The weather this time of year is not very fun, neither very cold nor warm enough to enjoy it. And endless wind from the sea and mountain. But it’s still one of my favorite times of year, because of what the trees are doing. And this year especially: I am extremely keyed into trees.

One of the things I love most on this planet happens now, before budbreak on the trees here, before leafing out. When the trees have all put on their new hues, the bark of their new growth all red and gold and silvery green. Often set against the white but now mostly melting snow. Seeing it, being around it, touching it, somehow it feels like my sap rises too in response.

This year is different though somehow I sense, my eyes, my thinking are all tuned into the trees. What are they doing? What are they saying? What part should I play in it all? How can I make use of this bounty in a beautiful way, and help perpetuate it…

This feels much more important and interesting these days than arguing with stupid AIs about random bullshit that they don’t want me to do because something something corporate overlords. I’ve been supplemental tools I already have to get more seriously into green woodworking. I bought a froe for riving tree trunks over a certain diameter, and am going to build a froe brake to facilitate it. I have an old draw knife with a broken handle and a dull blade, but I bought a new one to prepare, and will build out a shave horse in the next couple of weeks, as time permits.

I’ve started to harvest and process small branches and pole wood from around the property, and bought a $150 electric chipper (against my better judgement, after wearing one out somewhat easily years ago). It’s a fun solo or family activity, imo. I’m using the wood chips as cover over a “groundcloth” replacement product I am deploying more broadly this year as I set up my small field to be a larger coppiced tree plantation. I just use this thick brown paper from the hardware store that I think is used for floor covering while working, or perhaps some kind of underlayment for floor sheathing. I really don’t know, but I’ve used it before as a ground cover, and it works just fine, and doesn’t degrade as little shreds of plastic over everything like all the plastic ones eventually do.

I’m making square patches in my semi-wild field that are for now about 8’x8′, covered with the brown paper over existing grass which I didn’t bother trying to mow or till. The ground is frozen solid over there still anyway to a depth of a few inches it seems. Then the wood chips go on top to about 3-4 inches, with logs to weight any exposed edges as backup.

I’ve planted random bits of willow cuttings in the past but always had highly mixed results and a lot of failures using the “sheer total utter neglect” (STUN) method popularized by Mark Shepard (spelling?). That doesn’t work well in all conditions for willow, so I’m trying to be more professional about my cultivation, so I can hopefully get a higher success rate and further plant material for later clones from.

I bought in genetics of five strains of willow from Ontario that already arrived, and which I accidentally broke dormancy of too soon, thinking the ground had already unfrozen when it has not. I also have about a million cuttings from my own willow trees that were more established, which have almost all been coppiced down to the ground or pollarded in another location. I have chestnuts coming, other rooted willows I think… a bunch of other stuff. Honestly, I can’t remember any more what I bought, and I buy for several hundred dollars of trees each year – many of which fail because of my ragged, faulty methods. But some work, and those are the ones I’m selecting for, along with some that I will try to be more careful with and baby for at least the first year while they get established.

I’ve got some willow drying out still in my garage to make more baskets. I guess that guy was right when he told me they will dry faster inside though, because I think freezing them prolongs substantially their life. I had tree branches I cut months ago during the winter (or even before), many of which as they unthawed out of the snow I realized were very much still alive and almost definitely viable stock to make new trees from.

I’m planning to make wattle hurdles this year, more seriously and more conforming to “real” methods of doing so. Dreaming about the years when my hazels will be well enough established to be a source of anything, but so far much too small. Also planning some split rail style fence stuff, though I’m not quite sure yet exactly what form that will land on. Like all of this, I’ll find it as I go, as we go along together, the trees and us.

I’ll extend the hedgerow guide-fence along another boundary of the property this year as well. And will try to select from volunteer plants and other sources ready on hand to extend the linear hedge plantation as well. I’ve seen already not just big boost in wildlife density and diversity, but also beneficial results for reducing wind gusting (even to some degree in winter), and acting as snow fencing. Pretty incredible when you can see the landscape dynamics play out so strongly right in front of you like that. It’s a rewarding thing, and for fast growing trees at least, happens on a fast enough time scale that it’s much more visible than the slow growers.

Anyway, a million more things to say on this. Just wanted to capture a portrait of the thought and experience of it all in this moment.