White Birch Trees

This subject may not at first seem like it connects to gardens, or farming, but give me five minutes and I’ll be able to connect it to both, I promise.

Birch Trees in North Andover, MA 3/31/19 (photo Danny Lovell)

Growing up, I was a Boy Scout. I even made it to the rank of Eagle. Along the way, I was able to pick up some information firsthand about the outdoors. What kind of water is safe to drink, how to filet a fish with a sharpened stick, and how to start a fire in pouring rain with nothing but the damp woods around you. The key to that last thing is birch wood, in particular, the bark.

My roommate Shamus holding up a piece of birch bark. 3/31/19 (Danny Lovell)

Birch bark contains oils that make fire starting easy, and since oils and water don’t mix, it won’t matter if the birch log is wet. I remember one time I was at the base of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire at a scouting jamboree. I was in a tent by myself, and the early June rain made sleeping that night miserable. I had a cold can of soup my mother stuck in the bottom of my backpack, you know, just in case. (Side note, my mother will provide me with a can of soup, no matter what. I could be heading to my friends house for the night, going on a week long boating expedition, hell, even take the dog for a long walk and she say,”Here, take this in case you get hungry.” Anyway, I find a few pieces of birch wood, and after finding a piece of flint near the bed of a river, started a small fire that, as it grew, the group of adolescent boys also did. We shared stories, dried our socks, and heated our collective cans of over-protective-mother soup and had a pretty nice evening.

A semi-rotten birch log, still flammable though 3/31/19 (Danny Lovell)

How does this relate to gardening? Or farming?

We were trying to clear our garden plot and our backyard of old growth from last year. We decided that a controlled burn was necessary. Only problem was, it was the last day our town allowed for burning, and it was a downpour. Luckily, by using some birch logs in the woods behind my house, I was able to get a blaze going, heightened by a couple old Christmas trees we had in the backyard. Thanks to the birch bark, we got what we need to get done, and we ended up with the best garden we’d had in years.

-Danny Lovell