Tree Tuesday

Minnesota was logging country in the late 1800s, and as a result, most of the state’s old-growth trees were cut down. At present, only 2% of trees in Minnesota’s forests are considered old-growth, but there is an extraordinary place known as The Lost 40, where the elderly giants survive en masse. It’s an area of 144 acres of pure old-growth forest, and its survival until now is due to a mapping error.

In 1882, a surveying and mapping error made loggers believe that the entire section of the forest was underwater, so they passed through it. This area, which is actually located in the Chippewa National Forest, was therefore never logged, and the trees that were growing then continue to grow now.
The tradition of leaving the Lost 40 untouched has remained, and the forest section is still thriving as a result. There is nowhere else in the Midwest like the Lost 40, since most of the trees in other forests are much younger than this swath of centenarians growing in the Midwest.

 

 

Story via: Atlas Obscura, where you can find more photos and a small map.

Jack’s Walk

Jack in the yard today, ©voyager, all rights reserved

We had a few flurries of snow today, but it didn’t amount to much, and it won’t stick around. The ground isn’t frozen yet, and the temp doesn’t want to stay below zero this winter. We’ll get a few relatively cold days at -4°c, which is warmish for here in January, then it swings up to a few degrees above zero and stays there for a few days. I know I’ve been talking a lot about the unseasonable weather this week, but I have one more observation that I want to share. It’s about the grass. I think it’s been growing.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but I can see it with my own eyes. Yesterday when Jack and I were at the park, I noticed that the grass looked green. Not the dull brownish-green of winter, but rather the bright Kelly green of late summer or early autumn. It was shaggy, too, and looked ready for a cut, but maybe that’s the way the parks department left it in the fall. I wasn’t really paying attention, so who knows. I do remember how my own grass was left in the fall, though, and it was a lot shorter than it is now. Our grass cutting service came by on Halloween and did the last cut for the year, and it was left nicely short and snipped. Then November got cold and nasty and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the grass anymore.

Until today, when I checked it with a critical eye. It is definitely looking shaggier than it did in November. I can’t prove it. I didn’t think to take measurements at the time, and it wouldn’t make sense to take measurements now, but it looks like it could use a cut. Maybe there’s another piece of evidence, though – Jack. More specifically, Jack’s feet. My Bubba is allergic to grass, and he takes a mild steroid combined with an antihistamine in the summer. We usually stop giving it to him around the end of October, and he’s good until spring without it. It’s called a drug holiday, and it’s better for Jack’s overall health.  This winter, we’ve tried several times to discontinue the drug, but within a few days, Jack starts to gnaw and fuss with his feet again, and we have to restart the drug. I thought it might have something to do with road salt because he has less hair this winter, including around his foot pads, but it’s probably the grass. It’s growing.

Jack’s Walk

New Year’s Eve, 2018

The lake in our town was created with the installation of a dam in the early ’60s. It acts as a reservoir for flood management of the downstream Thames River, which runs through many small towns and eventually into the big city of London (Ontario.) Yesterday when I was out driving, I noticed that the river looked full and close to spilling its banks, which is odd because that’s what the dam is supposed to prevent, so this morning I threw a few dog towels in the car and took Jack up to the lake to have a look-see. Before I show you what we found, though, I want you to see what nearly normal looks like. That’s it up there in the first photo, which was taken at the canoe launch on the last day of December 2018, so about a year ago. In summer, the water level reaches all the way to the feet of the big trees in the photo, but in winter they keep it much lower. In fact, the water level is often so low that you can walk out nearly to the centre of the lake and not get your shoes wet. Here’s Mr. V and Jack doing just that.

©voyager, all rights reserved

Except for the open water instead of ice, that’s how the lake usually looks in the winter. You can walk on it. (It’s a local haha joke)

Well, today you cannot walk on it. Not even with Jesus’ magical shoes, could you walk on it.

©voyager, all rights reserved

©voyager, all rights reserve

It’s hard not to like a milder winter, but it comes at a pretty high cost.

See that sign up there on the left post? It’s a warning that the water has bacterial contamination and is unsafe for bathing. Which means that Jack couldn’t go swimming today, because our winters aren’t cold enough for long enough to kill germs anymore.

Jack and I have seen this sign before, but never in January, and it makes me think about a few things.

  1. 1) Climate change is happening so fast that I can see it from year to year.
  2. 2) Are we too late to fix it? and
  3. 3) Is humanity doomed?
  4. 4) Why isn’t there a dog depicted on the sign?

