The man who plants trees
Michel has always loved trees, it started when he was a child. When I met him, he was fifty-seven years old and his untamed love for nature, the forest and trees in general put me right away under his spell. In Hernan, our farm in the Medoc near the Gironde estuary, we have planted together as many trees as we possibly could. We have spent years and years of work and energy to transform 20 acres of wasteland we rented from our municipality, with thin, poorly developed ash trees. It took us fifteen years to create pastures and forest glades with strengthened well growing trees.
But still both of us missed the forest. So, we started to look for a place where we would be nearer to our true destiny. In the early spring of 2016, I received an offer for almost fifteen acres of fallow forest land near Hourtin, at Louley.
I knew the place from when I lived with my horses at the Forest house of Hourtin-Plage. I used to take long rides down to Louley where I particularly loved a romantic track through the woods with old, huge, majestic oak trees. In former times, there used to be tiny cottages with pastures, orchards, vegetable gardens and grove for firewood supplies. Hey have long since been replaced by pine forests event though forest fires and storms have caused severe damages.
At present, the rests of windfall due to the Great Storm of December 1999 are still there rotting with thorns growing over them and gorse growing more than head-high. Nothing had been done, no trees replanted. Some pine trees had survived, surrounded by oaks. I accepted the offer under the conditions that there would be no more cutting of timber and that the oaks would be safe. Unfortunately, the owner did not respect his engagement and cut the oaks before the contract was signed. No majestic oaks. Just fallow land.
Michel has always loved trees. He knows them, understands them, talks to them, looks after them. In Louley, he can fully live out his creativity and plant a varied leaf-tree forest that may one day become a food forest with flowers for bees and all sorts of butterflies and insects, fruit for birds, hedges as shelter for smaller animals such as hedgehogs, wet areas for frogs, toads, ducks, dragonflies and forest glades for the horses.
Since 2017 we have fully engaged ourselves in this project and have planted every year hundreds of trees of various kinds, more than 2000 up to now. We give them all our care in order to give them all their chances. It is something we wish to offer those who will love these trees when we are gone. What a joy it is to witness how these trees are growing taller every year, to see birch trees and broom reconquer the land, flowers covering the ground, small black wild bees, butterflies, dragonflies and birds coming back.
Every year, friends of our association come and help us plant and continue our work. Today, Michel is over 75 years old and no longer as strong as he used to be. So he plants less, leaves others help him and in the process teaches them long proven techniques of planting and trimming he learnt from his father and grandfather.
And every year we are so happy to see that loving trees is contagious!
2023 Déa L’Hoëst (Louley)