We turn our back towards the sun
and mine coal in the mountains.
We turn our back towards the sun
and drill for oil
We turn our back toward the sun
and split atoms.
When will we turn around?
- By Franz Gillinger
Nature is reaching out, let's take her hand. We can observe natural energy cycles where one day's energy production contains a multitude of what we spend in a whole year. Solar energy used straight from the collectors could cover about 70-80% of our residential energy demand for hot water and heating. With energy produced from wood, hydro and wind power, we could cover a large part of our total energy demand in the medium and long run. Despite this, even the energy supply in Europe still consists of approximately 75% of non-renewable energy like mineral oil, gas, and coal.
Planet earth became habitable millions of years ago when carbon from the atmosphere was absorbed and stored in forests which turned into the coal, oil, and gas we use today as energy. However, the way we use fossil fuels today reverses this process and if we don't change, this direction will lead us to an earth that is inhospitable.
Every day, nature re-grows millions of cubic meters of wood in the forests of our planet. Just in the tiny land of Austria itself where the Thoma Holz100 forests originate, every second grows one cubic meter of wood.
Every day, the sun evaporates unimaginable amounts of water from the oceans into the atmosphere. This water returns as rain and fills creeks, lakes and rivers which lead it back to the oceans. The sun's power also causes air movements. Winds and storms could run all the machinery of this world. And the sun rises every day, what more could we want?
What does it take for us to realize that our energy demand is tiny compared to these powerful natural processes? When will we recognize that nature's designs are the most economic and wholesome?
Once we understand how to tune into that huge natural energy current, we won't need to waste fossil fuels like oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy so that nature can re-establish the natural balance of our earth.
By the time trees have grown from a seedling to a gigantic old tree and broken down, they have had decades of working out rankings with each other to establish their social position in the forest hierarchy. Animals and the entire forest community has been protected and nourished by them. The trees also provide for their own existence by supplying leaves and pine needles to the forest grounds to produce enough mulch for the coming generations. Finally when the tree has fulfilled its need for procreation, it leaves the same way as it came. Old tree giants collapse, break down and enrich the soil with nutrients for the next generation in which they live on.
This process from tree to mulch is in perfect natural order and a very productive cycle. The sun's energy and the carbon dioxide which is absorbed by the tree is released back into the atmosphere, when the tree is rotting.
We wish for an exponential increase of solar and passive homes, made of of wood, hemp and many uses of natural materials for our future generations. Mothers buying toys and fathers building homes set this trend and their demands will reach the people responsible in the economic and politic echelons.
Let's make the most of this sacred cycle and live in harmony with nature. Conservation means appreciate and manage our forests appropriately in a loving and caring way.
The oldest pines reaching 5000+ years, the pine is considered the great grandmother of all trees.
Wherever the climate becomes difficult and the soil becomes quite barren, the pine is the first and last representative of the conifers. One of their specialties is their water-holding capacity.
On sunny, dry slopes with barren, stony limestone soils, they are equally successfully populated and protected by their tufted, long pine-needles in low-nutrient sandy soils of dry depths. Spruce and fir trees would not be able to endure such conditions. But that is not all. Even in cold climates, the pine endures much better than most species. The great pine forests of the world extend to the far north and to the coldest regions of the Siberian forests.
The Significance of the Pine Tree
The pine is the tree that grows on barren soils and often in cold or droughts that would normally prove uninhabitable for any other. However, in the end, she produces an extremely graceful and delicate figure in spite of adverse circumstances. Her yellow-orange colored bark gives the tree an overall colorful, cheerful dress which is also held in the pinewood by its orange colored core. The pine's consistent beauty is important to our minds as it is the tree that changes difficult living conditions into happy endings.
Pinewood helps to bring sad, melancholic, and retired people's minds into positive thinking and restore themselves again with the joys of life. With versatility, she masters the most difficult living conditions. She is the strongest warrior among the trees and shows us that idleness and opulence have little to do with a fulfilled life. In addition, the great grandmother of all trees reminds us of the greatest wisdom she has learned in her long life: "Love thy neighbor as thyself".
