by Glen Swartwout
“I’m off to the Lava Tree…” said one hobbit to his fellow.
“Mind you don’t fall in!” came a retort of caution….
You see, lava tree moulds are holes in the earth that can easily be ten feet deep and up to two or three feet wide, a mould formed around a tree by a lava flow, leaving a void where the tree once stood. At the bottom of the hole is typically a bit of a wider bell where the butt end of the tree broadened out into its root structure.
If you see a Lava Tree sign on a small building that looks like a hobbit’s hideaway, or maybe a tardis… It’s a pun (remember we are located in Puna): if it were a real lavatory, it would have hot and cold running water, not just hot (and actually the best place for that hot nitrogenous water is just beyond the drip line of the orchard trees, banana plants or best of all – coconut palms). Since a tree mould is like a glass bottle, a deep one is a perfect container for long-term humanure composting. When full, simply move the Lava Tree structure to the next deep gaping hole to fill, and plant a tree with a tap root. It will be one happy tree!
When there is a dead animal or animal parts to dispose of, a nice deep lava tree mould is a perfect place for them to return to the earth. The same holds for disposal of oily food wastes that are best kept out of the compost bin. Fish parts is another story, as burying them near the roots of a fruit tree can bear fruits that make for happy hobbits!
A very large tree mould can serve many other purposes. It can be a very nice root, cheese or wine cellar (and preferrably well stocked with all three!) beneath a humble earth hobbit or wood elf dwelling.
It can be sealed to make it water tight and thus become an underground cistern for water storage. (or if you choose to fill it with fermenting fruit, be sure not to tell your brethren about your cistern;~)
It can become a secret storage vault (shhh!!)
It might even be the start of a spiral staircase to be dug to an underground space by industrious dwarves.
Lava Tree Casting:
With standard Orc methods of excavation, one would never see the wonders of the underworld known to dwarves and earth hobbits… Digging through layers of basalt with hand tools, what I like to call geoarcheology, I have partially uncovered a lava tree casting under the core of our first structure. A lava tree casting occurs when a lava tree mold is later filled by a subsequent pahoehoe (hot) lava flow.