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Wood cutting and the moon

 
Robert Alcock
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Location: Cantabria, N Spain
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Hi all

This is my first post to the permies forum -- been lurking for quite a while though.

I'm an ecological designer and self-builder living in Northern Spain.

I have a scientific background, but where I live there are a lot of traditional beliefs connected with planting, harvesting, etc. by the moon. It's something that interests me because, really, we're talking about questions that are scientifically verifiable -- either the moon affects plants, or it doesn't, and you should be able to find out one way or the other, but conventional science has never attempted to do so in a serious way.

Now the question of planting is one where there are so many factors (temperature, humidity, wind, day length, soil type, disease, etc.) that it's tremendously difficult to establish whether a single factor like the phase of the moon is responsible for the effects observed.

On the other hand, one of the most widespread beliefs relating to the moon is that you should cut wood on the waning, not the waxing moon. Adherents claim that the wood is more supple, more rot resistant, and generally better when cut on the waning moon. And this strikes me as the sort of belief that would be very easy to test empirically. I would even be up for doing it myself if nobody else had -- it would be relatively easy to go out and cut 50 hazel rods on the waxing moon and 50 on the waning, season them in identical conditions, then do some tests or get someone else to.

Is anyone familiar with traditional beliefs around cutting wood and the phases of the moon? Does anyone know of studies that test the effects of the moon phase on the properties of wood?

Thanks

Robert
 
Steve Hoskins
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Location: NW lower Michigan
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Wow. Watching with interest.
I'd also be willing to try a crude comparison next season if someone doesn't provide answers.
 
Robert Alcock
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Location: Cantabria, N Spain
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Maybe I should have posted this in the Woodland forum? Please move if it seems more appropriate there.
 
Burra Maluca
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I've added it to that forum so it will show up in both now.
 
A Tabor
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As far as moon phase impact on wood working you could try looking into data generated in modern saw mills. Given that most forestry operations aren't harvesting at a specific moon phase, but generally process in a first in- first out fashion, then you would expect to see an impact on figures in a consistent cyclic pattern over time.

If there isn't consistently a difference in tooling issues (Some really modern mills even record torque/pressure levels and such in their equipment) that cycles roughly in line with the moon phases then I think you would be hard pressed to uphold such a claim.
 
Stewart Lundy
Posts: 69
Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia, USA, Zone 7b, KeB Bojac Sandy Loam
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Maria Thun talks about this in her Biodynamic Calendar. Specific trees appear to do best as timber at specific times, depending on what planet they are "governed" by. She has a lot more to say about this in "Results from the Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar" which is not easy to find.
 
Jeff LaPorte
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Location: Southern Ohio, Zone 6a
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I do all of my gardening by the moon phases. I dont have an answer to your question but I am sure it makes a difference based on my experience with other plants. I use LLEWELLEN's book as my guide.
 
Elena Paulon
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Hello, I'm Elena, form N-Italy.
I'm a student of Forest and Environmental Sciences and I'm interested in this topic as I would like to write my degree thesis about it.
Do you have any suggestions for a study about this topic? it's very wide...do you know if there is anything in literature about wood and moon? can you suggest my any interesting book or scientist?
I know that it is difficult because conventional science has never studied it yet but...if anyone can help me I'll be very grateful

PS. Robert are you interested it for house building? In which way do you think the moon can affect the wood?
I heard about the heating power of wood affected by the moon I mean when wood is used for heating and lumberjacks cut the trees according to the moon phases at least in some mountain regions here in N Italy

THANK YOU!
 
Jeff LaPorte
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Location: Southern Ohio, Zone 6a
 
Robert Alcock
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Location: Cantabria, N Spain
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Thanks all for your input. The link Jeff sent states the following:

"Like the tides of the ocean, the moon also influences the rise & fall of the sap in the wood."

Well, this is the explanation you normally hear, but to be honest it doesn't pass muster -- the tides only happen because the moon & sun have a really enormous body of water to work on, like an ocean; even in the Mediterranean Sea the tides are very small, only a few centimetres. In a tree they are bound to be negligible.

That's not to say that there might not be effects of the moon on wood for other reasons.

A Tabor, that sounds like an interesting avenue for investigation but you would probably need access to data that might be commercially sensitive.

