• Tag Archives trees
  • Acts of Omission

    Fall                                                                      Waning Autumn Moon

    Went out in a cool fall afternoon, cut open bags of composted manure, spread them with a cultivator, working it into the soil.  Poured leaves from our trees over the top.  An investment in next year’s garden, the last act of the gardening year.

    The ash tree in the garden has no leaves.  I wonder about its future with the ash borer; it may die, leaving a large part of our garden open to the sun again.  In that sense its death would be a good thing, but it’s one of several trees I decided to let grow, early when we moved here.

    I cut down a whole grove of black locust, a fine wood for posts and other uses, but bearers of large thorns.  In that grove was a young ash, a young elm and three young oaks.  Instead of removing them, I left them and now 17 years later they are all young adults, grown tall and filled with leaves.  All over the property I have practiced this let it alone arborism and there are now mature trees in several spots.

    They’ve grown up here as we have grown older here.  I feel a special bond with them and this ash in particular because it’s in the center of our garden.

    Over the years I’ve wondered how often our acts of omission, not cutting down these young trees for example, influence the future in positive ways.  What about those acts I chose not to commit?  The grudges I let go.  The times when we leave well enough alone not out of avoidance, but out of love.  It’s hard to tell in human lives, but in the instance of trees, it’s very clear.

  • Angels in the Dark

    70  bar falls 29.98  0mph S dew-point 58  sunrise 6:57  set 7:17

    Waning Gibbous Harvest Moon rise  8:32  set 11:01

    On Thursday nights I watch Supernatural on the CW.  My lifelong fascination with gothic tales, especially ones involving demons makes this irresistible to me, even more so than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I also enjoy.  I mention it here because it took a very interesting twist tonight.  An angel appeared.  This is not at all like touched by an angel, this is more like grabbed by an angel.  Anyhow, the entry into the program of the divine element in the supernatural separates Supernatural from everything that’s gone before on TV.  At least as far I can recall.  Should be interesting.

    When I went out on the deck tonight, the smell of the dead trees was everywhere.  It’s not an unpleasant smell.  Sort of a green tobacco drying odor.  When it hit my nose though, I rethought my earlier comments.  About not missing the trees.   It feels important to me to do a ritual on Saturday, before we chip them.  They lived with us and we with them for 14 years.  They never asked anything of us and in return offered shade, their presence.  Their passing should not go unnoticed.

  • The Lumberjack at Home

    73  bar steady  30.18  1mph N  dew-point 47  sunrise 6:54  set 7:19  Lughnasa

    Waning Gibbous Harvest Moon  rise 8:02  set 9:41


    Got this one down without hitting the house, the fence or the glass table on the deck.  My merit badge is secure.

    This work prepares the area for the orchard and fruit bushes.  Lindsay and Paula came today.  Lindsay’s plan fit our needs to a tee and moves us forward.  I’ll give you a detailed version of it later, but it includes cherries, apples, pears, plums, currants, gooseberries, serviceberries and other fruiting shrubs.  The orchard and the fruiting shrubs will extend from the kitchen bay window all the way to the edge of the woods.

    Remember this one from Monty Python?

    Oh, I’m a lumberjack, and I’m okay, I sleep all night and I work all day.

    CHORUS: He’s a lumberjack, and he’s okay, He sleeps all night and he works all day.

    I cut down trees, I eat my lunch, I go to the lava-try.

    On Wednesdays I go shoppin’ And have buttered scones for tea.

    Mounties: He cuts down trees, he eats his lunch, He goes to the lava-try. On Wednesdays ‘e goes shoppin’ And has buttered scones for tea.

  • Vineland Place

    74  bar steady  29.89  4mph NNE dew-point 64   Summer, warmish and stickyish

    Full Thunder Moon

    Ah, the power of suggestion.  Especially from a spouse.  Spent an hour and a half clearing burdock, nettles, black locust, burrs, climbing wild cucumbers and virginia creeper from the site of the soon to be firepit cum family gathering spot.  An area in which everything has been removed invites the emergence of those plants whose seeds or rhizomes remain in the soil.

    Over the last few rainy, hot weeks nettles have taken nourishment from the former compost heap to grow large, reaching for the sun and laden with formic acid to prevent uprooting.   The wild cucumber which climbs, then produces lacy transparent fruit liked the compost as did the virginia creeper.

    While yanking on the long above ground runs of vine and pulling out their equally long runs of below the soil surface roots/rhizomes, I decided to change the name of our property from 7 Oaks, named for the 7 Oaks on the hill outside my writing room window, to Vineland Place.  I have no idea why, but our property is the ideal happy home for vines:  wild cucumbers, Virginia creeper and wild grape.  The wild grape in particular grows vines thicker than my upper arm (OK, so I’m not Ahnold, but still).  We have nurtured a wild  grape that has chosen the six foot fence we had put in the front after Celt began climbing the fence to go greet the neighbors on walks by our house.  At 200 pounds Celt, an Irish Wolfhound, was not a pleasant surprise, though in manner gentle and loving.

