Frog Chillin’

Today I was watering bonsai trees in my bonsai hospital (where my last Japanese maple tree already probably succumbed to the heatwave). I am using the water from the pond at the end of my sewage cleaning facility for that. And this is the sight that greeted me today.

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

Every day when I come there I hear several splashes as the frogs sitting around the edges of the pool jump into the water when I disturb them. Today I got lucky and this one was just chilling in the water and did not scamper until I plunged my watering can into the water.

I take this as a sign that my sewage cleaning facility works well, despite the official tests coming just on the edge with regard to ammonia content. I haven’t seen any tadpoles, unfortunately, but I do have happy frogs every year, plenty of dragonfly larvae and water beetles, an occasional water mollusk, and as you can see, the water is so clear that one can see right down to the bottom of the pond. It will get a bit worse in the fall when the trees shed leaves, especially the walnut tree, but that has nothing to do with the sewage cleaning efficacy.

Fig Season Starts

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

I picked over 800 g of fresh figs today. It is figs and yogurt for dinner tonight. Eating them all before they spoil will be challenging – this variety is supposed to be eaten fresh and these first ones are extremely sweet. It never ceases to amaze me that I can harvest figs in my garden.

Greening the Balcony – Part 1

Guest post by Avalus. I am looking forward to the continuation(s) and once again I render my robe and put ashes on my head, this should go up a month ago.


A new project by me, Avalus. I use my balcony each year to grow veggies and some flowers, but I never thought about sharing this. Charly encouraged me to do so, so thank you very much for this opportunity! Similar to Full Fish Ahead, this will be some poorly held together train of thought with many pictures that will be written at random intervals and you all hopefully find interesting and worth your time reading. Comments are very welcome, as I learn something new every year I change my balcony in a lush green jungle (or in 2018, more like a dry brown savannah). Also, I hope to inspire people to green up their spaces, if they can!

So, this is my balcony, roughly 2 by 5 meters, facing south on the lofty hight of seventh floor and as of now, already pretty full of plants!

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

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

But how did I get there?

I started in late winter and early spring with the pregrowing the slower plants. Tomates and peppers mostly but also some older seeds that I expected would not germinate anymore were put in the earth*. For pregrowth I use these 2 old fishtanks that I got from a garbage pile, the seeds are planted in egg cartons and some leftover paper pots, as soil I use cocosshell soil. This foto is from late march, you can also see a sprouting avocado and a taro plant grown from a leftover from cooking.

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

*That is why there are some beans growing on the right. Also, the old cucumber seeds just took some four weeks to germinate, in between I bought new ones and they just took four days and now my friends with gardens and family will get gifts of cucumber plants. XD

From last year, a broccoli and two romanesco plants have endured the winter. I thought about tearing them out but then they began to bloom and instantly attracted pollinators, so they stay and I decided to side the broccoli with pansies. Later, this one will be used as a support for peas, that I planted around it.

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

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

Then, in early April I got to work cleaning the old pots out. I kept about half of the soil but mixed it topped it off with newly bought earth. For that I use peat-free planting soil although one really needs to look at the content table, as I found out a few years ago. And in the past years, this was also more expensive but this year they did cost the same. All hauling was done from a local garden centre with a hand drawn trolley, which was exhausting as I needed some 240 litres and I don’t own a car. If I lived somewhere else or was not as able bodied this would be a major problem and I would definitively need the help of friends.

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

My main growbeds are these half transparent outdoor boxes, I bought some six years ago in a large hardware store. They are mostly in the shade and have held up wonderfully. The lowest 5 cm are filled with porous ceramic balls to store water, on the backside I drilled a line of small holes at 10 cm as an overflow.

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

Others are just large planting pots, buckets or plain balcony boxes and we will see more of them later this year.

Now, at the start of May, the tomatoes are finally gaining strength, as do the mangolds and the cucumbers. Both of which I apparently did not photograph in their boxes. Planting all of these will have wait though until the ice-saints, a series of days around 15th of May, where temperatures might fall deep here in central Germany. Most of the tomatoes will be given away as well, I will just keep nine of them, as that is usually enough to satisfy my tomatic needs.

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

So, what will I grow? Tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce, carrots, radishes, beans, onions, garlic, peas, sweet potatoes and potatoes along with a load of different herbs and some flowers for the bumbles and the bees like tagetes, sunflowers and calendula. From th last years there is Indian canna and lavender. This sounds like a heck of a lot, but the last years showed that with the right combinations these plants work well under the conditions of my balcony in summer. Over the months there will be changes as plants ripen and get collected and replacements will be seeded, grown and planted.

Why do I do it? This is of course not enough to sustain me by a long margin, but I very much do enjoy having plants around me and growing at least a bit of sustenance. It also helps me to appreciate much work goes into farming at least a little more. I cannot collect my own rainwater and the soil is bought, so there are some environmental impacts, of course, even if I try to minimize them. All in all, it just makes me very happy to eat my own grown food and gaze upon thriving plants.

And to finish this instalment, here sprout the first beans, nasturtiums and peas!

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

Happy planting, everyone!

Akin All Avo

This Wednesday and Thursday the weather was warm enough to plant pohtatohes. These are the fruits of mah lay-bour:

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

In the top left corner, you can see my sewage cleaning facility, specifically, its last two stages, the gravel-reed-bed where the water is further cleaned after the anaerobic tank and the seeping pond where it seeps into the ground around the edges. The reeds grew especially big last year with some stalks exceeding 3 m in height and 1 cm in thickness, which is normally unheard of at my elevation. Hooray for global warming, I guess. Mowing them with a scythe was an extreme p.i.a.

