A day in the life

By Shelling

Shave and a haircut

To "Hamla" or "Hamling" in swedish is translated into Pruning in english. I'm not sure that describes what the traditional swedish word actually means. I'm sure you have a word for it in your country since the tradition is very old and spread all over the farming world. In the old days when farmers who had animals on their farm put them indoor after the summer and autumn they often needed more feed for them. One way of getting this was to cut the branches of trees, mostly Elm, Willow or Ash and harvest the leaves while they were still green to provide the extra feed. This method of gathering rich feed is very old, probably it has been in use ever since early stoneage when farming and keeping animals first started. When you cut the branches like this year after year its called "hamling". Usually you keep a cycle of about five years before the tree can be harvested again and you can keep on doing this for several hundred years. Trees that are treated this way gets to be older than trees that grows normally because it makes the tree grow more slowly. Other benefits to this treatment is that the mass of leaves are bigger, the leaf is richer in taste, hamling makes the light reach the ground which helps the production of hay. You would also get lots of firewood from branches and twigs.

These days hamling does not have practical use in a big scale anymore but farmers who has trees that has earlier been treated this way likes to keep them "hamlade". My landlord has several of these trees and he cuts them every ten years or so, not all at once because they kind of look bald the first couple of years before they start producing new twigs and branches. Today it was time again and I got to help him. He was afraid the tree was growing its crown so big it could damage the house if it should fall in a storm. He decided to do it in the spring before the sap rises in the tree because branches are much easier to handle without the leaves, now you don't need them for feed which he doesn't. The last cow left long ago on the farm.

It's a bit of an exciting event to cut trees this way. He used an extension on his electric chainsaw that made it possible to cut some of the branches standing on the ground but after that I had to climb the tree, he can't do that anymore, and cut the remaining branches bit by bit with the chainsaw. You have to be really careful doing this because the branches are much heavier than you think and they can fall in a very unplanned way if you don't think ahead. We managed to get it done in about an hour and a half and then the cutting up of the branches on the ground continued another half hour. Now we've got quite a lot of firewood and also lots of twigs that will make a nice bonfire later on. It's also nice to do work like this together with someone and it's good for your body, as long as you're careful.

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