Sunday, 17 April 2011

Birch Bite

You know what pisses me off? People who don't know how to get hold of birch bark properly.


The Birch naturally sheds its bark and there is a simple rule you can use to harvest birch bark:


I was working in some woodlands recently which was open to use by a number of groups. I hadn't been there for over a six months. I arrived with a party of clients and was absolutely speechless when faced with what is basically Birch Rape.

Just to put things into context, this mixed woodland spans some 30 acres and there are more birch trees than you can count. I stood in the middle of an open area and lost count of the number of trees which had been stripped this way. Then I started to count the dead ones.

That's what happens to trees if you strip the bark off of them, they die.

The bark not only protects the tree from disease, but the inner bark, or phloem, is responsible for transporting nutrients around the tree, and particularly to the roots. Without this transport mechanism, the tree simply dies.

This process in agriculture is known as girdling and is used to force nutrients to fruit at the expense of a branch, but not a whole tree. It would be false ecomony to grow a tree for years, just to kill it for one season of fruits.

In nature, trees can die this way when deer, say, strip bark. This is why you see those protective plastic strips around new trees. Sometimes, entire fences are erected.

This is an issue that really gets on my nerves because it's senseless. You don't need an A4 sheet of bark to light a fire, the outer stuff that is being shed lights easier than the tough layers which need preparation and there is always plenty of bark on a single tree, let alone multiple trees. So there is no need to get the knife out and gouge off chunks of bark, save that for the Birch which has already fallen. You'll find, however, that it's far easier collect a little that's been shed from a live tree. So easy, in fact, that a child can manage it.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Been away for a while

Got a few posts half done and started on the book ... The Art and Science of Survival.

Normal service will resume soon.