Coppice Harvest

I wrote previously that I am trying to use my needlessly big garden to grow firewood in a coppice. It would be a great success if not for water voles who are a sworn enemy of anyone growing any trees for any purpose. However, these last few days were warm-ish for winter and thus I had the opportunity to not be an utterly useless lump of meat for a few days – I cut down the coppiced/pollarded trees and sorted most of the wood into piles. Twigs for the shredder, thinner trunks for growing beans in the summer and being cut into firewood afterwards, and thicker and/or crooked trunks to be cut into logs right away.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

It looks more than it really is, the volume will be significantly reduced once the twigs go through the shredder. I estimate it to be approximately 10-15% of my yearly use of firewood. Blast the voles, without them, it would be probably around 50%. They even destroyed multiple of my established 3-5-year-old trees, so the coppice did not in fact grow bigger since 2019 at all and it is entirely due to voles. They destroyed approx 70% of the planted hornbeams, and nearly 100% of the poplars this area of my garden is not wet enough for the willows to prosper so it is still useless land that needs to be mown and is of no real use to anybody. I have started to plant local maples, ashes, birches, and hazels instead of the poplars but those get often destroyed by voles too and they do not grow even remotely as fast. Fuck the little fuckers. Did I say I hate water voles? I hate water voles.

But the work made me feel well. I really needed to go outside and do something during daylight.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Well at least there is some contribution to your fire wood and bean pole needs, but more importantly to your well being. I certainly hear you about needing to get out more for my all round health. But yeah, fuck water voles, along with the other pests that destroy so much of our work on our land!

  2. Tethys says

    I’m hoping for some warmth and sun too. The latest snowstorm drifted and now I’ve got to remove stupid amounts of fresh snow from stupid amounts of public sidewalk and find the fire hydrant which is underneath a small glacier.

    Your water voles sound like they are as destructive as gophers. Rodents that dig extensive underground tunnels and burrows, and proceed to eat the roots off of trees like miniature beavers. I grew to despise them just as I grew to despise the whitetail deer.

    Aren’t there any natural predators in the feline or weasel family around to keep the vole population in check? Ferrets are natural predators of burrowing rodents in the wild, but are also kept as pets here. Anything that naturally goes into the burrow system to hunt the rodents might help control the population enough to allow the trees to thrive and grow. Snakes are another natural predator that would go into the burrows to hunt, but are frequently missing from the environment.

  3. says

    @Tethys, water voles are smaller than gophers but afaik they do occupy the same niche. They are a colossal pain in the ass. Even when we used to have cats they still managed to do massive damage to my bonsai trees during a snowy and cold winter. The infestation used to be less severe when there were more grown trees around and one could see more kestrels over the meadows. And also an owl was nesting in a tree in our neighbor’s garden.

    The tree in our neighbor’s garden had to be felled for safety reasons, and multiple trees in the overall vicinity were felled during road renovations. I haven’t seen or heard an owl for over a decade by now and kestrels are a rare sight since there are fewer trees for them to sit in. My garden was littered with kestrel pellets five years ago, nowadays there are none the whole summer. We have even managed to plant multiple trees before and they survived. Something I haven’t managed for half a decade now, all newly planted trees get destroyed during winter -- I could not replace my cherry tree, I could not plant a new apple tree, and those bastards even ate roots of grown oak trees that are supposed to be bitter and immune to voles. The poplars are alleged to be immune to voles too due to bitter taste, but nobody told the voles.

  4. Tethys says

    Yes, that sounds familiar. The rodents destroyed my cherry, roses, hostas, slippery elm, etc….

    I had a huge black snake which had kept their population in check, and they became problems after it was very sadly got run over by a careless driver. The owls weren’t much help, since gophers don’t spend much time above ground.

  5. Ice Swimmer says

    At least here, voles of various kinds are a significant part of the diet of many owls and raptors as well as weasels. I’m wondering why weasels haven’t found your garden as it sounds like a rather food-rich environment for them. Too far from the woods? Also, do vole populations in CZ also increase and then crash cyclically like they do here or is this just a Northern phenomenon?

  6. says

    @Ice Swimmer, common voles do have boom-crash cycles but afaik, water voles do not, at least not to the same extent. We probably do have weasels around here, at least they had twice chewed through the cables in my car. There are also still domestic cats wandering around and I do hear foxes at night too and they do get into the garden occasionally as well (I have seen fox tracks in the snow once). The water voles do not care much for any of these, apparently.
    One more problem with water voles is that they are almost exclusionary herbivores so they do not take typical baits for rats and mice and are difficult to catch in traps or poison (poison is out for me, I do not want to have someone’s cat on my conscience). I am much more likely to catch a useful shrew in a trap than any of these obnoxious pests.

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