Recycling an oak tree
Sometimes on hot, still afternoons, the peace around the castle will be broken by a terrific crack, like a sudden rumble of thunder. It means that an ancient oak has shrugged off a huge limb, crashing it to the ground. The first time that we experienced this, it seemed like a really big deal. A vast old tree in the park dropped a bough, comprising about a fifth of its canopy, without warning. We were worried that the tree was dying; we were worried that someone could have been standing underneath it. These days it doesn’t concern us so much. While you certainly wouldn’t want to be underneath when it happens, we have learned that old oak trees do sometimes shed limbs in summer as a survival tactic. The tree then carries on quite happily, little lighter, a little fitter to endure a long spell without rain.
Two of the oak trees in the policies have shed limbs in the past month, to the delight of the cows. For them, it means that the oak leaf salad bar is open for a feast. A herd of cattle can strip a massive bough, laden with leaves, within twenty-four hours. The tree pictured above was photographed yesterday, having lost this branch the day before: already you can see that the fallen branches are hardly more than bare sticks. For us, this means that the cows do all the preliminary work of ‘recycling’, making it much easier to cut up the wood. This afternoon, thanks to the cows and the groundsman, all that is left of that great bough is a neat mound of firewood. From tree to a pile of logs in less than two days; and I suppose that the pasture will benefit from the cows’ diet too.
See also: trees, deconstructed