In the spirit of technical advancement, the relationship between human beings and building materials is defined by numbers and patents. Today many wood workers only work with standards and regulations.
I am not demonizing all norms and regulations here; however, it simply is erroneous and destructive to reduce our relationship with trees to numbers and regulations. Sorting out and grading the quality of building wood by counting the branches of the trees doesn't result in buildings which last for centuries. A practical example are the trade laws, norms and standards which regulate the wood industry. They grade by the exact numbers and size of branches in a board or beam. Our experience however shows that the amount of branches is one of the least criteria which contribute to quality. For our winter gardens and glass facades we fit large glass panels of solid untreated timber beams. Those beams ave to be absolutely steady. If there is any movement as through cracking or warping, the glass would shatter. The largest glass panels we ever installed were about 5 meter high thermal glass panels in one piece. These panels are still intact even after many years and have amazed quite a few.
It would be extremely difficult for us to achieve the required qualities (like durability and stability) by solely relying on industry norms. These regulations don't say anything about the right selection or the right time for harvesting trees. They do not mention the markedly different qualities of juvenile and mature trees. There is no comparison between wood drying naturally slow and super-fast kiln drying.
We have used beams which have up to 10cm 'splay knots' to support large glass panels. According to standards, these beams are of low grade. However, they have performed perfectly for many years and they will do so for generations to come. Branches are the organs of a tree and are a big part of the wood story.
For the winter garden I could have used an industrial 'high grade' wood without any knots. It could have grown in an unnatural monoculture, harvested while still juvenile, in the middle of a growth spurt and dried fast in a kiln. The wood would have been sprayed against the bark beetle and possibly been dipped into fungicide. This wood would be perfectly graded and comply with all standards. Nevertheless, I would not use wood that has been so badly mistreated to build a winter garden but be very concerned about the possibility of glass panels breaking, and the wood's low resistance to insects and fungi as well as toxic residues.
Nothing ever benefits from fanaticism, pretension and narrow-mindedness. To live in harmony with nature has to do with true appreciation and consideration and the same goes for wood as well.
With their ability to connect extremes, the ash is a symbol of strong willpower.
The Ash in the Tree Family
We observed the role of these good and connecting neighbors since childhood at the fence of our neighbors. Among various forest and tree families, the ash appears to be a particularly balanced representative between extremes. While the fast-growing ash trees cannot easily settle young and difficult soils like the alder and birch, but does so immediately afterwards.
On the other hand, they are very rich in lush, profound reasons, producing immense figures up to 30 meters in height. In contrast to its predecessors birch and alder, they can live to be several hundred years old. With its deep heart root resulting in hard, tough, durable wood, the ash again joins the group of large and powerful trees.
The Importance for our Health and Soul
The ash combines extremes; it shows us a prudent midpoint approach. Prudence, constancy, and awareness of mind which are all responsible for deliberate action, are also the messages and gifts which we receive from the ash. The ash is a much more imaginative, flexible and agile alternative to people who consider the extremely energetic beech or the powerful oak as oppressive and sometimes too rigid.
Another gift of the ash is the development of strong willpower, which has to do with its endurance. The toughness of the body as well as the mind can only be developed by people with strong willpower. The meditation of the ash and its constant stillness, for example - through an ash wooden floor or furniture are excellent tools to train and strengthen our mind and bodies to become tough mentally and physically as ash wood.
In the early 1980's, forestry death was brought to the attention of the public for the first time. Dire reports predicting there would not be a single tree left standing in Europe took turns with appeasements and playing down the problem.
Nowadays, we are able to look at several studies done by governments and forestry departments. We know about the regional dramatic repercussions, for example in the 'Erz- and Riesengebirge', where whole mountain ranges are bare of trees and are turning into steppe. We also registered tree diseases of particular types such as elm, oak and spruce to name just a few.
