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GSBN:Moon phase harvesting of timbers

<x-charset windows-1250>Hi all,

I guess I may as well get another stimulating topic started now that I?m at
it. Indeed I guess this and some of what follows from this should be
included in one of the upcoming Last Straw editions???


As an environmentalist, I am horrified by the use of so many noxious and
usually carcinogenic timber preservative treatments used in our construction
industry. As such I have always made sure the timbers we use are treated as
non-toxically as possible ? which has meant getting or self treating using
boron treatment (mammal friendly). Over the years I?ve heard from various
farmers and country builders that in times past their forefathers used to
harvest their poplar beams and ?Spanish reed? (thin bamboo species) for
their houses around the autumn &amp; early winter new moon so as to prevent
insect attack.


Then in Japan ? where they have a similar practice of moon phase harvesting
? I met a professor who had conducted a series of scientific experiments on
how moon phase harvesting as well as aging with braches and bark will affect
insect attack as well as checking/splitting and warping. Besides simple
observation, she examined the sap content under a microscope and tested a
whole variety of harvesting times. (I can send jpg?s to anyone interested). 


What she explained was that one needs to harvest between the times of the
autumn equinox and winter solstice on the 3rd, 2nd, and last day proceeding
the new moon i.e. in the waning phase of the moon only and not on the
day/time of the new moon itself. Once felled, the timbers are left falling
at a slope, with their cut ends propped up higher than the rest of the
trunk. The timber is then initially cured in the forest with their bark, as
well as the crown of the tree and a few side branches with leaves left
intact. The timbers they were cutting (600mm diameter) was left for 3 - 4
months. She explained that the idea is to ensure that the timber is
virtually totally free of the sap, which is the food the insects are after.
By propping the stem up and aging with a few branches and bark, the tree
pulls the last traces of sap to its extremities as it dies.


A tree surgeon friend of mine has since concurred that during the autumn
winter phase, trees go into a sort of hibernation and will typically slow
their growth right down. When doing this - because they are less active and
have less nutrient rich sap moving around - they pull various other resins
and anti-bodies up from their root system to assist in fighting off the
insect and fungal attack. Once mid winter is past, trees start to wake up
again in preparation for spring and the sap will start to rise back into the


Since my return I began experimenting with this myself. I was curious if
this would still work here in the Cape, where we have winter rainfall. I was
also curious to see what would happen with some of our local hardwood
species like the invasive eucalyptus/gum species as the Japanese professor
had be experimenting with their species of spuce and beach. The first time I
experimented, I cut some gums (at the prescribed time) and did not bother to
lift the trees up off the forest floor as the forest floor was steeply
sloped so simply made sure they lay with their branches pointing down slope.
I left the timber on the moist leave covered (though well drained) forest
floor for 6 months. Upon my return I discovered that the timber had cured
beautifully and besides a bit of brown staining on the bottom half, were in
perfect condition. Not one single insect had touched the timber, no dry rot
had occurred and no cracks or splitting was evident. I have continued with
this practice ever since and am so confident about it that I do it many of
with as many of my projects as possible.


I goggled moon phase harvesting and came across a reference to the Austrian
wood cutters of times past having branded their timber according to which
moon cycle their timbers were harvested. Apparently firewood is best cut at
a full moon. Violin and cello makers followed certain bio-dynamic practises
and used to accompany the wood cutters into the forests to ensure that their
timbers where cut at certain precise times, which apparently also needed to
coincide with certain planetary cycles. This apparently ensured the perfect
resonance for their instruments. 


I am curious about whether any of this is familiar to any of you out there
and what kind of experience you have had with these methods or further
insights that might be added.


Andy Horn


Architects &amp; Consultants
A. R. HORN B.A.S. (UCT), B.Arch (UCT), Pr.Arch (SACAP),     MIA, CIA
Telephone: 021 462 1614, Fax: 021 461 3198

Cel: 082 67 62110
4th Flr, The Armoury
160 Sir Lowry Rd

web site: www.ecodesignarchitects.co.za

email: andy@...





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