Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Trees


      No, we still have not made any progress on our building due to rain. Instead I will subject you to a rant about trees.
       I have gone on quite a journey about what trees mean to me since buying a block of land which is covered with them. I am more familiar with species of exotic trees since I used to be a bush regenerator and that involved me learning about 'weeds'. In comparison Australian native trees are a bit trickier to accurately identify. It is usually fairly easy to identify the genus, and I can mostly pick out a 'gum' tree - only sometimes being caught out with the Tristanias, which often look very similar to the gums.
      For example, it is pretty easy to spot an acacia tree, otherwise known as a wattle. But figuring out which wattle it is exactly, is much more difficult, since there are about 100 species in Australia alone. And telling the difference between the different gum trees is also very difficult. I have had people try to explain it to me in the past, but no-one couldn't come up with a better explanation than 'it just LOOKS like a such-and-such gum' - not very helpful!
       So when I looked at some Australian bush, I used to just go 'Ooh! Trees!' I have since discovered - by asking various local people who have visited our block - what most of the tree species here are. We primarily have spotted gum, stringy-bark, iron-bark, and grey gum. This is along with the acacias and casuarinas, and another tree known as a brush-box (which used to be known as a Tristania but then got re-classified. No wonder I get confused!). So then I progressed to going 'Ooh! It's a such-and-such tree!' and congratulated myself on learning identification skills.
       When I asked people for more information about these trees, I received a lot of conflicting advice. The first person who identified the spotted gum told me that the timber was 'shit' and not even very good for firewood because it burns quite 'cold'. I was disappointed to hear this since spotted gum is the dominant species on our block, and I was hoping that we could make good use of the timber after the trees had been cleared for the bushfire break around the house area.
      I have since learned that the spotted gum is actually a very good timber for a lot of uses, which includes making fantastic electricity poles (due to its habit of growing very straight with no side branches for a significant height), making good fence posts, and making great timber for internal use - such as for furniture and for lining the internal walls of your house. The only thing that you do not want to do with them - is put them untreated into the ground, as they are quite susceptible to termites and wood borers. This we have seen for ourselves in the shed rafters, which are pretty much eaten hollow from the wood borers flying up, and the termites making mud tunnels up there too.
       On the other hand, the posts which were made from stringy-bark are still completely solid. I have also been advised that stringy-bark and iron-bark are very desirable timbers, with very hard wood that is difficult to cut, but great to use for lots of things. Apparently iron-bark can actually burn TOO hot in a wood stove, so combining it with spotted gum sounds like a perfect solution.
      This education about species means that now when I look at trees I see something completely different. I think 'Ooh that tree would make good timber for such-and-such' instead. Of course I cannot forget that these trees are at their highest value while alive and growing, providing food for insects, animals and birds, shelter for creatures, and oxygen for everyone.
       But I do now understand that old saying 'Tim-ber!' when a tree is felled - the tree changes from being a living thing, to being something which humans can chop up and use. I still feel immense happiness when looking at trees, but now that happiness has some added details and information.
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