Now a eucalyptus is an amazing tree – it survives where few other species would, it provides the only source of food to koalas and it produces one of the most useful and versatile essential oils. There are also many different species, each with different characteristics. How a eucalyptus grows can tell you a lot about the climate and the surroundings at the time of its growth. Some species grow massively tall and make the most amazing silhouette pictures.
But in terms of an edible forest garden, they are a total nightmare. They slurp up any drop that falls anywhere near them; they drip a substance under their fall line, so nothing else grows there; they get extremely brittle when they get old, so those harsh winds end up cracking off huge branches that cause a lot of damage where they fall; and in terms of fire danger – which is a real threat here in summer – they’re in essence an explosion of oil just waiting to erupt. So Dreamland had a lot of eucalyptus, but also a lot of other trees, in addition to the apples, really yummy pears, lemons and many other fruit trees.
So I contracted Wayne Barry from Tree Cycle to do the tree removal and as part of the quoting process we had a good walk-around through Dreamland. This man is a walking tree encyclopedia. This one is a pest, it propagates like this; that one is has beautiful colours in spring; this one grows to 30m tall; that one is an invader; this one is ornamental and birds love it, and so he would rattle off the names and details of every tree. So a lot of good ones were spared, but a lot of trees, especially all the eucalyptus (and there were a few really, really big ones) got the orange spray paint indicating they had to go. We saved different types of wattles, which provide good nitrogen back into the soil – and they look quite pretty; bottlebrushes for their flowers that attract and feed bees; and we saved a few exotics like Baobabs and a single Jacaranda (which will need some frost protection.)
Enter the dragon
So, on a cloudy Friday, with a dubious rain forecast, after they had done a “quick” job on two massive trees over at Homeland, Wayne, and his two guys pulled into Dreamland at about 10:30 with an arsenal of heavy equipment to tackle about 40 “orange” trees of various sizes spread throughout the property.
These guys work with an absolutely mesmerising efficiency. One cuts down branches while the other scoops them up with a bobcat and feeds them straight into a massive chipper that spews mulch into their truck, and the third one grinds out the stumps, while in-between unwanted bushes get displaced, old carpets (used as mulch) gets ripped out before they clog the stump grinder, and so they methodically wiz and hum and grind their way through the large number of “orange” trees.
At lunch time it seemed the rain was going to set in and force us all to stop working. Over at Homeland I even stopped working outside and started doing odd jobs in the shed. But thank goodness, contrary to the forecast, the rain backed off, it cleared slightly and this time the big crane came out. It was quite impressive watching Wayne single-handedly cutting down the bigger trees while the boys whisked away the big branches and got them mulched in a flash.
They’ve obviously done this before.
All done and dusted
At dusk, late on Friday afternoon, way past beer o’clock, Wayne and his guys packed their machines and waved goodbye as the dust settled on what is now really a blank canvas. Now we can really start planning, designing and creating our dream. And, as a by-product, we were left with a massive heap of fresh mulch which no doubt will come in very, very handy.
It seems that we have learnt some good lessons over the years:
- The tree identification and marking before jumping in and clearing wildly was definitely a worthwhile step we had on our plan. In a very organised and systematic manner we got rid of stuff we didn’t want, and we kept a large number of really useful and trees.
- Getting a professional in do this job, rather than attempting to do it ourselves was definitely the way to go. The heap of mulch we were left with was almost worth the day’s costs (OK not quite), but considering the mulch and what they all amassed in a day, it was really good value. Me and my little electric chainsaw would now still have been busy on the first tree.