On the other hand, most of our forests have survived the catastrophic storms of 1990 (violent storms Vivian and Wiebke) quite well. Forest managers and farmers have learnt much and nowadays, monocultures are rarely being planted anymore in middle Europe.
Is the decline of forest still an issue today? Our technically advanced world, where all decision-making is done by the logical left brain, has tried to capture the phenomena of forest dieback with environmental impact studies, percentages and statistics. However, this is a big mistake which is about as erroneous as the planting of monocultures 20, 50, and 100 years ago.
Imagine your child has measles. The doctor does nothing else but counts all the red spots on your child's skin and records it in a highly bureaucratic way. Would you trust this doctor? It is a similar situation with our forest. Statistics alone will not do the trick.
Every tree is an amazing living being which connects heaven to earth. The plant and animal communities which live in and around trees constitute the forest. The question is, when is a tree 'well'? What is the foundation of our wellbeing? The answer is that we are feeling well and healthy when we are being loved and able to pass this love on to others. It is well known that people who speak to and touch their plants lovingly have the most beautiful flowers. We can apply this to our forests too and love our woods. We too will be healthier and feel better.
How is 'loving the forest' supposed to look like in our daily life? To love something means to fully integrate it into one's life. The human being or the object of our love must not leave or be banned from our life. And this is where our forests have suffered most ill. Polluted air and bark beetles are only symptoms manifesting what has already happened in the hearts of humanity.
Think about the large herds of bison in the northern American prairies. As long as the local Native Americans loved, appreciated and respectfully treated the animals, both the Indians and the bison were well. This balance lasted over hundreds of years. The bison meat nourished the Indians and the skins gave them a roof over their head. The European settlers brought along their own way of life and didn't understand the bison the way Indians did. Because the bison didn't have a place in the hearts of the white population, it did not take long for the animals to become extinct.
It's not the bark beetle which threatens our forests; it is us who do not cherish it. Insects are as much a part of the forest community like birds, fox or deer are. The real cause for the death of our trees is the idea that we do not need them anymore in our daily lives. Once we believe this, that's when we start neglecting the forest.
It becomes more dangerous for the forest, when our children grow up in houses made of toxic materials and plastic instead of wooden furniture and toys. They don't get to see and feel the magic and beauty of wood grain, wood floors, toys and musical instruments. Young girls and boys nowadays grow up playing on synthetic flooring instead of warm, wooden surfaces. Children surrounded by reinforced concrete instead will find it difficult to connect with wood later in their lives.
Do you remember a wooden object from your childhood, one which you have touched often? Do you remember the floor boards or furniture in your bedroom which you were looking at every day when falling asleep? All the faces and animals and other imaginative beings you saw carved in its knotholes and grain? Subconsciously we experience our surrounding and mother nature in this manner every day.
Can we afford to go without them?
When we perceive precious wood in our forests as a cheap resource instead of a divine gift, our forests are in danger. We start clear cutting large areas for profit instead of harvesting mature trees to make space for young ones and give them their chance of developing. Once the wood has been treated, it is toxic and cannot be returned to nature to turn into mulch and provide nutrients for the next generation.
To protect our environment means to accept and use it in a sensible way. Let us provide a healthy environment for our forests and make the best use of this amazing resource. Once wood plays a valuable role in people's lives again and we embrace wood as a divine gift, the forests will be treated as they should be.
Life has a better quality to it when we are able to live in homes which have furniture and floors made of natural wood. However, one has to cut down living trees. Is this the right thing to do?
Does the life of a tree start when the seed is sprouting or before, when the oak seed, beech nut or cembra nut or a winged seed falls off the tree? Or even earlier, when the seed is ripening on the mother tree? Maybe even before that, when the genetic information for the upcoming flower and seed production is being determined? Is it possible to say when exactly life begins? Grasping the mystery of trees leads us to many magical natural cycles.
As a living and active being, the tree pioneers into the dark world which we came from and will return to. We try to negate this underworld from our thoughts, maybe because it reminds us of our own mortality? Could this be one of the reasons why we don't like to think about death?
