If you’re reading Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons as a lunar calendar with me this year, it’s November’s last quarter moon, time for another poem, The Black Walnut Tree.
The dilemma of tree ownership and management certainly speaks to us here on the homestead, which contains more than 10 acres of forest. While we have nothing of high commercial value, nothing that would, in one felling, pay the mortgage, we face the question of what to do with some of our trees.
The obvious preference is to leave them alone. We depend on them for firewood, of course, but we harvest dead falls for that. We are always concerned about the ones closest to the cabin: will they fall on it, or will their growth encroach on the building? The one right by the front porch, and the one just off the bedroom corner rub the roof in high winds. Something will need to be done, sooner or later.
Now is the time to cut any trees that need to be dealt with, for whatever reason. They’ve gone to sleep for the winter, so their sap isn’t running through the whole plant at the moment. It’s the best time to get it done, even if that means trying to work out our anticipated needs far into next summer.
We also debate the fate of those trees we must cut down. Bucking up for firewood is easiest, requiring the least skill, but a lot of it is high quality lumber. It doesn’t make sense to chop it up and burn it, then go to town to buy and haul in commercial building materials. Chainsaw mills are expensive and hard to use for two middle aged neophytes, but it can be done. Or, we could save the better ones for round log construction. We go back and forth over it all.
The problem in the poem we don’t face is the month after month “whip-crack of the mortgage.” How we rejoice, in this economic climate, that our mortgage has been paid off in full! We couldn’t live the way we do were it otherwise, it’s as simple as that.