. It contained years of brambles, nettles and a couple of very large rotten trees that had blown down some years earlier. These trees had fallen on the old house and so couldn’t be chopped for fire wood as we couldn’t get to them. Consequently they were left to rot down and then when the earth was moved they were rolled along with it. We built a bank of this earth in front of the left side of the field and within 2 months it was completely green. Without trying we had created a magnificent Hugelkultur wall of earth.

Now Simon is a willow lover, well he is a wood lover really and always on the look out for wood to cut for our fuel. Being a wood novice I thought he was crazy sticking loads of twigs in the ground. I couldn’t believe they would grow but grow they did and 2 years later we have a mini forest in the making. Those little twigs about 10 inches long have become a mass of greenery that any garden centre would be proud of.

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin

William Shakespeare

Willow is truly a wonderful deciduous tree that likes moist soil and cool climates so great for changeable Ireland. It has beautiful pale green leaves and at 2 years old sways in the breeze like an elegant young dancer. It might be a little difficult to see from the pictures as along with the crazy willow growth the nettles are loving the bank life also so I guess it is hard to see that the bank is about 8ft high and the willow currently stand about 12 feet tall. Not only is this a great sight to see but it does give us a wonderful barrier from the occasional car and tractor going past. Willow is used for so many things – fencing, baskets, herbal remedies, a natural hormone to promote root growth but for us willow will be used for fuel. Willow takes a lot of drying as it is quite a wet wood so the drying out time should be around 18 months but once dry it is a fast burning fuel good to get your fire going. It might not burn the longest but the instant hot fast heat is good when you come in from the cold this type of wood will warm you up.

We are actively cultivating our trees to implement a coppice process. Taking advantage of the wonderful ability of willow to regenerate back from the root once cut back. Coppicing is a well used process that should allow us to always have a crop of cut wood and enable our coppiced trees to live about 500 years as opposed to a willow left to live normally – 60 years. I like the sound of that – my trees standing for hundreds of years- now that’s romantic.

Love the trees till their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year

Chad Sugg

This year with a bit of time on our hands we are going to try a bit of basket weaving – should be pretty interesting as I have very fat clumsy fingers and so I don’t anticipate it going well but I am game for a laugh. Might need a couple of glasses of wine to get us going and hey who knows after a bottle my basket might just look great.

Would love some advice and any pics of your willow baskets, home made of course so I can compare and see just how bad my attempt really is.

In the meantime just breathe

Steph

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