Poster by Helen McDonnell

The following is the 2nd post in which I reflect on Wendell Berry’s ideas of a ‘Good Forest Economy’– from an essay he wrote in 1995 (the reason why I chose to discuss Wendell’s forest ideas are in the previous post here).

My talk for the Arboreal Book Club for the Whose Woods These Are Festival (online) The Dock, Dec 2020.

Musician-curators Eimear Reidy and Natalia Beylis, for the Dock Arts Centre, Co. Leitrim, Ireland recently invited me to talk about a text, which has greatly inspired my long-term ecosocial art forest work–The Hollywood Forest Story (begun in 2008) – the story of the smallest close-to-nature continuous cover forest in Ireland–”the little wood that could”.

Obviously, another gorgeous image of Haumea 🙂

My sincere thanks to the wonderful curators EIMEAR and NATALIA, who have created an incredible 3-DAY worldclass FOREST CULTURE FESTIVAL, not only for County Leitrim, but for Ireland, and I’m sure many overseas will be very inspired too. And, if any county is to change the national discourse about forestry in Ireland, for a new vision of a life-sustaining forests, I’m sure it will arise from Co Leitrim. The roots are there! Many decades ago, people came together to argue and take action to bring back our native tree species. Today, in these urgent times, permanent, diverse, thriving woods, for local forest cultures– will be a necessity everywhere. Wasn’t it Ursula Le Guin who conveyed that the The Word for World Is Forest? It has to be so – if we want a livable, beautiful planet.

So huge congratulations to Eimear and Natalia, and to all at the Dock Art Centre, Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland who have worked so hard to develop this amazing WHOSE WOODS THESE ARE TREE FESTIVAL 🙂

My contribution will be discussing the impact of Wendell’s essay on my envisioning a sustainable forest culture in Ireland, with Eimear and Natalia. It will be screened online on Sunday 20 Dec, 2020 Tree TV 4, with I think images from my work over the years. The details of this interview are highlighted in the green box below (scroll to the end of the post).

‘Whose Woods These Are‘* A Festival of Trees 

will feature nightly episodes of TREE TV 

as well as a screening of the film 
Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees– 

hosted by our friends at Still Voices Film Festival

While you’re waiting for the festival to begin, join us in The Leaf Lounge where you can enjoy music, storytelling and a virtual forest tour.

During the festival, The Leaf Lounge will have creative activities for all ages with films, workshops and suggested tips for getting out there solo or with friends and family.

The Leaf Lounge will also host a conversation on forestry (more info in our FULL PROGRAM below).


TREE TV Episodes of TREE TV will stream nightly at 8pm

Direct streaming links will be posted on The Dock’s website 

Thursday 17 DEC 8 PM
Roslyn Steer, Lucy O’Hagan, Mohammad Syfkhan, Dr Marion McGarry, Claire Guerin 

Friday 18 DEC 8 PM
Tommy Earley, Natasha Bourke, Jonny Dillon, Neil Fitzgibbon, Dan Walsh, Katie Holten, Maija Sofia  

Saturday 19 DEC 8 PM
Niall Miller, Jennifer Walshe, Kim Ruffin, Tola Custy, Nick Roth, David Smith



Sunday 20 DEC 8 PM
Edwina Guckian, Cathy Jordan & Eleanor Shanley, Colette O’Neill, Sarah Lundy, Vanya Lambrecht-Ward, Cathy Fitzgerald,  Mohammad Syfkhan



THE LEAF LOUNGE – Access at anytime throughout the festival. Links to all festival events will be listed here from 12 noon on Thursday.

  • Farah Rahman reads her story ‘The Alder Tree’
  • Screening of ‘A Quack Too Far’ by Melissa Doran
  • Sorcha Fox reads a surprise children’s story
  • Hannah Mole of Earth Care Design introduces the magical Sea Buckthorn
  • Friends of the Forest Drink Recipes from My Goodness, Cork
  • Children’s Nature Workshop with David Smith
  • ‘Creative Encounters with Nature’ that you can do outside either solo or with your friends and family

Richard Ramsauer and Neil Foulkes: The Future of Forestry in Ireland

‘The Way Through The Woods’

“There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees” – Kipling

– we used to know the way. – Neil Foulkes

Because we are broadcasting from Leitrim, Ireland, we are unable to talk about trees without talking about timber.  We are unable to talk about forests without talking about forestry.  For many of us here, this is an ongoing daily discussion in which we seek new solutions.  In hopes of adding to the conversation, we have invited a forester with over 50 years experience in forestry management, consultancy and government policy creation to talk with a local conservationist.  We have asked them to discussion future possibilities, problems and solutions. We welcome you to join the discussion.


