Saving old trees by pollarding

Saving old trees by pollarding can be done by sawing off the top half of the trunk to lighten the load on the base.

I was sitting on the verandah of our green home around noon on one of those perfect days recently in midsummer, enjoying a cup of tea. The sky was blissfully blue with cumulus popping out, calling out to the glider-pilot in me, not a breath of wind, when there was an ominous creaking sound.

Moments later a massive trunk, nearly a metre in diameter thundered to the ground missing the underground reservoir and concrete fence by inches. Only the plum tree and a fence to protect the chickens from our own dogs were damaged.

Planting a tree is a gift to the future. You have no idea who will benefit after you are long gone. Some dear soul set three exotics in our garden over a century ago; they grew into giants.

The beech alas was struck by lightning some thirty years ago, the tulip still towers majestically over our green garden as these giant trees do. And that major trunk of the liquid amber plummeted to earth a month ago.

Forest bathing liquid amberThis Liquid Amber is over a hundred years old.

In very wet summers the weight of the sap is enormous; and could be simply too much for the old stem. Clearly the remaining trunks were also dangerous; that branch could have seriously damaged our home.

The liquid amber is one of the treasures in our garden. Regularly we “forest bathe[3]” beneath it; and under the tulip. We couldn’t bear to lose them. The tree fella assured us that once the weight was taken off the remaining trunks they would be good for another fifteen or more years.

Pollarding is a form of tree management that removes the highest branches[1]. The upper two-thirds of our liquid amber is now history and we have a massive pile of firewood waiting to be sawn and split. We will have more than enough for Little Beauty for several years; the small stove that warms our home through the winter, and frankly most of the year. Hilton has cold, misty spells in every month.

Split old Liquid Amber tree

Incidentally if purchasing a wood stove make sure you choose one with a place for a kettle; having a ready supply of hot water is a great comfort in these days of prolonged grid-failure.

Unfortunately a small mongoose has taken up residence under the brushwood. We have seen it a couple times moving at very high speed so I could not be sure whether it had a black-tipped tail or not. No matter, all this undergrowth makes for perfect protection and we think a new home for the little beastie; she has moved in. The chickens have taken a beating.

Massive fallen tree trunk

On the plus side the solar panels are beaming. With the sun dropping in the northern sky, below tall trees as we approach the equinox, it’s not generally a good time for those off the grid; they still have most of their leaves.

The PVs are in shadow until midmorning. Now that impediment is relieved for a few years and certainly we need that extra sunshine; grid-failure is with us daily in the foreseeable future and many fear for ever.

The tree fella has assured us the liquid amber will regrow; the stumps are pretty ugly right now but hopefully in spring will become presentable again. We bless the person who planted all those wonderful saplings and many shrubs in our garden; a true labour of love.

You can save an old tree. It will cost a pretty penny but don’t try doing it yourself; leaving the ground, chainsaw in hand is only for professionals.

Pollarded old Liquid Amber treePollarding has saved our old Liquid Amber tree.

It is heartbreaking to see our old favourite tree reduced to bare trunks but it will recover; it's an old friend.

Protective chainsaw gear and tools

One does need protective clothing and some special tools for harvesting the timber; it's quite dangerous work but you have firewood for many a year.

Happiness is a place between having too little and too much.

- Finnish proverb

Saving old trees by pollarding

Saving old trees by pollarding is costly but so worthwhile.

For men having hobbies like this also certainly contributes to saving their lives for old age too. The two most dangerous years in a man's life are the one in which he was born and then other in which he retires; dropping dead of boredom is very common.

Blue Zone longevity stresses keeping busy right through to the end. Those are the five places in the world where zestful old age is the norm. We have been greatly influenced by their attitude to life; they grow their own food, bake only sourdough bread and enjoy broad beans[2].

Broad beans are the only source of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. You have to grow them yourself; you won't find them in the shops or in cans.

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Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself and Mother Earth for future generations; and your family too, of course. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books.

Here are the back issues.

  • Investing in long-term health
  • Diseases from plastic exposure
  • Intensive lifestyle management for obesity has limited value
  • A world largely devoid of Parkinson's Disease
  • The impact of friendly bacteria in the tum on the prevention of cancer
  • There's a hole in the bucket
  • Everyone is talking about weight loss drugs
  • Pull the sweet tooth
  • If you suffer from heartburn plant a susu
  • Refined maize meal and stunting
  • Should agriculture and industry get priority for water and electricity?
  • Nature is calling
  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa