What do we do?
Walden Box is a newly formed cooperative, dedicated to the extraction and sale of boxwood of prime quality, in diameters up to 12 cm, through sustainable felling and pruning, which is respectful and permacultural, based on permanent forest cover (permanent cover forestry / PCF).
100% sustainable extraction
The extraction of Boxwood is based on careful and respectful exploitation, 100% ecological and sustainable, as we work principally with stands that are seriously affected by the Asian butterfly plague (Cydalima perspectalis), but as yet, the workability of the wood has not been affected. The plague has been seriously attacking most Boxwood forests in Catalonia from spring to autumn since 2015.
In addition, most of the extracted wood does not come from the felling of whole trees but from selective extraction of certain branches that emerge from the root, which strengthens the tree and the remaining branches, enabling them to regrow and regain strength to survive anew, favoring a more orderly recovery and continuity of the Boxwood stands.
We comercialize the extracted wood, which is used, primarily, in fine wood-working, initially in countries such as the United Kingdom, where there is unfulfilled demand, with prime specimens, up to 15 cm. diameter. Simultaneously, we elaborate our own products in the cabinetmaking workshops of Ecovila Amat.
Once felled, we carefully stack the 120 cm lengths of Boxwood to air-dry to approximately 18% moisture content, which slowly stabilizes the wood. We further dry the wood in solar kilns to 12% moisture content, making it suitable to enter the workshop. Solar-drying is a particularly gentle method of reducing the moisture content to a workable level, as it allows the wood to ‘rest’ during the night-time hours, avoiding internal stresses in the wood. We can supply Boxwood in ‘green’, air-dried or kiln-dried.
All remaining non-comercial material, resulting from felling, is shredded as biomass, producing pellet and wood-chips for burning.
Our wood management programme is based on permanent cover forestry (PCF), which promotes selective felling of prime tree specimen, rather than clear-felling, always respecting forest cover.
This considered choice of felling encourages a more orderly and sustainable development of the Boxwood stands than that which exists today in many of Catalonia’s unmanaged forests.
In the past, these forests had generated self-sufficiency and energy and food sovereignty, but their decline has led to relocation of work and resources, in search of an illusory and fragile enrichment, which has been made obvious by the many crises of the XXI century. Once more, using boxwood, we are returning to locally made produce, turning away from plastics and other synthetic materials, involving labour exploitation thousands of miles away.
The result is respectful, sustainable and permacultural agroforestry, taking advantage of the potential damage of the butterfly infestation, opening forests to sanitize them. This strengthens the rootstock, and provides more life and light for other boxwoods, allowing them to flourish. Simultaneously, this helps to recover and remake ancient paths and terraces, and to introduce other fruit trees into open spaces in order to create a diverse system of agroforestry.
Sustainability of exploitation is not only a norm, self-imposed by the ecological ideals of the project, but it also ensures economic viability into the future. Sustaining this agroforestry use for generations to come, we capitalize on the ecological and cooperative project of Amat Ecovillage, helping current and future inhabitants to live and work in the area. Avoiding the temptation of immediate maximization of income, we not only ensure the longevity of the project, but also we care for our environment.
History of the uses of Boxwood in Catalonia
Catalonia is one of the world’s biological cradles of Boxwood, where it has been exploited for centuries to create utensils such as spoons and buttons. It must be said that there has been, at times, an over-exploitation of the boxwood stands by these popular artesanal industries. This has meant that much of La Garrotxa has been planted or replanted for excessive exploitation by these industries.
With the arrival of plastic, other lower quality woods and globalization, these industries were forced into decline. Many forests, especially in La Garrotxa, have seen a natural repopulation of Boxwood, in many cases excessive and chaotic, which has led to many ancient pathways becoming impassable and disappearing.
The plague of the Boxwood Butterfly
Since the arrival of the Asian butterfly (Cydalima perspectalis) in Catalonia, Boxwood sees its continuity endangered, and we have seen how forests that were green and full of life but yet impassable, have today become inhospitable landscapes with half-dead trees, completely affected by this pest, leaving them leafless and with remnants of caterpillar cobwebs.
The closed nature of the dense boxwood landscapes has favoured and facilitated the extension of the plague, and even before its’ arrival, many forestry experts were already advising that it should be thinned in order to open, diversify and rehabilitate the forests.
The butterfly, despite having endangered the species, opens the opportunity to remove the most affected specimen, before they have been damaged, making them unsuitable for fine wood-working.
In this way, we ensure the healthy regeneration of the forest.
For further information, quotations and shipments, please contact here.
Who are we
Walden Box Coop – Ecovila Amat
Walden Box Cooperative is linked to Ecovila Amat, a sustainable rural settlement project in La Garrotxa, Catalonia. The Cooperative is currently focused on generating a cooperative and sustainable source of income within the project, to facilitate the incorporation of new members and give it its’ community dimension.
The Boxwood stands are located on a 70 hectare hill farm, replete with natural beauty and biodiversity. The history of the site can be traced back to 1190, when it was first mentioned in public deeds. Reconstruction of the 16 th century ruins has already begun, following the restrictive planning laws in the Catalan countryside, building on the foundations of the pre-existing buildings.
Profits from Walden Box will be used, once salaries and investments are recovered, to continue the reconstruction of the estate in bioconstruction and respectful of the heritage of the site, where remains of pre-historic Iberian settlements can be found.
The Boxwood project is part of a series of sustainable economic activities, such as ecological camping, accommodation, a housing cooperative, a vegetarian restaurant, seminar spaces and the development of walking and bicycle trails in the mountains.
Walden Box is initially formed by a small working team, but will expand to a formal cooperative as new members are incorporated. Buying Boxwood at Walden Box, in addition to acquiring premium quality wood, also assures the continuity of the project, providing a source of the densest wood for fine wood-working in Southern Europe, of use in all of the following:
traditional artefacts such as spoons and buttons
cabinet-making and inlays.
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