28 June 2024

Mother Tree Day by Ted Cook

National Tree Week & Mother’s Day at Kilcolman, Enniskeane, Co. Cork   

Sunday March 10th

The Environmental Forum’s , formerly Cork Environmental Forum, Coordinator, Bernie Connolly proposed a “Crinniú” to commemorate the Good Lives of Andrew St. Ledger (passed over October 29th 2023) and Michael Ewing (passed over 28th November 2023). Sunday March 10th was chosen which coincided with both International Mothers Day and Tree Week, Andrew being synonymous with the Woodland League and Michael with the Irish Environmental Forum, championing the principles of the Aarhus Convention and founder member in Co. Leitrim, fadó, of the rock band “The Trees”.

In advance of the scheduled 2pm kick off, Bernie introduced the author to the now deconsecrated Church of St. Mary’s of Desertserges with its burial enclosure full of meaning and beauty. St. Mary’s unlike so very many burial enclosures, has escaped the frenzied onslaught of “men and machines looking for something to do” – under the deranged misguidance of “tidiness” aided by Irish taxpayers.

This summary is for the benefit of both Family and Friends of Andrew and Michael who could not be with us, and as requested by many, primarily mothers who had family commitments on the day. Woodland League, the Environmental Forum and Cork County Heritage platforms welcome it’s relay to a broader audience.

Our hosts Mark Page and Bernie accorded the author, in collusion with participants, the priviledge of choosing the sites for Andrew’s “Grearagh” Hazel and Michael’s “Burren” Spindle.

On passing from the curtilage of the dwelling house, through a screening of dense beech hedging of several metres high, the visitor is greeted by a “ubiquity” of House Sparrows (birdwatchers also refer to a “host” or “quarrel” of Sparrows). “Gealbhán binne” gives us the melodious Sparrow in the Irish.

The site, formerly a cottage acre, is well sheltered with mature enclosing Hedgerows, though not overbearing in “structural diversity” (the key feature of ecological functioning linear features in landscapes) – fine mature common Oak populate at appropriate distances “Upper Storey” with under canopy Maytrees, Blackthorn, Crabapple etc. (the shrub layer).

Willow Warblers (possibly Chiff-Chaffs) sing from their shady layers – it is these long continuous landscape features that allow our Sparrows to live for 20 years (as recorded).

Our first subject of arboreal interest are a couplet of Appletrees – one a Cultivar (Orchard) Tree, the other a Crab or Wild Appletree. The former is upswept in its habit, on a well defined trunk, the latter lowly domed with spiney twigs (blackthorn like) and with a wild (undisciplined) crown architecture.

The Orchard tree foliage was sufficiently unfurled that with an eye lens (40X) Helen, who travelled with Mary from Tracton, could discern dense downy hairs sheathing the emergent leaves.

Foliar “pubescence” is absent on the Wildapple’s foliage – though our subject “Crab” was still dormant on the day. Our true “Malus sylvestris” or aboriginal Apple will display barely discernible down on it’s “petiole” (leaf stalk), otherwise its leaves are without the protective down.

Our next distinguishing characteristic – fruits grow singly on the domesticated (Cultivar) tree, always in dense bunches on the native Crab. In Tian Shan (Kazakhstan – Chinese desert borderlands) where primaeval orchards are still to be found, the crabs are festooned with huge bunches of fruits, resembling “haws” on our Maytree.

Crab Apple in Blossom on 9th April 2024 reland’s ancient Brehon Laws (already “in antiquity in 5th Century Ireland “ Joyce 1906) list our “Native, Trees and Shrubs”. Apple is named among the “Seven Forest Noble Chieftains of the Wood” , understood by academia to be the “Cultivar” (an introduction to Ireland 1,000 B.C. , likely via the Silk Roads via Tian Shan).

In answer to one query, no, the native Crabtree lacks the reproductive tackle to share or receive fertilising male powder from all known domesticates, of which globally we stand at 25,000 varieties. Author (et al) consider our Crabtree to be endangered. Ireland’s “Food Harvest Initiatives” (2020 -2025) make no provision for these generally remote lone standing solitaires. When encountered in semi-natural Woodlands or Field Boundaries check for the diagnostic features listed earlier.

Mark & Bernie have (pro) created a spacious mosaic for “Nature to function” – freshwater ponds with their oxygenating aquatic plants; stands of Filiberts (Cobnut) and Native Hazels, many fruit trees, and extensive “Arboretum” of natives (with requisite numbers of Birch and Alder that respectively neutralise pH on the deep fertile heavy loams on site, and Alder that build rhizobial (bacterial) nitrates, so central to Photosynthesis undertaken within the “Chloroplasts” (photoreceptors).

Aesthetically sited specimen trees e.g. walnut adorn the managed grassland mid-acre – at once imparting a “Forest Clearance” within this “Aboreal Walled Garden”.

2024 marks the Centenary of Rudolf Steiner’s “Agriculture Lecture” series that laid the basis for our now global “Bio-dynamic” community. Penning this on Full Moon (Seed Moon), March 25th, one recalls that March 10th coincided with a Lunar Perigee (Peri – close/ Gee – Gaia – Earth) that occurs once in each of our 13 “moonths” annually. Perigees in April, May, June & July = 7th, 5th, 2nd & 24th.

