2022 Forest of Craft tree planting & forest maintenance
On a beautiful sunny autumn day, a small group of people gathered for this year's tree-planting project despite the last-minute notice. This year, instead of expanding the planting area, we replanted the urushi trees that had died in the fenced-off area where we had planted it two years ago. We had noticed at the time that a deep underground current ran through there. Before planting, local woodsman Mr. Tonoshita dug a hole to check how deep the underground water was. At the time he deemed it to be sufficiently deep, however, we found out over time that after heavy rainfall or when the snow melts, which may or may not happen once a year, the water sometimes flows over the ground. This is what caused more than a dozen lacquer trees to die. In response, this summer, Mr Tonoshita made a proposal. He dug another canal above the underground river, and again used heavy machinery to make sure that even if the underground river overflowed, the water would flow through the canal and run through the field. He also put up ridges to further prevent the roots from being exposed to water.
I've never seen an urushi plantation like this, but it's land that was allocated for urushi over other trees. It was a lot of hard work, but we all put up the deer fence together. We have to keep them alive.
Incidentally, the effectiveness of the measures taken this time has been convincingly confirmed by an actual visit to the plantation the other day after heavy rainfall. The gurgling water was neatly contained in the canal. Strategies backed by experience sometimes defy common sense. We are constantly experimenting & learning. That is why we carefully planted a small number of urushi this time. This time, we planted seedlings that Mr. Takenami of the Kyoto Institute of Industrial Technology had germinated and nurtured in Yakuno Town, Fukuchiyama City, from local native urushi seedlings under the watchful eye of Mr. Yamauchi of the NPO Tamba Urushi.
The tree-planting was over quickly, so we then went on to help with the thinning project, which is our usual mission at this time of year. Selective thinning, which takes place on the slopes surrounding the urushi tree plantation, is a process whereby people help to correct the balance of vegetation that has become unbalanced due to animal damage and restore the forest to a state that is typical of this area. While the thinning itself is done by professionals with chainsaws, we organise the thinned thin trees into bundles here and there.
As I was going up and down the slope in small increments, carrying and manoeuvring branches larger than my own body, I felt my body and mind gradually assimilate into the forest (was it just me?). The work was very hard, but I managed. After a fair amount of work, Masami-san, who has attended every Forest of Craft tree-planting event, made tea for us, and what a wonderful way to end the day! On a log with bush chestnuts scattered about, while enjoying chestnut sweets.
Speaking of chestnut, there are also many chestnut trees on this slope, and some of those trees have been thinned. We will be holding a stool-making workshop in March using those thinned trees. More information to come in the next few weeks.