Action - 6 November 2018

en - Forest in a Box

Declan Power

My name is Declan Power and I’m a Christian Brother or as some would say an Irish Christian Brother to distinguish us from the De La Salle Brothers of France. I’m based in Dublin and I teach English to Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants. I also work in Emmaus Conference and Retreat Centre in Swords, Co. Dublin where I live in community with three other Christian Brothers and a lay staff of thirty-three.

Earlier this year I was invited by Sr. Lena Deevy to become a member of the LSA JPIC committee. Our committee meets bi monthly to discern our responses to the issues that need addressing. It was at one of these meetings that I was invited to write a short article on an issue connected to the Environment or Climate Change. This short article therefore is about a ‘Forest in a Box’.

The idea emerged from Fingal County Council here in Swords. Two of the staff of the Council who have responsibility for the management of trees came on a visit to Emmaus which is situated on 25 acres of parkland. It was the beginning of Autumn when trees had shed or are shedding their leaves. Barney our grounds man had already collected the fallen leaves into a compost area. The gentlemen from the Council asked for the leaves as they were starting a new project called ‘Forest in a Box’ and needed the leaves as part of the bedding. The other items for this new project were pine needles, which are also plentiful in Emmaus and acorns. We wished them the best with collecting the acorns as they were in competition with the grey squirrels who gather them for their winter feeding.

The ‘Forest in a Box’ is easily constructed. Basically, you make a four-sided frame from sturdy timber which can withstand wind and rain. A layer of sand is placed beneath the box to aid drainage. The base and top of the box are covered with chicken wire to prevent rodents and birds from eating the acorns.

The box is placed out in the open. You quarter fill the box with leaf mold and a good sprinkling of pine needles, to produce ideal humus for the germination of the acorns. Into this mixture you place forty acorns evenly spread out. Close with the wire and allow nature to take its course. By spring the acorns will have produced their first seedlings which are left in the box until autumn. Next November these oak saplings will be transplanted to a soil-based bed and allowed to grow for a further season. In November 2019 these two-year old oak saplings will be offered to Fingal County Council or to local communities wishing to sow some oak trees as part of their Tidy Towns project.

Interesting facts about oak trees.
Oak is used in the manufacture of barrels for storing wine, whiskey, brandy and other liquids.
Most species of oaks live over 200 years. There are certain trees that can survive over thousand years.
Oak trees are usually large in size. They can reach 70 feet in height and 9 feet in width. Their branches can reach 135 feet in length.
One of the biggest oaks is located in Goose Island State Park. This oak is 45 feet tall, 35 feet wide, with crown that has 90 feet in diameter.
Due to its large dimensions, oak requires large amount of water per day. It can absorb 50 gallons of water each day.
Fruit of the oak is called acorn. Production of acorns starts at the age of 20 to 50 years.
Oaks produce more than 2000 acorns every year, but only one in 10 000 acorns will manage to develop into oak tree.
A lot of animals (pigeons, duck, pigs, deer, squirrels, mice…) feed on acorns.