Richard H. Ramsauer is an Austrian forester with over 50 years in forestry and wood industries in Austria and Central European Countries. He is the head of Ramsauer Consulting which specialises in all kinds of sustainable projects in the forest industries

‘I come from an old family owned forest estates. It has been in my family since mid the 19th century. I am the 4th generation owner and manager of our family forests, which have been passed on to my children. We have a natural rotation system for planting, thinning and try to follow the climate change by adding additional species in our new plantations. Most of the renewing of forests is done with natural regeneration, clear felling never bigger that 1ha in one place.’


I moved to Ireland, with my family, in 1991; we live on a small farm in Co. Leitrim.

I have been involved in practical conservation work since the mid 1980’s, having trained with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers in England. I specialise in hedgerows, especially hedge laying and I have been self-employed in hedgerow management as consultant, contractor, and trainer since 1997. Since 2004 I have been involved carrying out eleven County Hedgerow Surveys for Local Authorities. I also do traditional woodworking using hand tools making what I can from local hardwoods – from carved wooden spoons and tool handles to Windsor chairs.

I love trees and woodland and not just as a resource from an economic perspective but in the broadest sense. We have a small broadleaf plantation on the farm which was established in 1994 through the Crann Local Project. It is my favourite place on the farm.

I have been active in the last couple of years challenging the current forestry system and the onslaught of coniferous plantations here in Leitrim.


The Leaf Lounge is also home to some of your nominations for the ‘Leitrim Tree of The Year 2020’ Competition. The winner will be announced on Sunday the 20th of December on Tree TV. The photographer of the winning tree will be awarded two heritage apple trees from Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery! Thanks so much to Danny for the sponsorship of the trees! Runner up will recieve a copy of Dr. Marion McGarry’s book ‘See The Wood From the Trees‘.  Thank you Dr. Marion!

Check out all of the glorious trees entered in the competition here:



Find out about the ‘Whose Woods These Are’ Project at the bottom of this mail

ROSLYN STEER ‘Little Oak No Apples’ Musical Vignette

Roslyn Steer is a musician based in Coolyduff, Co. Cork. She is a member of the bands Crevice and Morning Veils. Her latest album is available here:

LUCY O’HAGAN ‘Making Acorn Flat Breads’ Workshop

Lucy O’Hagan guides us through the process of making acorn flour and delicious flat breads.
Through her project, Wild Awake, Lucy O’Hagan runs classes and nature connection programmes that aim to rekindle environmental and cultural resilience through the (re)learning of ancestral and traditional skills in nature. She offers courses on Ancestral Skills and Ethnobotany and also runs the Phoenix Forest School.
‘Wild Awake is grown from the belief in the need to preserve wildness in ourselves, in our landscapes and in our cultures. A love of nature and a wish to share that with people, to inspire effective earth stewards, is at the heart of what we do. We envisage a future where our relationship with the earth is founded in compassion, dignity and respect.’

MOHAMMAD SYFKHAN ‘Talaat Ya Mahali Nourha’ Musical Vignette
Mohammad Syfkhan is a singer and bouzouki player. He blends songs and music from various traditions to provide his own unique take on Syrian folk music. He can sometimes be seen playing music to the trees around his home in Carrick on Shannon. He is currently working on his first solo studio album.

DR. MARION MCGARRY Trees in Ireland – history, meaning and identity Talk & Presentation

The co-author (with Dermot O’Donovan) of the book See the Wood from the Trees (2018)

Marion McGarry will give a talk on the history of trees in Ireland. This will culminate in the story of wood felled trees from Áras an Uachtaráin that were donated by President Michael D Higgins to students at GMIT Letterfrack. Dr Marion McGarry is an art historian. She lectures at Galway–Mayo Institute of Technology Letterfrack, a campus which specialises in design and manufacture of timber products. She frequently writes on Irish heritage and her latest book is Irish Customs and Rituals: How Our Ancestors Celebrated Life and the Seasons (Orpen Press, 2020)


Musical Vignette
Claire Guerin is a visual artist, performance artist and a sound artist based in Cork. She is also a founding member of The Guesthouse.



