the river red gum was planted twenty five years or so ago and it was getting pretty big. arguably, it should never have been planted, but the tree-planting people were more enthusiastic than knowledgeable and seeing that the redgum was, according to their records, native to our area, they included it in the package.
it is native to our area – it lines the broad, majestic river murray which flows past wyeuro a mere two miles to the west, in a valley it has carved for itself some 175 feet below us. we’re up here on the rise where the rainfall is ten inches a year and all falls in winter.
this species of tree is accustomed to dangling its roots into the river and sucking to its heart’s content. in the wyeuro garden it simply insinuated its roots into every part of the garden that was irrigated until we were gardening in a deep dense mat of river gum roots. it extracted nutrients from this soil as efficiently as it extracted water. it throve. nothing else did except the few native understorey plants it favours as companions. we poured compost, water, and organic and natural mineral fertilisers of all kinds into that half acre and nothing really throve except the redgum, the saltbushes and a pencil pine.
we loved the tree. trees are lovable. i sang songs to it, communed with its mistletoe, hugged it, conversed with it, mingled my life-field with its and fed it more energy than i could spare. just as it took water and nutrients, so it took my vital energy. but worse than that, river red gums get dangerous after a while. they drop branches you couldn’t circle with your two arms on picnickers and garden parties and they’re famous for killing people in the process. so it had to go.
but okay, we all know that trees don’t talk, but this one did. it said: ‘i’m mutton’. then it indicated that it was a very large mass of firewood, of top quality and would like to be cut down and used. so we sent for a young nature god who lives nearby. he’d just come back from shearing in the flinders. up that old tree he ran with a chainsaw in his hand and off came the little branches and then the big ones and then down came the tree.
it was momentous. I saw a tall aborigine man leap out of it raoring at the moment when the biggest and tallest branch fell.
the goats were fascinated. the tree has always been their shade, and they were aware that it was going to go. they’re clairvoyant, goats. they glutted themselves on the big bushes of mistletoe that this old tree had been supporting with ease and grace.
so what are we going to do with the wood? burn most of it, of course. it’s enough for a couple of winters. and there’ll be enough to cut slabs for a table top, and for seating and we’ve left the lower section of the main trunk and two thickest upright branches for the central pillar of a bothy. we’ll have rafters radiating from it to well-spaced up-rights and built in bench seating with a central table. when we humans aren’t in it, the goats can have it for shade. but i’ll be building them their own housing, soon, so they’ll be happy.