Elena, my interest in this question is mainly cultural -- I am interested the sort of traditional land-use practices that are common where I live, and this is one that seems particularly easy to investigate. Personally I keep an open mind, but I know that traditional beliefs ascribe all sorts of beneficial effects on strength and durability when wood is cut at the right phase of the moon.

I did a PhD in marine ecology (maybe that's where my interest in the moon and tides comes from!) but I would be willing to correspond with you on the topic of your thesis if you like.

 
John Polk
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This entire subject - planting/harvesting by the moon has always fascinated me.
I have read many of the pros and cons on the subject, and have to say that I am not firmly a believer, nor critic of the idea. It has been a subject for farmers for thousands of years, and I believe that this is one of the reasons that science has largely ignored the issue. They consider it to be mythology, or 'old housewives tales'. To study it, they feel that they would need to break away from their modus operandi, and become purveyors of the super natural, possibly dismissing myths that have been believed 'forever'.

I will try to follow the basics of the systems, but cannot be enslaved by them. In areas with short growing seasons, problems arise: it is too early to plant now, but if I wait 3 weeks, it may be too late. I need to get my plants in the ground in a very short window of opportunity. Same goes for felling trees.

If the argument holds true, harvesting for lumber might be the exact opposite as harvesting for hugelkultur purposes, where you may be looking for a faster decomposition.

 
Alex Trapp
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Location: Líbano, Tolima, Colombia - 1840msnm
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I have experienced this a lot in the tropics, since there are no real 'seasons' I can plant corn literally on any day of the year. But that corn performs differently depending on the moon (also rain).

A good unrefutable example is the Guadua angustifolia. These giant bamboos actually fill with water when they are photosynthesizing, similar to trees' branches. Here, during a full moon, the Guadua can photosynthesize all night, and as such has a lot of water inside. The best time to cut is in the waning new moon, around 4 in the morning, when there is no water inside the wood. This then has the best conditions to dry well, although there are other steps for proper guadua preparation.
 
Daniel Kern
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according to sepp holzer during the waning moon the plants are sleeping, and during the waxing moon they are growing. Therefore according to his experiences he recommends to take cuttings in the waning moon in the winter. Then if you are planning on planting your cuttings you should plant them in the waxing moon in the spring.
 
Ethriel Riverstone
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Location: North Carolina 7b, 8a
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I don't really have answers for you but the Cherokee.....at least older generations did many things by moon phases. During certain months they would hunt and gather firewood by moonlight. As I was explained, it has to do with tradition, lore, stories, the growth of animal or wood at these particular times. As far as growth, it also depends what the final use for the item is. Many things were done for ceremony so had to be done at certain times, etc... From scientific standpoints, it may have something to do with the trees biological make up, meaning the growth of roots, veins, rings, moisture etc... reach a certain point. I do not know and native traditions do not always explain why, just that it is so. That is usually good enough for us. For the few it is not good enough for, when they try it..... it often does not work as well because something is missing which is why the majority listen when an elder in the know tells us how to do something properly. Just my two cents from a native perspective.
 
Cee Ray
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I believe there is some info in one of the Victor Schauberger books about this.
 
Daniel Kern
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This is somewhat related. From the journal of experimental botany. Aspects of Seasonality.

m.jxb.oxfordjournals.org/content/51/352/1769.short
 
Robert Alcock
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Location: Cantabria, N Spain
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Thanks for the continued discussion, folks. Ethriel, I take your point about not questioning the wisdom of the elders too much and not trying to be too clever. Trouble is, that just isn't in my cultural makeup, having been trained as a scientist, I am always thinking and asking questions.

For instance, one of the "elders" around here -- an old man who lived in this village and worked the land for decades -- told me that you have to cut wood and also plant trees during the _waxing_ moon. (I checked this with my diary of the time and it was definitely waxing.) Other people say cut during the _waning_ moon. There seems to be no real consensus!

I don't know, but if I had only planted trees during the waning/waxing moon that winter, I would have planted half as many trees as I did. The trees were dormant anyway, how could they possibly care which day you moved them from sitting dormant in a sack to sitting dormant in the soil?

To be honest I am leaning towards skepticism on this one...
 
