Bird number: 108
Date: October 9, 2012
Wood: Common Fig (Ficus carica)
Source: Back yard
There were two fig bushes here when we bought the house. One of them wasn’t very healthy and died a few years after we moved in. The other was impressively hardy and continued to spread until the drought of the last few years. We tried to keep up with watering it, but neither of us really liked the tree enough to make any special efforts. Like many of our other trees, it didn’t fare well in the drought. I chopped the dead stalks early in the summer and burned it in place along with the remains of several other trees we had lost.
Getting a decent sized piece of fig is somewhat difficult. I’ve cut some branches that approach four inches in diameter, but they have a very large pith. Fig limbs also contain a lot of water and tend to crack rather quickly after being cut. As a result, I can get fig that’s wide and long … and if I’m lucky about one and a half inches thick. The piece I carved this bird from was about 1.25 inches square and a little less than three inches long. It makes for a very small bird.
I’ve always enjoyed carving the fig. I’ve made several spoons from it in the past, as well as a couple of caricature animals. It carves easily with a knife, even when dry. The wood is very yellow, with brown highlights and a subtle grain. It takes a nice finish.
The common fig is native to the Middle East, but grows well in similar climates around the world. It’s surprisingly hardy here, and a fast grower. I took it to the ground with a chainsaw one winter, and the next summer it was 12 feet tall and bearing fruit. Quite good fruit, too, if you like figs. Neither of is real big on fig, which is another reason we weren’t terribly upset to see it go.
I am, however, a little sad to lose the fig as a source of carving wood. But there might still be hope. There are indications that it’s re-growing in one place. If so, I’ll try to keep it contained rather than letting it spread as it had in the past.