‘For many years Tommy has consistently come up with and sought out ideas and ways to protect, promote and enhance the biodiversity, habitats and environmental awareness on the farm, in his local community and the region.’ – John Matthews

NATASHA BOURKE ‘Spoors & Spores’ Short Film

Homage to a special tree and a 5 year anniversary nod to ‘Spoor’ featuring original and newly shot footage in one of the sites used in Spoors.

Natasha Bourke is an Ireland-based Interdisciplinary artist of Irish/Dutch descent with an extensive movement, aerial and performance background. With a poetic, absurd and spectral aesthetic, Bourke continually investigates new ways to merge and refine the different strands of her work into a unique and coherent language whilst trying to maintain an open approach and process.

JONNY DILLON Between Heaven and Earth: Sacred Trees in Irish Folk Tradition

Talk & Presentation

Jonny Dillon, archivist at the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin outlines some of the folk customs and beliefs pertaining to trees in Irish tradition. Drawing on traditional sources held at the archives of the National Folklore Collection, this short video examines the sacred ‘Bile’ under which kings of Ireland were inaugurated in times long ago, before considering the holy woods inhabited by both madmen and saints in tradition. From votive offerings left on trees growing by holy wells, to those trees which were left well alone and treated with fear and trepidation, we explore those proud intermediaries between heaven and earth that renew themselves through the eternal rhythms that govern all living things.

National Folklore Collection UCD Digitization Project‘Blúiríní Béaloidis’ the National Folklore Collection UCD Podcast

NEIL FITZGIBBON Tunes beside the Fairy Tree, St. Brigid’s Well Musical Vignette

‘Two jigs, finishing w Nead ni lochainn, cold December afternoon’
Based in Co Clare, Neil is a regular on the session scene on the west coast known as both a fiddle player and guitarist. He plays in the band Driftwood Manor.

DAN WALSH ‘Farrest’ Tenor Saxophone in Cork City 08.12.0 Musical Vignette

‘Recorded in Cork City Centre in a disused area that is temporarily reclaimed by buddleia trees and city birds. ‘Farrest’ is a song about what is between us and our natural state.’
Dan Walsh is multi-instrumental musician and producer. He runs the Cork Improvised Music Club and plays in the bands FIXITY, Senior Infant, The Great Balloon Race, NOT EARTH and The Bonk.

KATIE HOLTEN Arboreal Arts Reading Group

‘Artist Katie Holten seeks to decolonize language and rewild the imagination by transforming letters into trees. Combining the ancient script Ogham with Irish and English, her Irish Tree Alphabet transforms words into an arboreal language of place and belonging.’ – Emergence Magazine

For the Arboreal Arts Reading Group, we invited an artist to choose a text for us to read as a starting point for discussing their work. Join Eimear and Natalia in conversation with the artist Katie Holten.

Katie Holten selected “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” a chapter from the book “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Katie is a visual artist and environmental activist based in New York City and Ardee. For over twenty years Katie has made unconventional works, pushing the boundaries of ecological art. She represented Ireland at the 50th Venice Biennale. At the root of her practice is a commitment to study the inextricable relationship between Humans and Nature. A few years ago she created a Tree Alphabet, offering a language beyond the human. During lockdown she made an Irish Tree Alphabet for a solo exhibition at VISUAL Carlow.

In ‘Learning the Grammar of Animacy’ Robin Wall Kimmerer writes; “In English, you are either a human or a thing. Our grammar boxes us in by the choice of reducing a nonhuman being to an it. Where are our words for the simple existence of another living being?” In Speaking of Nature, which furthers her thoughts on Learning the Grammar of Animacy, Robin proposes a new pronoun for nonhumans, replacing “it” with “ki.” This ecological thinking helped inspire Katie Holten’s Tree Alphabets.

Here’s a link to the chapter that we have used as a basis for our discussion: Learning the Grammar of Animacy by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Katie also works with Friends of Ardee Bog. You can learn more about their petition Save The Ardee Bog

MAIJA SOFIA Dock Commissions Musical Vignette

Maija Sofia Makela is an Irish folk singer-songwriter from County Galway.


A visit to Niall Miller and his magical workshop of handcrafted traditional and not so traditional wooden crafts.

JENNIFER WALSHE An Attempt At Filming A Tree In London Short Film

“The most original compositional voice to emerge from Ireland in the past 20 years” (The Irish Times) and “Wild girl of Darmstadt” (Frankfurter Rundschau), composer and performer Jennifer Walshe was born in Dublin, Ireland. Her music has been commissioned, broadcast and performed all over the world. Walshe is currently Professor of Experimental Performance at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Stuttgart.