Ethriel Riverstone
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Location: North Carolina 7b, 8a
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Yes, there is that too. Some elders do things just because it was how they were taught and there is no better way for them. I agree, it is a hit and miss when following their advice. The only real test is whether it provides results for you. I did some looking and from what I found on crop perspective was:

Leafy vegetables and flowers that produce yield above ground and don't rely on extensive root development do fine when planted during the waxing moon.

Crops that produce their yield below ground, root vegetables such as beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions and turnips do better planted during the waning moon. This position of the moon encourages development of root growth and tree bark instead of forcing the plant to proliferate above ground before it has a strong grounding. Saplings with firmly established roots are less in danger of damage and deterioration due to loss of branches or top growth during the winter.

Full moon planting creates more moisture in the soil so in droughts it advises to plant closer to this time. The waxing moon is the time to encourage rapid new growth. If you want to retard or control growth, or encourage hardy rooting, perform the necessary activities during the waning moon.

Whether that gives more crop or not and does better I have no idea but it seems to be a strong conclusion by many supposed research. I don't have an area to garden at the moment but I will try it in the future to see the results now that I am curious. lol

For bow making, some natives cut the wood during the new moon on a high hill. The way the water drains makes the grains in the wood tighter, which in turn makes casting time faster for shooting.

 
Peter Ingot
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Yes there has been scientific research on this, I've summarised what I could find here:

http://www.ianslunarpages.org/Lunar_gardening.html

Spruce tree trunks have been shown to fluctuate in diameter with phase of the moon. This experiment was repeated several times over the years, faced down sceptics and finally been published in Nature !

Ernst Zurcher, Maria-Giulia Cantiani, Francesco Sorbetti-Guerri & Denis Michel ( 1998 ) Tree stem diameters fluctuate with tide Nature 392 16th April p.665
 
Bryant RedHawk
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This is a subject of interest of mine. I am Nakota, and hold a masters in Biology, this is so all have a way of understanding my point of view on this subject.

In the old days, the people were very in-tune with the ebb and flow of the earth mother, they were wise enough to listen to everything she taught them.
This is how we lived, it is how we thrived.

This issue of the Waxing and Waning of brother moon and the effects it has on planting is both folk lore and fact.
When the moon is growing, it is logical to those in-tune with nature, to plant things you want to grow strong and healthy (old ways method).
Studies have found that when seed is planted on the Waning (growing) moon, the seed responds to the increasing extra light provided as it germinates in the soil. This occurs because if you plant at the beginning of the first quarter, by the time the seed sprouts, the moon is almost full or is full, this gives more light to the baby plant and so it grows better than a seed that first sees only darkness upon coming out of the dirt.

We hunt in the Waning moon, this is simple as well, there is better light at night with a moon that is growing. At the full moon, on a clear night, one can see very well once the eyes adjust, but so can the four legs, still it is a better time to hunt at night than when the sky is lit only by the stars.

Wisdom comes in many forms, only the ignorant shrug off what has been known for centuries and shown by the modern methods to be worth while.

I have tested many of my people's ways and found logic in most all of them. They may not be 100% viable through scientific investigation, but they do follow what is revealed.

Even the Old Farmer's Almanac still gives the old advice, many follow it, including most of the modern farmer's here in Arkansas. Since the modern farmer is mostly interested in yield, it only stands to reason that they would not follow "wives tales" methods. Most of the Farmer's I know are very scientific about their approach to their crops, some are also innovative for this area and it was these farmer's that popularized no-till in their communities. They were able to show the others that the method did produce bigger yields over the long haul and it keeps costs down to the point that the farmer can make a real profit.
 
Andras Hajdu
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Location: Cantabria, Spain
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A bit of info in here

http://web.archive.org/web/20081025064227/http://www.vanillaexchange.com/moon_effects.htm


A couple of years later, now in grad school, I told the stories of Don Juan and my father-in-law to a Colombian plant physiologist. He immediately said they were both correct. He went on to explain that the effects of the moon on plants are well documented in countries near the equator where the moon orbits closest to the earth. The effect is less pronounced at higher northern or southern latitudes farther away from the moon's orbit. The moon orbits the earth in an 18-year cycle on either side of the equator between 10 degrees of north and south latitude. The moon and sun's gravitational pull causes tides in the ocean and also in the earth's biosphere which is also almost entirely composed of water.
 
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