Traditionally, wood has been harvested in winter. Originally, I guess it had something to do with people being pretty busy at other times of the year with farming activities. Concerns are also voiced, that when the sap is in full flow, cutting might damage the tree and make it susceptible to disease. Whatever the reason, it is noticeable that for a greenwood worker the availability of material diminishes significantly in summer.
I spend my weekdays in a city where perhaps the seasons have less of an impact on people’s lives that in the countryside. Building sites need to be cleared and a tree surgeon’s work is perennial. The resounding staccato ring of a chainsaw maybe an irritation for many, part of the background city hubbub to others, but to me it is a beckoning call.
The fact that beautiful trees are cut down in the name of human expansionist tendencies is sad enough. What is worse is that, in this day and age, time seems to be the only resource we really value. Tree surgeons here tell me of a time when they would cut and store timber. The market for firewood and supplying craftspeople brought in a handy supplementary income. Still today, they are not immune to the beauty of the trees they are cutting, especially mature ones or less common species. However, today it seems that there is no time or storage space to spare. More often than not, their “waste material” is shredded or sent off for incineration.
And so, following the chainsaw’s call, I track down the source and make a polite enquiry - if I may be allowed to have or buy some wood. A short explanation of what I want to make is usually enough. It has been known for a spoon or a small bowl (which just happens to be in the car) to be shown and even offered in exchange. Interest is nearly always triggered and generosity follows more often than not. Trees have always been (and will continue to be) cut down or cut back by mankind to make space, but it seems that the desire to honour them and appreciate the beautiful material they provide runs deep.
Want to try it out yourself?
William Torlot and Marcos Frangos are running regular weekend retreats at Hazel Hill Wood, near Salisbury. If you are interested, check out their upcoming events or get in touch to discuss the possibility of organising a workshop with Marcos and William.
If you want to find out more about green woodwork and their unique approach, have a look at the other Spoons and Spirit blog posts.