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

Tree Tuesday

©voyager, all rights reserved

The effects of human-caused increased greenhouse gases were predicted as early as the turn of the 20th Century and according to the Ivan Semeniuk of the Canadian Globe and Mail a NASA study of tree rings from the last 120 years is helping to prove out this theory.

In 1896, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius made a prescient calculation that showed the vast quantities of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning coal and other fossil fuels would eventually cause the planet to get warmer.

Little did he realize that the effect he described was already under way and being dutifully recorded by a ready-made monitoring system distributed around the globe in the form of trees.

The growth record of trees is recorded in their rings and this growth is highly sensitive to changes in moisture.

Tree rings are among the most direct ways of measuring past climate because trees are sensitive to soil moisture. In drier years, trees grow more slowly and the annual rings that are recorded in their trunks become narrower. By comparing overlapping tree-ring patterns in wood that grew at different times on different continents, scientists have gradually built up “drought atlases” that show changes in moisture distribution dating back to the year 1400 or, in some areas, even earlier.

Drought atlases are nothing new, but using trees to measure the effects of drought across time and region is new science and it’s showing some startling trends.

The scientists found that after centuries of normal variations during which some places alternately became wetter or drier relative to each other, an additional effect on moisture emerged around 1900 that is consistent with climate change. Over all, the data show that much of North America, Australia and the Mediterranean have been getting drier over the past 120 years while parts of Asia, including India and western China, have been getting wetter.

The effect was especially pronounced during the first half of the 20th century, but became more subdued between 1950 and 1975. Since then, it has accelerated. The scientists posit that a huge increase in the release of sulphates and other airborne chemicals in the postwar era served to temporarily counteract the effect of greenhouse gases by deflecting sunlight and promoting cloud formation. This countertrend later subsided after air-quality regulations went into effect in North America and Europe.

The results of this study help confirm that human activity is directly related to global climate change, although trees in the southern hemisphere were not included because their growth patterns are not as seasonally visible.

So it seems that trees are helping to relate the story of climate change in new ways. I’m not surprised. Trees have proven to be one of mankind’s best natural resources and now they’re talking to us in ways we can understand. Whether people will listen is another matter.

 

Via: The Globe and Mail, May 2/19, Ivan Semeniuk

Spawn 2.0

Yesterday we saw a sac of frog eggs that Avalus had found in his botanical garden. Today he’s sent us another amphibian egg sac that he found in the same botanical garden. It’s not as far along as the previous sac from which tadpoles were hatching, but here the babies are all shaped like little, adorable commas.

Laich, ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Speaking of babies, make sure to check in tomorrow for the next installment of Full Fish Ahead. Avalus has lots of babies to show us and they couldn’t be any cuter.

Tree Tuesday

 

This week we continue looking at the oldest and biggest tress in the world, but instead of looking up we’re going underground to have a look at a root system. A clonal root system, to be exact. You’ve seen Old Tjikko, the oldest living clonal tree in the world, but old Mr. T is not the oldest living clonal system in the world. That honour belongs to Pando The Trembling Giant, a colony of Quaking Aspen trees in Fishlake National Park in Utah.

Pando is an ancient clonal root system and although the individual trees live for about 130 years the root organism itself is estimated to be 80,000 years old. Pando was alive when early humans were first migrating out of Africa and it would be about 65,000 years before human eyes even reached the Americas to see Pando.

Pando is more than a group of trees that have withstood the test of time. Pando is actually just one tree; all the aspens of Fishlake National Forest are part of the same organism…  Genetic testing has helped confirm that each tree in the forest is the same organism reproduced over and over again with only slight genetic variations.

Instead of spreading seeds, the clonal grove extends its roots in a process called “suckering.” New “trees” shoot up alongside the old ones, looking like new seedlings — but they actually belong to Pando’s extensive root system, which is why the different trees present nearly identical appearances. They’re essentially clones of the existing foliage.

