We’ve been spending a couple of hours every day gradually removing alien vegetation from the land we are in the process of purchasing (photos at end of post). This is all we can do at the moment, as there are some delays before the land will be transferred onto our name, and so we cannot start building our home as yet. The biggest challenge we face is an overgrowth of Black Wattle, which is an alien invader of the Acacia species from Australia and a HUGE problem here in Knysna. Wherever land has been cleared it takes over, growing very rapidly, depleting the water table and spreading its seeds everywhere so that, even if one removes all the wattle trees and saplings, next season there is always more. The only way to permanently deal with the problem is to reclaim the land with indigenous species, which obviously takes a lot of time and concerted effort. However, our vision is to eventually eradicate all non-indigenous species and to fully rehabilitate the land.
We have purchased a piece of equipment called a “tree popper”, which combines muscle power with the power of the lever to remove trees of up to 5cm in diameter, roots-and-all. So, every day after breakfast, we pile the dogs and the tree popper into the pickup and drive the 2km to our land for the kind of exercise you’ll never get in the gym.
In the first few weeks, I found myself becoming disheartened at the sheer magnitude of the challenge lying ahead of us, as, after a few exhausting hours spent “popping” over 100 trees daily, it hardly seemed to make much of a difference at all, and I could only see the massive task that still lay ahead. Then I decided to change my perspective. I realized that I am doing this work as an act of service and love to the forest and so, every tree I remove is one less tree that will spread its seeds in future. This is all about the PROCESS and not about the end goal of having the land completely cleared. As Zingdad commented to me, this job will actually never be done, as this is not a perfect city garden, but rather a wild piece of land that will constantly require work. If I make the shift in my mind from goal to process, then I find that I can actually get into the “zen” of tree popping, as it were. And, ironically, then I can actually start to see my progress – as we gradually chip away at the job, ever larger pieces of land are starting to become clear of invaders.
The larger invader trees will have to be cut down and the stumps treated with a fungal biological control solution to prevent re-growth. We have decided to plant 5 indigenous trees for every large invader tree we remove, but it is still a sad day indeed to cut down a beautiful big tree. Hopefully we can use some of the wood to make our kitchen cupboards and the rest will either be used for firewood to heat our home or will be chipped for compost, so at least the trees will not have died in vain. And we will leave a legacy of hundreds of indigenous trees, shrubs and ferns for future generations.
Of course, many people have told us that we are crazy to be doing this ourselves by hand and that we should simply get a bulldozer and clear the land in one day. But we feel that this would be a huge waste of a valuable wood resource and also, this is exactly the kind of approach that leads to the establishment of invader species in the first place.
As our soft, lily-white city hands gradually become calloused and strong and as we start to find all kinds of new muscles gradually making their appearance, we are slowly, but surely making this piece of land our own, through service and through love, not to mention, good honest sweat!
Archimedes is reported to have said that he could move the world with a big enough lever and a stable place to stand. Well, we have our stable place to stand on this magnificent piece of land and, by applying the lever of our intent, we are gradually moving our world to create the heart-centered reality of our dreams.
And so we discover that it’s not about tree popping at all; it’s actually about love.
And so the journey continues…
The Intrepid "Tree Poppers"
Zingdad and his BIG tool!
Pulling up those suckers roots-an-all
Lisa popping on purpose!
Next: Finding Meaning