In the midst of a dry winter, Sue and her family take it upon themselves to rid Foxglove Farm of their resident alien trees and make compost for the months ahead.
Since winter has been neither very cold nor wet, we have continued to clean up, remove aliens and make compost. At the moment we are up to our elbows in wattles. Most people see wattles as only a problem but we see them as a valuable resource. Yes they need to be managed and prevented from spreading but to just pull out every tree with no plan to replace them is absurd. Surely we must replace a tree with a tree? Easier said than done for sure but rather replace some than none.
In our humble attempts to live this thinking, we have been clearing small areas at a time. It seems a lost cause since they grow so fast behind us but we at least have to try. Where appropriate, we plant as replacements, 3 white stinkwood, 2 yellowwood, tree fuschias and ferns in their place. These plants and trees work well together, are hardy and create small replacement homes for the small wildlife as they grow.
In our removal – and why it takes us so long – we use the greens shredded onto the compost heaps and the laths and thicker poles for fence posts, droppers and garden supports. Black wattle is very hard and makes great firewood. We use red wattle to start the fire and a log of black wattle will burn overnight. Further uses are anything timber. It does split if not correctly cut and cured. I have a friend who cut planks and 2 years later has made wonderful kitchen cabinet doors. They really look good.
Little-known wattle facts:
- the gum is water-based, edible and similar to gum arabic
- the wood is extensively used around the world to make charcoal
- Australians use the seed ground up as a flour in biscuits
- the leaves can be added to sheep and cattle fodder (but not used on its own due to high tannin)
- the flowers produce a fixative for perfumes
- the flowers make good bee forage
- the bark has very good tannin content for tanning hard leather in particular (one of the original reasons for it being planted here)
- the bark can be powdered and used in making formaldehyde adhesives
- the bark also produces a natural dye
- the roots are so hard and also act as a nitrogen fixer in the soil since the tree in leguminous
- it can be pulped for wrapping paper and hardboard
- pulp can be used in rayon?
There are so many on this farm and the forest they have made is a beautiful place for wildlife. In saying all the above, I am not advocating leaving them in but we should not be bulldozing and burning such a valuable resource. So many factions believe this is the only way to deal with wattles but think of the job opportunities all the above uses can provide.
In a country which needs to use all its resources efficiently and create working or entrprenuerial opportunities urgently, we should think carefully about this prolific invader.
By Sue Vingerhoets