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5 1 ° 2 4 ‘ 4 9 . 8 ” N 5 ° 3 9 ‘ 1 9 . 9 ” E
The Plot is a plot of land of about 1 hectare or 2.5 acre. Until the first half of the 20th century, on maps it was referred to as ‘woeste gronden’, or ‘rough grounds’. These were used by people from the nearby village to farm crops or use as a pasture for cattle.
When my grandfather acquired it in the early 1960s, it was filled with young trees. These were mostly Norway spruces, meant as future firewood. Norway spruce is not an endemic tree in these areas, but they did very well nonetheless.
Fireplaces were replaced with central heating, and the spruces never got cut down. The Plot became a little forest, albeit a dark and empty one. The tree tops blocked the sunlight, the tree trunks became straight, barren columns.
When my grandparents died, only two of their eight children were interested in The Plot. It was divided between my uncle and my mother. Sometimes a tree would fall down and destroy the fence of the adjoining pasture. My mother once used the top of a spruce for a Christmas tree. It was bigger than anticipated, and lost its needles quite quickly.
In 2011, after an exhibition, I was left with a big wooden gate from the installation. It was built from scrap wood donated by Geert Verbeke of the Verbeke Foundation. Having no place to stock the gate, I decided to place it in The Plot, between two trees. My mother, an aunt and an uncle helped putting the gate up.
Not much later, someone incredulously asked my mother: “Did you know there’s a gate in your forest?” In less than two months, the gate was stolen.
Letterzetter is the Dutch name for the European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus). It means compositor.
In this part of Europe, the summers of 2018 and 2019 were extremely dry. Many trees were weakened by the drought. Ips typographus took advantage of that, and developed into a plague. Its larvae eat through the bark of spruce trees, leaving behind a pattern resembling an alien alphabet.
The Google Maps image at the top of this text shows The Plot in the spring or summer of 2019. It’s neatly recognizable by its dead trees. Since there’s no cure for the beetle’s devastation, the only possibility was to clear The Plot.