Jack’s Walk

An early spring flood. ©voyager, all rights reserved

My girlfriend, Janet, came by today and helped me to reorganize my closet, which turned out to be a much bigger job than I’d imagined. Jack loves his Aunt Janet, and he happily spent the afternoon lounging on the bed supervising, and asking for love and cookies. The love was lavishly showered upon him, but the cookies were harder to come by. Jack knows which pocket carries the cookies, and he shamelessly reaches out to take a sniff and give Janet his “I am a poor starving puppy. Won’t you please take pity and share the cookie in your pocket with me?” look. Janet was a Special Education teacher for many years, and she’s mostly immune to pleading, though, which confuses Jack a bit. He calls her ” Aunt hardass” sometimes, but in a sweet, I really, really love her kind of way. She really, really loves him, too, and always gives him one or two cookies so he shouldn’t complain.

Jack and I did also get out for a walk this morning and we were dismayed to see the creek has flooded its banks in the park and at the adjacent golf course. We’ve had a lot of rain recently, and flooding isn’t unusual here, but it is at this time of year. I’m used to seeing this in the early spring, not the dead of winter, but maybe this is the new normal. Thankfully, the ground isn’t frozen, or the flooding would be worse. Not so thankfully, a friend with apple trees noted that some of his trees had early buds, which could be disastrous for the many orchards in our area. I don’t like this new normal, nor does Jack. He prefers to wade in the ankle-deep creek when it’s still. This chest-deep swiftly flowing water is for young dogs and ducks in a hurry, not for Jacks and voyagers.

Tree Tuesday

Photo by Biosphoto/Almay from Atlas Obscura

Meet Big Lonely Doug, one of the last old-growth trees left in Canada.

Big Lonely Doug—named after its species, the Douglas fir—stands tall among a clearing, a solitary specimen surrounded by stumps and logging debris. It soars about 230 feet high and its trunk is as big as a living room. Local conservationists estimate it to be between 750 and 1,200 years old.
Despite the region’s booming logging industry (a staggering 99 percent of the old-growth Douglas firs in British Colombia have been cut down) a logger spared Big Lonely Doug from being felled in 2012. No one is quite sure why this particular mature tree was saved. It turns out it is the second-largest Douglas fir in Canada.
Big Lonely Doug still stands tall, now a sad but majestic symbol of the disappearing old-growth forests of British Colombia, and the ongoing fight to save them.

You can visit Big lonely Doug, but you’ll have to hike the last 1.5 km to the site. He lives near Port Renfrew, B.C., and perhaps he’d like a bit of company, as long as you’re polite and respectful of his age and his home. There are more photos at the link below.

 

Story via: Atlas Obscura

Jack’s Walk

Shovel Face ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s melting! Rapidly melting! It’s +6°c today (-6°c yesterday), and we’re saying bye, bye to all the snow again. That would be the snow that I’ve shovelled twice and will no doubt shovel a third time because it’s going to be warm and rainy for a couple of days with snow expected again by Sunday night and then more melting next week. Sheesh! Snow… Shovel… Melt… Mud. Snow, shovel, melt, mud. I’m trapped in the back aching, snow moving, muddy, messy, messed-up Canadian version of the Groundhog Day of Climate Change. Since it’s still January, it will, of course, get cold again after that and I can only hope it will stay that way.

There. I’ve said it. I want January to be cold. It’s supposed to be cold. The lakes should be covered in ice, the ground should be frozen solid, Jack should have more hair than this and I should be bitching about how fucking cold it is, not about this crap.*

 

*Sorry, Australia. I know this crap is so much better than what you’re dealing with, but Father Weather won’t let me share. Be safe.

 

The circle of life

Nature as we imagine for children is this sweet place with fluffy bunnies with chequered hankies, and when we grow up we still call it “Mother Nature” as if it were some nurturing, benevolent entity. Actual nature doesn’t care for that shit. It’s a cruel and violent place where 90% of baby bunnies don’t get to see a second summer. But in nature, death is never wasteful. One animals tragic death is another’s lucky find. So here’s an unlucky shrew and a been grass snake, and some very happy insects and ant.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Of paper cups and plastic straws

Paper cup with coffee, creamer and sugar on the side.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We all know that climate change is real, we all know that we need to fucking do something about it, yet nothing seems to happen. What is being endlessly discussed is always one small thing or the other small thing, like a ban on plastic straws, or how we should use reusable cups for our coffee. What is more is a tendency to declare one’s own behaviour to be benign while pointing the finger at others and it’s getting on my nerves.

