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: 

http://www.gaiauniversity.org/gu_blog/post/vandana-shiva-everything-i-need-know-i-learned-forest

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!

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