    As the CO2 level rises with global warming, it favors vines.  I do not recall why.  I could not help but recall this piece of trivia as I drove through Alabama, Mississippi and Lousiana where kudzu has a presence akin to an alien invader.  It grows over lower shrubs and covers the entire highway easement up to the drainage ditches on divided highways.  In more than one case I saw old homes, uninhabited (I think), shrouded under the green of this conqueror vine.

    Jon did many projects around Vineland Place when he lived here.  One of the early ones was to cut back the large grape vines that had begun to strangle the oak, ironwood, ash, elm, pin cherry and poplar that make up our woods.

  • Their Lawlessness Got out of Hand

    57  bar steep fall 29.94  7mph  ENE dew-point 52  Beltane, cloudy and cool

                           Last Quarter of the Hare Moon

    Can this possibly mean what it says?  “While cities are hot spots for global warming, study finds people in them emit fewer gases.”  Washington Post, 5/29/2008   In this same vein I watched part of a National Geographic Program on an outlaw biker gang, the Mongols.  The narrator made this surprising statement, “Their lawlessness got out of hand.”  Hmmm.

    When I travel by car, I spend more time picking reading material, movies and audiobooks than I do clothing.  This will not surprise some of you who know my fashion sense, late sixties college student unregenerate, yet it always surprises me. 

    Each trip has a theme.  Don’t know when that started, but it helps me make decisions on the road and to deepen the experience.  This trip to Denver, in addition to the obvious theme of tribal initiation (the bris), nature writing and trees will occupy my time.  Not hard to figure out where this came from.

    My first nights stay is at the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  I’m taking along a book I bought awhile back called Arboretum America.  It tells the story of trees in the history of the US.  Also a book of nature writing.

  • I Think That I Shall Never See

    71  bar steady  30.00  1mph SSW dewoint 35  Beltane

                Waxing Gibbous Hare Moon

    A morning at the Rum River Tree Farm.  Kate and I went wandering among the trees up for adoption.  We looked at fruit trees for our orchard apple, plum, pear and cherry.  We also looked at some willows, Niobe for example, with a wonderful yellow gold bark.  Great accent trees.  The larch look great, too.  Both of these require a wet environment, so we might have to change our irrigation system around a bit.

    River Birch clumps go for around $260.  I figure 3 or four would transform the lower part of our front yard into a shady grove.  One or two other trees, running up the slope, would follow the elevation.  Kate wants lanes of grass among the trees.  I want more trees, so I imagine we can come to a compromise.

    We also will buy some tree lilacs, trees for our grandkids, planted in their honor.  All of this comes from the permaculture thinking.  I’ve added some to that page if you follow that part at all.

    Now it’s 72 degrees outside.  This means it might be a good day for morels.  It also means some of those seeds we sowed will begun to germinate, some more of them, I should say.

    Spent an hour last night editing Superior Wolf.  It’s a keeper, needs expansion, filling out and elimination of one whole story line, but it’s a good one.  So’s Jennie’s Dead. 

  • A Burning Tree

     65  bar falls 29.94 0mph S dewpoint 30 Beltane

                  New Moon (Hare Moon) 

    The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings. (Buddhist  Sutra)

    Though this comes from a Buddhist sutra (thread) it resonates with Taoist thought.  These two ancient traditions crossed paths over and over again in China.  At least one of those occasions created Chan Buddhism, which, in Japan became Zen Buddhism.  

    The Buddhist element I see here is the notion of unlimited kindness and benevolence, an attribution to the forest that I do not believe my brother Taoists would make.  They would agree that the forest is a peculiar organism (among many) and would further concur that it makes no demands for sustenance (on humans) and does extend its product of life and activity (generously–well, maybe to a Buddha, but probably not to a tree) and would also acknowledge its protection to all beings (except those plants killed by competitive toxins and the small prey animals killed by predators).   

    Taoism is a fascinating (to me) blend of reason and organismic thinking which produces a vibrant metaphysic understandable at the tinest particle of matter and at stages of complex organization from thence upwards to the Heavens themselves, the 10,000 things.

    Mostly clean up outside today.  Getting ready for the more ambitious projects that will soon occupy my time.

    From the deck last evening I looked at our Magnolia.  It stood against the seven oaks like the flame atop a Thai Buddha.  Its white glinted, mirrored back by white daffodils.  This evening, for this moment, the Magnolia had a nimbus, a sacred aura, as if it had transcended its treeness and become another living entity all together a vegetative, blooming fire.  A burning tree.