You can easily find this one Twitter, where people proclaim that them getting a new phone every year and flying to X isn’t the problem, but people going on cruises is. Vegetarians point at people who eat meat as “the problem”. Folks in cities with a good infrastructure declare that “nobody needs a car”. There are lots of good discussions about how just making shit more expensive (like a proposed increase in taxes on meat, which will make factory farmed cheap meat slightly more expensive, but still enough to become a problem for poor people, while making ethically farmed meat a lot more expensive, thus discouraging people from buying it) is making fighting climate change poor people’s problem while those rich enough to go on three fucking cruises a year and flying to New York for a shopping trip will just shrug their shoulders.

In line with this is the argument that the problem isn’t people’s consumption and behaviour, but it’s just those evil companies, or to quote a tweet (not going to link to it, this isn’t about the person, but the argument), that:

100 companies produce 71% of CO2 emissions. The idea that climate change is an individual problem is a lie bought & sold by these companies to stop us from holding them responsible. If all academics stopped flying for a year, the planet would still be under their control.

Now, I don’t doubt that the number is true, and believe me, I have absolutely no sympathy for capitalist companies who will happily burn the planet for shareholder value, but how do you think they produce all that CO2? Hint: They don’t produce it by burning coal at the company barbecue. They produce it by making all those damn consumer goods that we buy every day. Yes, by producing your new phone. By producing your steak. By shipping your yoghurt container three times around the world because that’s cheaper than doing it all in one place. By producing the electricity you need to post that shit on Twitter. So a lot of the discussions well meaning people are having can be summed up by the German saying “wash me but don’t wet my fur”: I want to see results, but I am not willing to go through the process (obviously a saying from before the advent of dry shampoo). Of course, individuals are often caught up in this trap, without having good alternatives for more sustainable behaviour (if i wanted to take public transport to work, I’d have to leave home at 1 am or so before the train connection ceases for the night, because the earliest train in the morning wouldn’t be early enough to catch the buses I’d then need to take…), and an individual changing their behaviour will not make climate change stop (I dramatically reduced our meat consumption, the planet is still getting hotter), yet in the long run everybody will need to change.

To come back to the title: Of course 3 billion fucking single use cups a year in Germany are bad and unsustainable. But we won’t solve climate change by just all bringing our reusable cups. But we also won’t stop it while using three fucking billion cups a year. The solutions will have to be manyfold and they will have to change the way we live, before climate change changes the way we live without us getting a say.

Mni Wiconi- Water is Life: In Memory of Caine

A year ago today our community was devastated by the death of our beloved Caine. The team here at Affinity struggled with how to honor Caine on this day and we finally decided to carry forward her message to love and honor the planet. Caine stood with the tribe at Standing Rock in their struggle against the DAPL and today we’re passing on a few stories about the continuing struggle of Indigenous communities to protect the land and water. We are in no way qualified to speak about Indigenous culture or history, but we do so today with great respect.

First, a few reminders of the meaning of Mni Wiconi – Water is Life.

Mni Wiconi – The Stand at Standing Rock

Mni Wiconi – Water is Life

Hear the message of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Honor tribal sovereignty and the Earth we inhabit by telling President Obama to deny the easement by calling 202-456-1111. We need every person to call Obama this week before Dec. 5th. Please share. For more information visit standwithstandingrock.net#NoDAPL#StandwithStandingRock#standingrock#bankexit

Posted by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Also:

In an article on Indian Country Today, Woonspe—Education Gives Meaning to Mni Wiconi—Water Is Life they tell of the origin story behind the meaning of Mni Wiconi.

An origin story of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, which make up the Lakota, Nakoda, and Dakota people, tells us that the blood of First Creation, Inyan, covers Unci Maka, our grandmother earth, and this blood, which is blue is mni, water, and mahpiya, the sky. Mni Wiconi, water is life.

The entire article is worth reading and the above link will take you right there.

♦♦♦

 

Many Standing Rocks: Three Years and Still Fighting, by Tracy L. Barnett – The Esperanza Project)

LaDonna Allard, center, and Cheryl Angel at a march led by the women of Sacred Stone to the backwater bridge one week after a brutal attack there by law enforcement. (Photo from social media) – The Esperanza Project

 

So water is in danger, globally. Right now Indigenous communities are still at risk, and they are standing up, because they have to stand up.  When you finally realize — WATER IS LIFE — you understand why you can’t sit back down.

People keep saying “after” Standing Rock – but I’m still of the same state of mind, I still have the same passion for the water,  it has to be protected. It was when I was at Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksa that I learned about the aquifers that were in danger and when I was at Standing Rock I learned about the rivers that were in danger.