Scientists believe that every tree in the Pando colony shares the same root system. The result is one of the largest and oldest living organisms on earth and a remarkably resilient forest. Pando’s deep, connected roots have allowed it to survive millennia of fires, droughts, climate shifts, and diseases.

Pando is big, too. It covers 107 acres and weighs in at an estimated 6,615 tons which makes it the worlds heaviest living organism. By comparison, a blue Whale is a lightweight at only about 200 tons. Pando is currently threatened by over-grazing of deer and elk, but a conservation project has been implemented and fences seem to be successfully working.

So there you have it. I think we can safely say that Pando is definitely the oldest and the biggest tree in the world.

Check out the full article and a few more photos at All That’s Interesting.

 

 

 

Kosmoss

As somebody famous once said, we are the pale blue dot. From far enough away, invisible. Insignificant. Tiny. An isolated speck in an isolationist universe. In the cold mountain air, I found the stars had an extra sharpness at night. Humans can go so far in that darkness, but it is laughably close on the grand scale of galaxies. Here’s a peek into the great universe, as taken by me in Austria:

Our satellite, our companion.
©rq, all rights reserved.

My favourite constellation, Orion. We call it the Hunter here, and I wonder if its variety of names is as diverse as that of the Big Dipper?
©rq, all rights reserved.

But as much as I want to be just excited about another scientific and technological achievement, it’s hard to disconnect from the news today. Humans can be so selfish, and inconsiderate, and greedy, and destructive. Anyway, here’s Muriel Rukeyser back in 1968:

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.

It appears to be the second century of these wars. And the universe goes on and will go on without us, because humans are just that important. I just wish we could be selfish enough to consider mutual survival.

Youtube Video: Are electric cars really green?

Potholer 54 delivers an excellently researched video, as usual. I have just watched it and since I have nothing better to post at the moment, here it is.

Unfortunately there is still one big hurdle in the way progress here. I wanted to actually buy an electric car, but unfortunately the upfront costs are still to prohibitive for me. No matter how much the prices of electric cars have fallen, the purchasing cost of an electric equivalent of my current car are three times higher. Whic means I would have to save up money for three years to get that car. And in the mean time I would not have any car whatsoever.

Signs of Autumn

 

The signs of autumn from Nightjar,

These are the four signs that I look for every year before I can safely declare autumn has arrived. Leaf colour, autumn snowflakes, mushrooms and green grass. I was able to check all four boxes by the end of October, which is good!

 

1. Leaves change colour and glow in the sun

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Macedonia 6 – This Place Rocks

Let me start off by saying that I miss rocks. I grew up on the Canadian shield, and granite outcroppings were a regular fixture of my childhood, along with mica-and-quartz hunting, breaking beaver dams and catching leeches in the pond.

And while I miss all of those things to greater or lesser degree, I wasn’t prepared for my own rather overly emotional response to seeing large pieces of rock (as in, cliffs and boulders you can stand on and not individual erratics but part of a mountain!). I went up the mountain in Macedonia expecting a nice view, but got a shoe full of quartz fragments (pocket, but nevertheless) and tears in my eyes. It was beautiful. Well, kind of dull and brown and grey, but beautiful.

And then! Coming down the mountain (I have a story about this but I will place it with some pleasant picture of flowers in a later post) I saw many more incredible rocky things that warmed the cockles of my heart. Behold.

This is actually the view that made me cry. Glorious, innit? ©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

More after the break, but first, here’s your song.

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Foxmom

This photo is just a delight. It’s always a wonder when we can catch a glimpse of such a cautious wild creature. It came from Avalus who says,

A foxmother, that lives in an abandoned Garden just next to the house I live in. She has three cubs, but I only have this one image, as I usually meet them only when it is to dark for photos.

She has her eye on you, Avalus. Thanks for sharing.

foxmom, ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Funny Animals

The finalists of the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are out, and they’re a blast. Here’s a couple of my favourites:

© Achim Sterna/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Mary McGowan/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Roie Galitz/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Kallol Mukherjee/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

And lots more

Today’s piece of music is more of a dance showcase, in the theme of colourful animals. Below the fold because spiders.

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