Sunday, October 21, 2012

Exotic Leaf Litter

I haven't been blogging much in the last couple of months, because I've been concen- trating on various other "projects" – not all equally useful, I'm afraid to say. One chore that is useful, or at least necessary, is leaf raking, and after putting it off about as long as I could, I braved a gray drizzle today to get busy on the leaf litter in our yard. 

The fruits of my labor.
There is a window of opportu- nity – only a few weeks – between when the last leaves finally hit the ground and the first snowfall buries, some- times until the spring thaw, whatever you haven't got around to raking yet. 

In reality, our leaf raking is not a big job. We have only four big trees (five if you count our neighbor's maple, which drops a good portion of its bright yellow leaves on our side of the line). The other four trees contributing to our leaf litter are our apple tree, two birches and our venerable oak tree. Luckily, the oak is still around. During some house construction a few years back, it was dinged badly by a backhoes digger, and we thought we might lose it. 

I especially prize the oak (tammi in Finnish), because they are rare here. To think of an oak tree as exotic is strange for someone like me who grew up in Georgia, where oaks (at least a dozen different species) are found everywhere. Ubiquitous, you might say. But here in Helsinki, we're right at the northern limit of the one oak species hardy enough to survive the Scandinavian climate. 
The King's Oak.

I live near an area called Tammisto, which means "Oak Grove". Also not far away is "The King's Oak", an ancient tree situated along the original route of the "King's Road", a postal road laid out between Russia and Norway in the 1300s. The King of Sweden himself supposedly planted the oak tree some 300 years ago. Why he would do that, I can't say, as this was way before "photo op" became practically the only part of a royal's job description.   

Our oak is much, much younger than the King's, and with a much less impressive pedigree. But I'm happy to have at least one of its kind in our yard, a small reminder of the more temperate lands where, (in my imagination,  on gray days like today) the sun is always shining.

1 comment:

  1. There are so many oak species here in the USA that I despair of ever learning them all. My dad could walk into the forest and you could NOT "stump" him on any species (sorry). He could tell you the common names of every tree we encountered. He was never at a loss, and he was never wrong. (I tried to catch him a few times by waling around with a Field Guide to North American trees. He nailed them all.)

    The worst thing about my dad's vast knowledge of the flora that covered my native South? I didn't pay any attention to him. He'd spit out the name and how to ID the tree and it would go in one ear and out the other. I figured I'd have plenty of time for him to teach me (some other day when I was more interested in trees). Hit my 18th birthday and he was dead. So much for his mentoring me on the trees.


    I have yet to know the trees even fractionally as well as he.

    The King's Oak is quite the impressive tree! I am always amazed at how few "big" trees there are in Europe. You guys cut them all down!

    The Caledonian Pine forests of Scotland are perhaps doomed. They're all very old (400+ years) and there are no intermediate Caledonian pines between very young plantings and the ancient tracts. The vast herds of deer species eat up the trees faster than they can grow--and there are no wolves and lynx and bears to kill back the deer herds (and not enough human hunters). So Scotland has to fence off tracts to protect trees until they're big enough to not be eaten by hungry deer. As you can imagine, this is a difficult and painstaking process (that probably won't work).

    Europeans need to stop being afraid of wolves and bears and bring them back and allow them to roam (of course you'd also have to create true wilderness for that, too).

    Finland, of course, has such predators. You guys also have some real wilderness for them to live in.