Steiner, verified by subsequent trials over 50 years e.g. Maria Thun found “Lunar Perigee” imparted “Unfavourable Influences” across the plant kingdom – advising against any disturbance e.g. hoeing; transplanting/ pricking out; pruning; sowing; harvesting etc within the 24 hour period. Emphatically never open or disturb hives at this time.

“The Sacred Forces of Growth” when engaged consciously; intuitively; imaginatively and inspirationally – endures.

Our dedicated Tree Planting was counched in “Gratitude” for Andrew’s and Michael’s short lives in a ritual to honour “Earth Mother” – Mother’s Day.

Sites were chosen. David, Elizabeth Ewing’s partner, with author pared a circle of sod and dug the pit (c. twice the volume of Hazel’s root ball), soil was not removed from the pit. We focused on aeration, returning all stones bar one (larger than a clenched fist) to the pit, as we added Seaweed dust, stones are “storage heaters”; “mineral concentrates (mined by bacteria released by mycorrhizal action) and provide “drainage” and “anchorage”. We add no soluble toxic NPK – “Let the Plant draw things to itself from the wide circle – from meadows and woodlands and forests in the neighbourhood” (Steiner Lecture 5). Wow – at a time when science viewed Fungi as parasites and pathogens!

Our Hazel (potted Spring 2023) had formed an intact (not pot bound) rootball that was not disturbed as we set it into the pit, the soil having been dug out an placed on an adjoining sheet. The pared sod was replaced “grass downwards” – no watering was necessary to up-gas air-pockets, rains for the ensuing week were forecast.

With its known “Wildwood Provenance” Andrew’s Hazel we trust will contribute a “Genetic Memory of Nature” through it’s flowers and pollen to it’s new found companions.

Spindle is listed in the Brehon codes (3rd of the 4 Classes of 7) otherwise the “Pegwood Bush” – a shade tolerant little known small Tree of elevated soil pH (it’s parentage comes from the foot of Mullagh More). In early frosts, Spindle will outpace Aspen, Larch, Cherry or Elm for it’s startling red Autumnal tones.

WE chose a gap in the hedgerow, visible form the patio doors, that open onto the larger of the Ponds. It’s rootball was well formed – we were extra generous with our “trace element” rich seaweed additive which includes the macro-nutrients of Calcium and Potassium (formerly Kalium – K – Arabic).

Elizabeth Ewing, Michael’s sister, sang us an old Irish “Caoine” –a favourite of Michael’s and a song of emmigration, her own people having left Donegal for UK in childhood. The cool of an early March evening, some few retreated indoors, chimed with Elizabeth’s perfectly pronounced lyric, filled with pathos, minding one of the unfolding migration Crisis across the face of our Earth as millions of Indigenous human beings must opt for the last avenue of escape from “Thermostatic Entropy”.

Who else noticed the sudden quiet of the “Ubiquity and peeping Venus in the Western Sky – rather our Evening Star “eavesdropping” to the plaintive chords of Elizabeth’s trained voice. A Heart without Sadness remains Hollow.

Bernie later described as a “Cathartic Moment” for all Souls present to experience “Vespers” – Venus’ ancient name was “Hespers” that mutated into Vespers in Medieval Latin.

Author responded with verses from “Leave Us our Hedgerows” – a poetic plea to Conscience on behalf of Ireland’s largest Nature Refuge “where Dog Rose and Ivy and Woodbine are dressed, and sheltering beneath them our Pale Primrose blossom, and our Shrews and our Hedgehogs abide there and rest”. Linneas named Dame Violet “Snow in Summer” in Ulster and “Sweet Rocket” in Munster. “Hesperis matronalis” giving us “Nightnurse Venus”. Linneas, the father of Botany, named this introduced perennial after the Evening Star due to Dame Violet’s arresting fragrance that amplifies at sunset. Monastic Gardens dedicated allotments to Dame Violet, the outgassing aerosols coinciding with Vespers, Night Prayer of Church.

“Enough is a Feast” best describes the sit down repast provided by Mark & Bernie of home made broth and sambos for every ethos and our own “Ubiquity”, Sparrows and Sparrowhawk now long gone to their beds. We acknowledge the participation of our County Heritage Officer, Conor Nelligan, Isabelle Sutton, EF Chairperson and our visitors from Bandon, Ballyvourney, Leap and Tracton, and the very many (Blarney, Killeagh, Cork City, Dublin and Fermoy) who sent their Blessings.

Ted Cook

Footnote from Ted:

  1. True Wild (Crab) Apple Trees are vulnerable to Fire Blight (bacterial E.amylovora) pruning wounds offer aerial pathways. Pay attention always to thoroughly disinfect saws, secateurs and gloves. Sound research in 1992 fingers incompetence as a spore vector for plant diseases and pests.
  1. Never paint pruning cuts in trees, Shigo et al (Tree Biology 1984) proved that approp. Target Cuts+ Timing best enabled woody plants to instantly produce “Callous Cells” impeded by sealant application.

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