  • The Wollemi Pine–Live From the Carboniferous

    33  bar steep rise 30.06 5mph N dewpoint 22 Spring

                    Waning Gibbous Moon of Growing

    The workshop I attended today had two co-sponsors, The Institute for Advanced Studies (UofM) and the Arboretum(UofM).  This was the culminating workshop in a two-year long effort by the Institute for Advanced Studies to explore time from many perspectives.  Today we examined time in three different, but related, botanical areas:  phenology, paleobotany and time from the perspective of trees. 

    The phenological, by definition, is the chronological study of events in nature.  This strikes me as an odd definition since it seems to impose a human mental construct, linear sequencing, on what is cyclical.  The notion is a good one, though, since it involves paying close attention to changes in the natural world, day by day, and making a record of them.  Phenologists know when the ice goes out lakes, the first robin returns, the dates that various spring ephemerals like the bloodroot, snow trillium and scylla bloom. 

    Over several years I’ve tried my hand at phenology.  It is something an amateur can do.  So far, I’ve not had the discipline to continue my observations day after day, year after year.  Perhaps as I get older and slow down a bit this will come to me.  I hope so.  The woman who was our teacher for phenology was a lively Cantonese woman named Shirley Mah Kooyman.  A Smith graduate in Botany she has a direct and engaging teaching style.  Shirley took us outside and showed us the spring ephemeral garden they have planted.  It gave me ideas.  Our field was cut short by blowing winds, snow and cold.  On April 26th.

    Over  the long lunch break I wandered the bookstore and picked up books related to aspects of permaculture I want to pursue in more depth:  pond building, fruit and nut trees and landscape design.

    In the afternoon Tim started us out with segments of trees so we could tree rings.  This lead into a discussion of the time and stories that a tree knows, sometimes revealed in its growth rings.  He showed an amazing graphic created by an arborist who actually dug up tree roots and followed them, painting them white as he went so he could measure accurately.  He discovered that almost all trees have relatively shallow, but very broad root systems.  I learned, as did Tim, that tree roots stop at the dripline and that what’s below the tree roughly parallels what’s above in size.  Nope.  We measure a double centurion outside the learning center.  You measure at breast height, compute the diameter with everybody’s favorite mathematical constant; in this case it was 52 inches, then multiplied by a factor for white oaks, 5.  This gives a rough estimate of 260 years for the trees age.  Cutting back a bit for optimal growing conditions, experts feel this oak is 225 years old.  That means it was an acorn in 1780!  Whoa.

    The last session focused on the evolution of plants.  In some ways this was weakest session, yet in another it astonished me.  Randy Gage, the guy in charge of school groups for the arboretum, took a trip to Australia to investigate the Wollime Pine.  Here are some fast facts from the Wollemi Pine website:

    Fast Facts

    Claim to fame One of the world’s oldest and rarest trees

    This is a tree that, prior to its discovery in 1994 was known only in the fossil record.  It was a coelacanth or stromatolite like find.  Remarkable.  But I missed it.  Maybe you didn’t.

    The time related stuff here was somewhat cliched with the 24 hour clock and an arm span as metaphors.  The Wollemi Pine story is the stuff of science fiction.

    Taking this symposium at the same time I learned about a book, Reinventing the Sacred, which attempts to reinvent spirituality from within a scientific perspective, but one that discards scientistic thinking (reductionism, empiricism) has really set the wheels turning.  So many things clicking.  We’ll see where it all goes.

  • Natural Rhythms and Time

    53  bar falls 30.03 omph W dewpoint 32 Spring

                Waning Crescent Moon of Winds

    Over to IHOP for some of that down home country fried food.  Always a treat.  Kate and I did our business meeting, deposited several thousand dollars in Wells Fargo and came back home.  Lois was here.  She commented on the amaryllis which have bloomed yet again for me.  I do nothing special to them except take them outside in the summer, then back inside in the winter.  At some point they decided its ready to bloom, so I put them in a window and water and feed them.

    I have no tours tomorrow and so have a good stretch with no art tour work.  I like that. 

    Went outside and looked at the trees.  Looks like at least five, two Norway Pines and two River Birch got trimmed back to the hose I used to protect them from sun scald.  Those rascally rabbits I presume.  In the other area, though, two white pines thrived during the winter, as did a Norway Pine, an oak and, I believe, a River Birch.  Feels good to see them growing.

    The garlic has begun to push through the soil, a bit pale under the mulch, but I removed it and they will green up fast.  Garlic are hardy plants that like a cold winter and they had one this year.  They come to maturity in June/July.  Drying, then using our own garlic will be a treat.

    Wandering around outside gets the horticulture sap rising.   I’m itchy to do stuff.

    Signed up for a Natural Rhythms and Time course at the Arboretum.  It’s a symposium put on by the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, a real find.  If you live in the Twin Cities, I recommend getting on its mailing list.