Sunday, December 27, 2009

Managing a bamboo grove

There are a couple of bamboo groves within a two minute walk of our house, one of moso, and the other of madake. Both of them are a real mess of half-fallen dead wood which forces all new growth to grow up at the same slant. As a new soft culm forces itself up through the tangle of dead wood, it suffers damage which is then subject to attack by insects and other rot. And although the grove persists, each bamboo fails to reach its fullest size, and none of it is usefully straight.

I've been wanting to do something about it for a while, and I've been gradually cutting out the dead wood from the moso grove to make charcoal with. Recently, having decided to complete my bamboo fence with the easily manageable madake, I began to tackle the dead wood. Hacking it into pieces with my bill-hook/machete thing is a very violent activity, and showers of rotten bamboo come crashing down from on high. Luckily, most of it is pretty light so it doesn't hurt much if it lands on your head.

By the time I've smashed up great swathes of dead wood and cut out the mature culms that I want for my fence, it's generally too dark to stack the cuttings tidily. But unless I do that, the new growth will no doubt be as twisted as ever. So I guess at least part of the New Year holidays will be spend sorting and stacking dead sticks.

It occurs to me that chickens could be kept in a well managed bamboo grove. The cuttings could be used for fencing all around parts of the grove, the trees would give the birds some protection from the weather and predators, the birds would be able to find quite a lot of insects to eat, and they would provide the trees with fertilizer. A few berry and seed-bearing plants around the edges would bring more insects and provide the birds with more nutrition. It seems like an interesting idea in theory.

I've finally found out who owns the grove. When I was in there tidying up the other day, a mikan farmer with storehouse next to the grove hailed me through the trees to offer me several sacks of mikan. I took the opportunity to ask if he knew whose land it was, and he told me that it belongs to a doctor who lives on the other side of Matsuyama. He never visits apparently. Absentee landlords, the old problem...

"Fungal Exuberance" by Mike O'Rizal

Put some charcoal in a bucket. Use the bucket as a urinal for a few days. Mix in some of the powder that you get after polishing rice (nuka*). Cover and leave to stand for a week or so. And enjoy the absolute riot of fungus that results.

I'm not sure if this is going to be beneficial for the soil or not, but I'm fondly hoping that this is going to be the start of a truly beautiful mycorrhiza. I chucked several spoonfuls of it on a few areas of the ground cover to see if it makes any difference.

* I can't seem to say the word "nuka" normally. Whenever I'm about to say it, some kind of primitive spirit takes over and forces me to say it in a really deep voice, and then repeat "nuka - nuka - nuka" in the same deep voice while rolling my eyes. It's hardly surprising that I attribute special powers to nuka.

More bamboo fencing

The fencing method using bundles of bamboo twigs was getting to be a real hassle. I began to think I'd be an old man before I got my fence finished. So I changed to a new method, with cross pieces of moso bamboo split into four, and uprights of madake bamboo cut into roughly similar lengths. This method is also time-consuming, but nothing in comparison to the twigs.


"Teppo-gaki" or "Gun Fence"