KIM RUFFIN Heading through the Holler: A Tree Narrative for Us All Talk & Presentation

Kim Ruffin will discuss how past and present African-Americans’ relationships with trees can serve as a narrative for a new beginning on Earth.

Kim Ruffin fell in love with the outdoors climbing trees, playing on dirt mounds, and riding bicycles off homemade ramps in flip-flops. Inspired by her family’s legacy of nature stewardship, she became an educator and author (Black on Earth: African-American Ecoliterary Traditions, Univ. of Georgia Press). A desire to open more doors for nature connection led her to become a trained Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. She is excited about inviting people to encounter other forms of nature and each other. As Associate Professor of English at Roosevelt University, she’s inspired by her students’ role in leading the future. Through her company, Cardinal Encounters, she celebrates the joys of life on Earth.

Kim’s book, ‘Black on Earth: African-American Ecoliterary Traditions’, is on sale through the University of Georgia Press.

TOLA CUSTY ‘Skygoat’ for Twenty Year’s Long Housemates Musical Vignette

Tola Custy is a fiddle player from County Clare. He also has a black belt in Irish dancing.
‘This succulent takes in far more than just water and light. For the past 20 years it has stored every conversation, party, doubt and joy that is my life. Those emerald coins have neither praised nor judged me. It silently awaits my gaze as I talk to it and ignore the walls! Together we welcome every dawn and bid adieu to all sunsets. Offspring of this ancient plant now charm the occupants of other dwellings, silently winking at me, as a pup recognises its’ original family that raised it to bring light to other places.’

NICK ROTH Arboreal Arts Reading Group

“Learning music through trees, and forests through music.”- Nick Roth: saxophonist, composer, producer and educator

For the Arboreal Arts Reading Group, we invited three artists to choose a text for us to read as a starting point for discussing their work. Join Eimear and Natalia in conversation with the composer Nick Roth. He has selected the introduction to Eduardo Kohn’s book ‘How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human.’ You can read an excerpt from the book here

We used the text to discuss Nick’s 2015 project ‘Little Woodland Heights’ for children’s ensemble.

Developed in association with the Arts Council of Ireland, The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children, the California Academy of Sciences and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Little Woodland Heights is an interactive work for children exploring the world of forest canopy ecology and the function of music as translative epistemology. It creates an immersive educational environment that works to translate ideas from ecology, botany, phyllotaxis and anthropology into the embodied language of music.

DAVID SMITHE o Mughna’s Lament Short Film

“A fusion of music and photography exploring the rural Irish landscape and inspired by cinema, painting, soundtracks and mythology.”

David Smith is an Irish artist who relocated home in 2016 after 11 years in Hong Kong. He works primarily in painting and occasionally in music and photographic projects. He has recently held solo shows in Ireland, Hong Kong and The U.S. This work was produced for the Dock Commissions Awards.



Edwina Guckian is an artist, educator, world-champion Irish dancer and community activist. We are very excited to have Edwina announce our ‘LEITRIM TREE OF THE YEAR 2020’ WINNER!
The photographer of the winning tree will be awarded two heritage apple trees from Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery! Thanks so much to Danny for the sponsorship of the trees!

Dock Commissions

Musical Vignette

One of Irelands foremost singers, Eleanor Shanley, from Keshcarrigan in County Leitrim is renowned for her unique interpretation of Irish and Roots songs.Cathy Jordan (born in Scramogue, County Roscommon in 1972) is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, bodhran, bones and bouzouki. She has been the lead vocalist for the traditional Irish music band Dervish since 1991, and is a solo performer as well.

COLETTE O’NEILLA Visit to Bealtaine Cottage Short Film

Colette O’Neill is an Environmentalist, Author, Publisher, Photographer. Creator of Goddess Permaculture.Join us as we take a short visit to the Goddess-Inspired Permaculture Gardens at Bealtaine Cottage just at the foothills of Sliabh an Iarainn.
Find out more about the Bealtaine Cottage and pick up a book, map or a stunning 2021 calendar here:

‘Winter landscapes are also full of life. Fungi are constantly breaking down, reconstituting materials around us, reshaping and influencing – creating our environments. This short video piece is a modest contemplation on these processes and the fungal kingdom at work through one early winter walk in the woods.’