We encourage you to read the article. Cheryl Angel passes on wisdom from a lifetime spent in activism for the planet. Her reflections on the movement at Standing Rock are insightful, as is her take on the ongoing struggle to protect water and land resources.

♦♦♦

Next, we’re providing links to 2 reports on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website.

SRST – No DAPL Remand Report Final, from February 5, 2019.

This first story is a damning and infuriating report on the deficient Corps of Engineers Analysis of the environmental impacts of the DAPL. The courts finally sided with the Standing Rock Tribe, but then decided that since the pipeline is already built they will let the oil flow.

Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from February 21, 2018, so that you can see just how much is at stake.
Both stories connect you to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website and we encourage you to have a look around. The About Us section contains lots of information about the history of the tribe and the reservation, as does the section about environmental issues.
♦♦♦
Next, we’re going to point you toward the Indigenous Environmental Network.
IEN is an alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. Adopted in 1994 by the IEN National Council, Denver, Colorado
The IEN website has a broad focus and they carry a variety of interesting stories about the ongoing fight to protect the land and water. It isn’t all just talk, though. The IEN runs several important environmental campaigns including the Keep It In The Ground Campaign run by Dallas Goldtooth. Dallas was born into an activist family and stood as a water protector at Standing Rock. He’s an accomplished activist, teacher, writer, poet and comedian who uses story and humor to tackle difficult subjects.
Here he is with his comedy troupe, The 1491’s, at Vasser College in 2018. His message is full of hope.

And finally, we leave you with a clip found on Twitter 2 days ago by rq. It’s a true message of hope from The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the it’s the perfect way to end this post.

 

Tree Tuesday

One of my favourite perspectives for photographing trees is looking up, way up, because a tall tree silhouetted against the sky is majestic. In winter their uppermost bare branches create beautiful patterns in the sky that look sculptural to me. Some trees, though, create sculptural bare spaces in the summer, too, through a phenomenon known as “crown shyness.”

If you look up toward certain types of towering trees—including eucalyptus, Sitka spruce, and Japanese larch—you may notice a unique phenomenon: the uppermost branches don’t touch. Known as “crown shyness,” this natural occurrence results in rupture-like patterns in the forest canopy that seem to perfectly outline the trees’ striking silhouettes.

Numerous scientists have been studying crown shyness since the 1920’s and several theories have been put forward, but no one knows for certain what causes it.

One possibility is that it occurs when the branches of trees (particularly those in areas with high winds) bump into each other. Another suggested explanation is that it enables the perennial plants to receive optimal light for photosynthesis. Perhaps the most prominent theory, however, is that the gaps prevent the proliferation of invasive insects.

My favourite theory is the one that postulates the trees are trying to avoid bumping into one another. It seems so polite and I can imagine woody conversations along the lines of “oops – so sorry old chap – didn’t mean to crowd you. I’ll just move over here.”

I think it’s stunning and hope I get a chance to see it someday. If you’re lucky enough see it, please take a photo and share.

Here’s one last photo from the story, but I encourage you to check out the full story and look at all the photos. The link is below.

The full story and more photos are at: My Modern Met

My thanks to rq for sending this story my way.

Drought, Death, Despair.

So far the hottest year in the Czech Republic since the history of measurements was 2018. The rest of the top were years 2017, 2015 and now it seems 2019 will bump one of them off and three hottest years will be also three consecutive years. Right now we have a third consecutive year of not only abnormally hot but also abnormally dry weather. The area where I live is still relatively well off – and here it did not rain for eight weeks by now. Four of my bonsai trees have nearly died (and will probably die definitively) because I do not have as much water as I need to water them. I have managed to keep alive my freshly planted hornbeams in the coppice, but only just, and if no rain comes, they are toast. If I did not have my own sewage cleaning facility that allows me to use wastewater for watering trees they would be toast already. The well did not dry out yet, but it has merely 3 m of water now, which is not much.

And to drive the point really home I encountered this at work during my lunch break walk – a tiny baby frog or (more probably) a toad, dried and mummified (the pictures were not taken on the same day btw, it is still there).

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is fairly common to find dead dry frogs/toads on the road, but they are usually squashed by a passing car prior to that. This poor little wee thing had dried mid-step.

I am not particularly squeamish, but this sight shook me. It is a warning of things to come.