By penetrating this underground with its roots, the tree interacts and changes this world. Deeply anchored in the earth's darkest realms, the tree grows its trunk into one opposite element. It carries branches with needles or leaves, flowers and fruit upwards into the sky towards the light of the sun. An exact mirror image to the roots in the soil, the leaves and needles interact with light, air, wind and weather. Trees impact the physical and chemical levels by absorbing carbon monoxide and producing oxygen. It also affects the sensory world of humans, animals and plants by its form, color and sound.
Of what practical value is it for builders and buyers to know about the secret life of trees? From an ecological building point of view, we know that untreated wood is a breathing building material; it absorbs, retains and releases moisture. It makes contact with us humans via our senses. We perceive its color, form and the spirit which has worked it.
A piece of furniture or floor can have a calming, uplifting, joyous effect and supply us with energy. It also can be frustrating, worrying and weakening. Crucial here is the question: what has been done to the wood. How was it treated and worked with?
To harvest a tree doesn't mean to kill it. The falling of a mature tree is part of the natural cycle. The decay to humus is the basis of existence for the next generation.
This brings us to the conclusion:
Trees are living beings and they connect the divine air element with the earthy, dense and dark energies of the soil. It is possible to work with wood in ways where synthetic chemicals are not needed. Natural wood can last for hundreds of years and after its usage it still can be safely returned to nature. As ash and mulch it provides nutrients for the next generation of trees and the natural cycle closes.
If you are a mother looking for toys for your children, a builder, worker, architect, wood sawyer or forester in the forest, we all can work on this huge task from our point of view. By consciously working with nature, we enrich, enliven and keep her riches for our children. Embracing the gift of our forests is the easy way to bring the mystery of trees into our hearts. Enjoyment, fulfillment and finding our own mystery will be our reward.
(Continuation of "The Right Questions II"):
5. Timber Harvesting Time
Steadiness and durability can be achieved best by harvesting your wood at the right time. Adhere to the following criteria for building and future timber & wood:
6. Is this choice agreeable with your personal taste and health?
Think about which tree best suits and matches you. There is a distinct difference to living on a larch or an oak floor. To choose the right type of wood translates into positive energy, harmony and better quality of your life.
My advice: make this decision when you are in nature and surrounded by a mixed forest. You will feel which tree has the best effect on your senses.
7. Once it has fulfilled its purpose, can it be returned to nature?
If the use of chemicals has been consequently avoided, the answer is positive: "Yes". It can be returned into the natural cycle as mulch or ash and enrich the soil with nutrients for the next generation of trees to grow.
8. Has it been sawn appropriately?
For winter gardens, use core-free and squared pieces. Boards with standing growth rings (edge grain) are best for wooden floors and bathrooms. For example, square timber with core cracks more easily, while squared timber without core is more stable.
Now that you know the right questions to ask when buying wood, you now have a great checklist to refer to. Although these questions are meant to guide you, the decision ultimately depends on your taste and lifestyle. It is just a mnemonic device to make your life easier and not about keeping up with norms and regulations. The time you are putting into research and planning now will save you a multitude of time and effort later and also helps you avoid harm physically to your health as well as economically in the long run.
Although many companies may not meet all of these standards, you now know who does and even goes beyond them. If you want to use the highest quality of wood combined with innovative engineering for your next project, don't hesitate to contact us.
1.The Origin of the Wood
To transport wood from one continent to the other is affecting our environment and costs energy. You, as a customer want to be sure your wood is not from a radioactive contaminated area (e.g. Chernobyl, Fukushima) It is important that your wood is from well-managed forests and not from some clear or over felling area where reforestation and appropriate care for the re-growth is not appreciated.
My choice is local wood, because you automatically exclude these risks without having to find out from badly informed suppliers.
2. The Age of the Trees
Durability and composure are influenced by the maturity of the tree. As a general rule for good wood: coniferous wood should be older than 120 years.
Fast-growing leaf trees like Birch and Alder: older than 50 years; moderate and slow-growing leaf trees like Maple, Ash, Oak and Elm: 100 to 200 years.
