The Last Stand

It is local wisdom that once you turn agricultural land over to forestry you have given up on the land. It is an act of despair, a giving up on making a living from raising cattle or a bit of horticulture. Over the years 50% of agricultural land in County Leitrim has been turned over to monoculture Sitka spruce plantations. The county that spear-headed the ban on fracking in Ireland is now taking on forestry. Read more about the campaign on Save Leitrim website

We have a Sitka spruce plantation just across our lane. We may live in West Cavan, but we have a lot of forestry that has been planted over the years here, too. But we have avoided the clear cutting of it when it comes to harvest time. Enter the red squirrel. Which we see now and again round the neighbourhood and has been making a come back west of the River Shannon.

Irish Red Squirrel Conserve Ireland
Image found on

The Irish red squirrel (aka Sciurus vulgaris , aka Iora Rua ) is an endangered species and therefore has its habitat protected. A timely sighting of our furry friends, reported to the local Conservation officer, put paid to any clear cutting the plantation over the road. Because red squirrels feed on both deciduous and spruce trees. So they cut half of it in 2010, replanted it with a combination of spruce and broadleaved species, and then waited for their food stock to mature some before coming back for the (now very elderly, nearly 60 year old) trees left.

Last Stand

For months they have shaved away
at the half-plantation
we prevented
being clear-cut
(because the red squirrel
living off these trees
is a protected species.)

They came for them eight years on,
lumbering day and night.
They took the trees
some storm left standing
at 45 degrees
(bent like that for years)
their machines shearing

before dawn and after dark,
in all weathers, in snow,
in torrent,
even Storm Eric -
until I can almost
see the Playbank's rump
rising above stumps.

There is one last stand of trees
who have been our neighbours
for nearly these
seventeen years,
sheltering between
two drumlins rising,
those trees, their being.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Featured Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

The last stand
The view across from our home last week.


I am rather preoccupied with life laundry and workshop planning. I drafted a poem first thing, but the process has been interrupted by tasks away from the keyboard. So I am now proceeding to get the post out and poem re-drafted during my 4pm slump. (I was born this way. My mother could never get me to nap on Dr. Spock’s schedule . BTW he was the Boffin author of a 1950s Baby Bible and nothing to do with Star Trek schedule. I routinely flaked out 4pm and an elder sibling would be tasked with rousing me for supper at 6pm.)

So this post and poem will probably reflect a certain tiredness without benefit of nap time. Also, feeling a bit rushed. Which will also be the case tomorrow. What I need is an Ivory Tower and a self-cleaning house. Oops, that sounds a tad Mrs. Cranky. Better get on with it!


First, it is tree.

Upon further acquaintance

With the silver and gold glimmer on bark

Its rough and smooth

Shine and shadow

The cycling through bud, leaf, flower

Does it fruit?

Then we get properly introduced

And on a first name basis

Because Alder is not Ash

Despite having catkins

Hazel is not Willow

(Who sometimes goes by Sally)

The orange flare in Rowan’s red berry

Is not the red of a September haw.

Frost turns a blackthorn’s sloe

 Shade of Midnight Quink

I could crush the Elder’s berries juice

And write my name with it

A name is not just an arboretum label

With its Latin alias, too

A name is a kind of destiny

The beginning to a

Knowing intimacy

That goes far beyond tree

Copyright Bee Smith 2018