Restoration through Forestation

The wisdom of Dr Vandana Shiva has been the greatest influence on the last nine years of my journey here at Bealtaine Cottage.

The Water gardens at Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureInspired by her wisdom, I have planted hundreds of trees and experienced the sheer abundance, beauty and fertility as the land is restored through planting…almost 900 trees to date.

The Barn at Bealtaine Cottage, midwinter 2012I am passionate about trees, planting trees, nurturing trees and creating a permaculture smallholding around them.

Vandana was greatly moved by the destruction of the great forests of the Himalaya.

Mist and trees in the permaculture gardens at Bealtaine CottageWriting of that period in the 1970’s, this is what she had to say…

“Logging had led to landslides and floods, and scarcity of water, fodder, and fuel.

Since women provide these basic needs, the scarcity meant longer walks for collecting water and firewood, and a heavier burden.

Bealtaine Cottage Midwinter GardenIn the 1970s, peasant women from my region in the Garhwal Himalaya had come out in defence of the forests.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture midwinter 2012Women knew that the real value of forests was not the timber from a dead tree, but the springs and streams, food for their cattle, and fuel for their hearths.

The women declared that they would hug the trees, and the loggers would have to kill them before killing the trees.

A folk song of that period said:

These beautiful oaks and rhododendrons,
They give us cool water
Don’t cut these trees
We have to keep them alive.”

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Vandana goes on to explain the consequences of this brutality against Mother Earth…for there are always consequences, of that we can be sure…

“In 1973, I had gone to visit my favourite forests and swim in my favourite stream before leaving for Canada to do my Ph.D.

But the forests were gone, and the stream was reduced to a trickle.”

Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureVandana documents the origins of the Chipko Movement, one that was birthed by the women themselves as they struggled and resisted to protect the forests…

winter sunrise at Bealtaine Cottage permaculture gardens “One of the dramatic Chipko actions took place in the Himalayan village of Adwani in 1977, when a village woman named Bachni Devi led resistance against her own husband, who had obtained a contract to cut trees.

When officials arrived at the forest, the women held up lighted lanterns although it was broad daylight.

The forester asked them to explain.

Apples at Bealtaine CottageThe women replied, “We have come to teach you forestry.”

He retorted, “You foolish women, how can you prevent tree felling by those who know the value of the forest?

Do you know what forests bear?

They produce profit and resin and timber.” 

The women sang back in chorus:

What do the forests bear?
Soil, water, and pure air.
Soil, water, and pure air
Sustain the Earth and all she bears.

The full text of this essay by Dr Vandana Shiva, can be found at:

Bealtaine Cottage Alder treeTrees bring fertility back to the land, as is shown here at Bealtaine Cottage.

The 3 acres of gardens at Bealtaine Cottage are fertile.

Bealtaine Cottage Twisted Willow and BirchI grow an abundance of food.

I have no animals.

Heavy machinery is not allowed on the land.

Bealtaine Cottage Blackcurrant and RedcurrantsI do not use chemical fertilizer.

Here in Ireland, where the tree cover is the lowest in Europe, chemical fertilizers are spread each year.

That is because the land is depleted of what it needs for fertility.

It is heavily compacted by animals and machines.

The air is pushed out of it.

Rushes abound.

The landscape, once covered by Oak forest, is now bereft of trees.

Bealtaine Cottage Blackcurrants in the Permaculture GardensThe fertility in the soil at Bealtaine Cottage has been built up over 9 years of trees and compost.

Bealtaine Cottage compostMuch of the compost is made from thinnings that are shredded.

Goat Willow in the Fairy Wood at bealtaine Cottage Permaculture gardens.This much I have come to understand…trees stand between us as a human race and oblivion.

It is imperative, that we move away from the desolation of monoculture, towards maximum biodiversity, as fast as is possible.

Mother Earth will continue…but if we fail to grasp the importance of trees in our environment…then, without us!

Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 85 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.

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    • All the photographs are of Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Gardens, unless clearly stated otherwise.
      There are over 500 posts and I think about 3 of these feature photographs taken in other places, such as the Atlantic ocean.
      Blessings from Bealtaine Cottage

  1. Thank you Colette for another great post. Your land is looking fantastic and worth every minute you spend thinking and planing for it. Here is hoping that we get more of a Summer this year. Many blessings to you and yours.

  2. Interesting information about trees, and as always, illustrated with bright vibrant images from your gardens….I especially like the blackcurrant bushes. I too have a love of trees and feel priviliged to have 2 fine sycamores standing tall and powerful outside my living room window. I also recently bought a small bonsai, which is thriving even though I was a little concerend that my room may have been too warm for it. Instead, to my delight new tiny leaves are continually forming and I’m ‘greeted’ most mornings with a few perfectly formed beautiful little white flowers that seem to grow overnight! I have no idea what species of tree this might be taken from….perhaps you might have some suggestions?

    • Hi Christine,
      Unfortunately I am not too familiar with Bonsai. It may be a tree or even a bush as many shrubs make excellent Bonsai…that much I know. It would be good to see local councils planting more trees…Sycamores are beautiful!

  3. Thank you for these words. When the ground thaws I will be planting, bushes to. Trying to create my own hedge row.

  4. Reblogged this on Hawthorn Rising and commented:
    I’m particularly inspired by the work of Col at her home in Ireland. In this blog post she writes of her admiration and inspiration of Dr Vandana Shiva and how that has led her to plant almost 900 trees to date…

  5. A lovely post Colette. Trees also provide some sense of Spirit as well. We miss trees here on the coast but we will be planting 600 on 27 April please God. All babies and we may never see them in their glory but it is something we are SO looking forward to. We have seen what happens when you plant trees – Bealtaine Cottage! By the way, did I thank for the seeds? They arrived safely, thank you very much.

    • I have come to realise that trees are my ultimate passion…they speak to me and nurture my soul. They will do the same for all who plant with love. Glad you got the seeds and may they bring abundance!
      Blessings from Bealtaine Cottage

  6. Thank you for introducing me to Dr Vandana Shiva, she sounds amazing! As are you!
    Sadly my spring planting has been curtailed due to health probs 🙁
    Fortunately your post has lifted my spirits greatly 🙂 and of course I will get back to it as soon as I can.

    Warmest blessings to all at Bealtaine Cottage x

    • Take lots of Vitamin C. I have just started juicing fruit and veg, adding lots of young mint from the gardens and I feel very energized! I can highly recommend this! Hope you’re better soon…Lots of Dr Vandana Shiva on YouTube!
      Blessings from Bealtaine Cottage

      • Just watched some of her vids.. absolutely wonderful!!
        I will now go and juice the bowl of squashy oranges I have in my kitchen 🙂 I also have rather a lot of beetroot, wonder if these two will mix?

Your comments are welcome!