These indications are references for high quality workmanship purposes.
3. Potential Chemical Treatments:
If you want to be on the sure side, choose a supplier who confirms in writing that his supplies have not been chemically treated in their manufacturing process.
4. The Right Choice of Wood for the Project
It is best to consult a specialist or research on the internet.
Sophisticated wooden buildings require slow and steady grown trees. For heavy traffic areas, durability is of importance and hardwoods like beech, oak, and ash are excellent for solid floor boards. Environmentally, this is the best choice and it is wise to avoid hardening the surface with laminates and sealants. Outdoors it is best to use naturally weather resistant wood like larch, oak or untreated robinia.
With Holz100, you are guaranteed the ideal choice of wood which is the right answer to all of these questions - and more!
Natural Wood vs. Treated Wood
Working only with natural wood protection has several advantages. Natural wood will provide a healthy and long-lasting usage of buildings and also eliminates expensive and complicated products. Here is an excerpt from a tender brief from an engineer's office:
"The existing wooden balconies have, despite consistent maintenance and treatment with commercial chemical wood preservatives, fully rotted away. The main reason is the disregard of constructive measures to protect the wood. It also suggests that chemical wood preservatives do not effectively protect external wood, however, it does turn wood into toxic waste."
In addition, this brief went on to prescribe the demolition and the expensive disposal of the toxic waste. The newly erected balconies were made of alpine larch which has been harvested at the right season and moon phase, such as Thoma Holz100. The homeowner could have saved a lot of money had he used natural wood preservation methods along with high quality wood.
Now then, how can we make this movement from treated to natural wood?
The Right Questions When Buying Wood
Imagine you want to replace an old carpet with a wooden floor. You would visit a building supply or parquetry distributor where you can choose between different colours, qualities, and price.
Convenience is often seen as a positive quality and most likely, you will be able to take your new laminated flooring material home straight away. However, ask yourself these:
Nowadays, in Europe, there are wood suppliers who can even provide photographs of the forest where the wood for your flooring has grown. Perhaps you would like to see and absorb the environment from where it came from.
It is best if you can treat your floors with natural resins and/or beeswax instead of sealing it with synthetic applications. Then you can be sure that your floor can return to nature and stay in the natural cycle. No matter if you want to buy a bedside table or build a whole family house in wood, to attain the wood quality we are talking about in Holz100, it is helpful to think about the following questions, before you choose your supplier.
In the next article, we will examine these questions in detail.
An incomparable, powerful and shaping species - the effect of the oak on us is clear.
The Oak in the Tree Family
Among the various tree roots beneath the surface, the oak's stand out as a strikingly powerful and ingeniously rooted system. The earth is separated into two; a flat-rooted layer spread just below the surface of the earth which uses the first intake of warmth and the oxygen supply in the spring, resulting from the close proximity to the earth's surface - and a secondary layer which consists of much more powerful roots secured deeply into the ground. Even in hot, dry climatic areas in the summer, the moisture available in the air is used by the oak's system which makes the best use of scarce resources, allowing the growth of these powerful tree giants.
In addition to its enormous shape and the unbelievable stability of these trees, their presence is very noticeable. Oak trees can be over 1000 years old. In the development process of the forest, they take over the task of preserving the forests over periods of time that would feel like half an eternity for human beings. Almost everything of this tree is more permanent, powerful, harder, and heavier than we know of any other tree.
The Importance of the Oak
Anyone who wants to realize big projects and build high wooden spaces require strong, deep roots in material and design - ambition alone is not enough. Ambition without roots and strength drive our dreams to become hallow. The oak therefore is the epitome of the powerful, energetic and earth-bound tree; characteristics that can be drawn out and become invaluable to many.
All of those who work hard in their lives find that the oak as a tree represents willpower, perseverance, and endurance. The power of the oak is immediate, direct, yet quaint. Oak trees love nutrient-rich, deep soils; just like how the pure, raw energy from nature encourages us to enjoy life to the fullest and find support among our deep-rooted relationships.