An Unexpected Treasure

I do not intend to use tropical hardwoods in knifemaking too much. Especially I do not intend to buy and use wood from endangered species, but even tropical hardwoods of not-endangered species are problematic – habitat destruction and all that is unfortunately still a thing, not many tropical hardwoods are grown in a sustainable and renewable fashion (although many species can be grown in a coppice, when handled properly).

I think that local species have very often beautiful wood too, and the high price of some tropical hardwoods has nothing to do with how they look, but with their rarity. However, I will use them if I get my hands on some pieces by accident (for example I received some pieces free of charge with the steel I ordered, as an advertisement gift).

One such accident just happened. I was ordering online wood dust briquettes for winter and when doing that I searched for some wood for kindling. The description on the webpage on one product was something like “Hardwood cuttings from furniture manufacture, size up to 15 cm, 320 kg, extra dry, jatoba and black locust”. And I thought to myself “OK, black locust is an invasive species in Europe, and jatoba is not an endangered species. And anyway these are probably mostly chips and splinters that will be burned regardless, but maybe I get lucky and there will be some 10-15 pieces usable for knife handles in there and that would be nice.” So I bought the palette for the circa 100,-€ it costs. That is a lot for a mere 320 kg of firewood.

This is how the palette looked like in my garden.

Sacks full of wooden cuttings.

Nothing special but you can see a nice big rectangular chunk of wood bulging in there, so I reckoned, “There are 12 sacks on the palette, if in each is one such nice piece – big enough for 2-3 knife handles – then the palette has paid for itself in knife handles already, I will get wood for about 25 knives. Nice!”.

Oh, little did I know. The very top sack was brittle and tearing, I suspect it was standing for a long time in the sun so the plastic deteriorated. I reached into the hole and pulled out one random piece of wood. And I could not believe my eyes.

A piece of jatoba.

This is not what in my workshop counts as “a cutting for kindling”. This is a piece big enough for 4-5 knife handles (circa 25x100x200 mm). Jatoba is not very expensive (for tropical hardwood that is), but even at its cheapest, I would pay 4,-€ for a piece like this when buying it extra. But the price could be somewhere between 10 and 20,-€ as well for this amount of top knife-handle material. And then I pulled out five more pieces – four were like this, only the fifth was really crap fit for kindling only.

I am not exaggerating – I could barely wait and sleep after this. But I had other work to do than to muck about, so it had to wait until today evening when I finally got to taking this wood under the roof. The uppermost sack nearly disintegrated on touch and this is what I saw.

Jatoba bonanza.

My jaw dropped. That is wood for about 50 knife handles right there, in the picture, and twice as much not seen. This one sack alone has set me for life as far as jatoba wood goes.

I did not open every one of them, but by the feel on the surface 6 sacks contain big chunks like this, and 6 contain splinters and small unusable cuttings that I initially expected. So I estimate I have enough material for 600 fat knife handles made from jatoba, enough to start small manufacture if I were so inclined.

Oh, there was one piece of black locust too. That is ordinary and real cheapo wood (except for burls, those are costly), but it is pretty, durable and really environmental-friendly to use, since it is a pest.

A “cutting” of black locust.

To summarize, the ratio between the two species was reversed to my expectations (at least in the first sack) and I need to order some more kindling because I do not have nearly enough now.

I still dislike the idea of using tropical hardwood at all though, it just feels wrong. Although I am not a moral philosopher capable of dissecting the morals and ethics of a situation like this. I should probably heed one Czech saying and “leave these musings to a horse, he has a bigger head.”. What do you think?

Tree Tuesday

Embers and the Giants by Canadian artist Kelly Richardson – source CBC Arts

Canadian artist Kelly Richardson loves trees, especially the trees in the old growth rain forests on Vancouver Island where her latest work Embers and the Giants was filmed. Richardson fears for the future of these ancient trees and with good reason – deforestation is happening at an alarming rate and it’s recently been announced that another 109 hectares of pristine forest will be auctioned off.

Richardson’s work may prompt you to consider how we relate to nature as a species and to consider what the future may look like if we don’t choose a different path. In this video made by filmmaker Lisa Wu, you’ll travel to the forest with Richardson and get to see her at work making the landscape come alive in Embers and the Giants. The film was commissioned to participate in the XL Outer Worlds project celebrating the 50th anniversary of IMAX.

Canadian artist Kelly Richardson – source CBC Arts

Embers and the Giants will be at the Toronto Biennial of Art in Fall 2019, and then it’s travelling both across Canada and internationally. You can find out more about Kelly Richardson and her work here.

I’d like to thank rq for pointing this story my way.

via: CBC Arts