Vanya Lambrecht Ward is a visual artist and mycophile and has been studying and photographing fungi for many years. This fascination with mushrooms stems from a investigation into System Theory and her on-going exploration into perception and our engagements with our environments.

Vanya hold BA’s in Fine Art and Architecture and an MA in Contemporary Art and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Alongside her studio and socially engaged practice she lectures in Theatre Design at IT Sligo and works as a Creative Associate with the Arts Council.

To see some of Vanya’s Mushroom photographs please visit:

SARAH ELLEN LUNDY ‘Koki [a tribute to the trees]’ Short Film

Experimental short made whilst on residency at Luznava Manor in Latvia-where trees cover over half of the country-whilst on a travel award under the EUCIDA [European Connections In Digital Art] programme coordinated by Rua Red South Dublin Arts Centre 2018-2019. Dense lo-fi audio visual discordance.
Sarah Ellen Lundy is a visual and sound artist from County Sligo currently based in Leitrim.

Cathy Fitzgerald Arboreal Arts Reading Group

For the Arboreal Arts Reading Group, we invited an artist to choose a text for us to read as a starting point for discussing their work. Join Eimear and Natalia in conversation with the ecosocial art practitioner Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD.

We are delighted to welcome Cathy Fitzgerald who has chosen this brilliant extract from Wendell Berry’s essay ‘Conserving Forest Communities’ from his book Another Turn of the Crank: Essays (1995). The full text can be accessed here.   

Cathy Fitzgerald explains her practice: The Hollywood Forest Story is an ongoing ‘ecosocial art practice.’ It explores a new story for Irish forestry in transforming the short-rotation conifer plantation she lives with, in south Carlow –’the little wood that could’– to a species-rich, permanent, productive and beautiful forest. Begun in 2008, and featured in The Irish Times (7 March 2020), and  (Dec, 2020). The Hollywood Forest Story explores new-to-Ireland ecological forestry practices, transversal dialogue, visual art activities, and activism.

Her doctoral creative practice-led work, The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests, 2018 (with an illustrated AV ebook version that can be downloaded on Apple Books), shares insights on how to live well with forests. It also explains long term ecological art as important social practices to re-enchant and restore our relations to the living world in these urgent times.

MOHAMMAD SYFKHAN ”Nasam Alina Al Hawa’ Musical Vignette

Mohammad Syfkhan is a singer and bouzouki player. He blends songs and music from various traditions to provide his own unique take on Syrian folk music. He can sometimes be seen playing music to the trees around his home in Carrick on Shannon. He is currently working on his first solo studio album.

CATHY JORDON & ELEANOR SHANLEY Dock Commissions Musical Vignette


We were delighted to have had the opportunity to speak remotely with Diana Beresford-Kroeger. Diana is a scientist and author who possesses a unique combination of western scientific training and traditional and indigenous ways with which she works to bring a better understanding and appreciation of the scientific complexities of nature to the general public. Her concept of bioplanning challenges ordinary people to develop a new relationship with nature, to view the environment as a biological system and to perform the ecological task of replanting the global forest.

A feature documentary about her work, Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, is available to watch for free during the festival over with our friends at Still Voices Film Festival.


Film Screening
Available to watch throughout the festival

Watch the feature-length documentary and join the movement, inspired by environmental visionary Diana Beresford-Kroeger, to save our global forest.


The ‘Whose Woods These Are’ Festival grew from an arboreal music & research project by Natalia Beylis & Eimear Reidy. The aim of the project is to bring audiences into woodland settings to listen to music amongst the trees in the hope that this will encourage people to relish time spent in nature and look after the woodlands.

This summer we created a virtual Sonic Woodland Journey for Cairde Festival.  Join us here

The title of the project ‘Whose Woods These Are’ is taken from Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods.’ The poem entered public domain on midnight 1 Jan 2020 and now it is owned by no one/owned by us all collectively.

‘The woods are lovely dark and deep.’ – Who owns the trees? Who owns the woods? Is it the birds who build homes within the branches? Or the worms who create the nutrients among their roots? Or all creatures whose very lives rely on their oxygen? Imagine a public domain of trees where no one owned them & together we were their guardians. 



The festival is organised with the ‘Whose Woods These Are’ project and the Dock Arts Centre and is supported by a Music Project Award from the Arts Council of Ireland.  

Please feel free to share this amazing event widely 🙂 And do let me know what you think of this event too!

3 thoughts on “Whose Woods These Are: Wendell Berry’s A Good Forest economy–with Cathy Fitzgerald

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