You can also see the pollarded willow trees around the pond that are due for firewood harvest next winter, but for years I did not know what to do with the reeds so they just rotted slowly on the compost. Two years ago I tried to put them directly on top of planted potatoes before they get covered with dirt. And it worked well, it lightened up the heavy clay significantly that year and I had the biggest haul of potatoes from that patch that I ever got – over 200 kg. We had even trouble to give the taters away because of the Covid travel restrictions, so we have tried some ways to preserve them for longer storage. Which worked well, especially dried chips for soups – we have those still and they work great in combo with dried mushrooms.

Last year there were no potatoes but peas, beans, maize, and pumpkins, so the soil can recover somewhat. It did not yield 200 kg of edibles of course, but we got a few dinners out of it. This year it is potatoes again.

So I am trying to replicate the success. On the vegetable patch, you can now see nine full and two very short rows filled with shredded reed stalks. In the next days, they will be slowly covered with dirt to form mounds for the tubers to grow. Inorganic fertilizer was added over the winter in the form of several buckets of ash from the house-heating stove. Some organic fertilizer has been added now with these reed stalks and more will be added over the year in the form of mown grass and raked moss. I do hope the weather won’t be too dry, but the sewage cleaning facility should help significantly if it is, and it adds some nitrogen too since the system is not as effective at cleaning ammonia as it should.

A whole cycle from poop to food in one garden.

Today I wanted to work on knife sheaths, but I am aching all over and it is probably not just from the work. I have a slightly elevated temperature and a bit of sore throat and a mild dry cough. The weather was reasonably warm, but not really warm, so I guess I caught a bit of chill and now some strep is trying to get me. I do hope to be able to work tomorrow, I have a commission due in May and although I still have enough time, finishing sooner is always better than later.

Going Solar

Our latest home improvement project has finally come to life and our new solar panels are online. This has mostly been Mr’s project. Not because I’m opposed to solar energy, but because I have zero time for researching, calculating and shopping for it. It took about a year from start to finish, and I won’t bore you with all the small and big  problems with banmks what waht have you not and present you our own small energy centre.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Here you have a screenshot of that shows the energy use and production of our “power plant”. The image has 4 circles representing the different components, the middle circle represents the ac/dc converter. The top left corner shows you the current energy production. We have a maximum of 7.1 kwh, what you see here is 717 W, light clouds. The top right corner is the current energy use in the house. The bottom right corner is our battery. It has a maximum of 7 kwh, but it always tries to stay at 25% full in case of emergencies. Bottom left ist the interaction with the power grid. The dots going to the middle show you how much energy is going which way. All in all we’re currently very fascinated by the app. I guess this will wear off in a few weeks, but currently I keep checking it constantly.

One of the niftier components of the whole thing is a little (expensive) gadget that allows us to keep producing energy when the grid is down. With a normal solar plant, when the grid is down, your solar gets shut off. That’s sensible because you cannot safely repair a power line while thousands of roofs keep sending voltage. In our case, should the energy company send the signal tu turn off, our unit becomes its own closed circuit. Since experts have already predicted power outages to become more common, that seems like a sensible investment.

As you can see, our goal is to produce as much of our own energy as possible and I must say, for February it’s been good so far. One thing is that we do need to change our habits and try to use the electricity when it’s being produced, because I basically lose 8ct on every kwh I have to sell to the energy company. Years ago, before batteries were affordable, solar mostly went into the power grid and people got guaranteed high prices, making it a good investment. Friends of ours needed a new roof and didn’t know how to pay for it when the roofer told them that putting up solar would pay for itself and the roof. Those subsidies had their own problems, as they mostly benefited home owners and were paid by renters, but they led to a thriving solar industry. then those subsidies were cut, 100k jobs in solar were lost, and people stopped putting up new solar panels. Because if I calculate the cost of the whole thing and divide it through the expected kwh that it will produce, a kwh costs me 15ct while I get 7. But if I have to buy a kwh, I pay around 30ct, so I save 15 by using one that I produce myself.

Paradoxically, this has led to me occasionally using more energy on purpose, like today. It was a fairly sunny day and we produced 11 kwh, not bad for a day in February, which is about our daily use as well, but of course we don’t produce it evenly spread, so when I came home this afternoon, I put on the dishwasher on the high energy short cycle that only takes an hour. Because then the sun was shining, the battery was full, and I was selling my energy cheap. But if I  put it on the low energy long cycle, that would take 4 hours, meaning that I would have to rely on the battery for the later half of the cycle, draining it faster and making me buy energy tonight/tomorrow morning, which is a perfect example of something that is the perfectly logical and sensible decision for one person being a negative for society as a whole, but I’m not going to feel bad about it.

Personal (Distr)Action Against Climate Change

I did donate to TeamTrees when it was doing the rounds on YouTube but I have ignored TeamSeas completely as pointless. I will continue to ignore future attempts to extract money from me to save the environment too, except in the case of rare natural disasters that need an acute response.

We all have probably seen campaigns urging us to do this and that to reduce our carbon footprint. Go Vegan. Meatless Mondays. Walk instead of driving. Plant a tree. Etc.

Well, I have been using public transport for most of my life until I was 30 years old but it was driving a car that has allowed me to cut my personal carbon footprint significantly. Why? How? And why it does not matter in the Grand Scheme of Things?

Driving a car has allowed me to get a significantly better-paid job in a destination where public transport just did not go at times that would allow me to have reasonable working times, even with a very lax and flexible working schedule. And while initially using fossil fuels for driving did of course increase my personal carbon footprint temporarily (and minusculy), the extra money that I have earned has allowed me to do things that I would never ever be able to do on my previous pay. I was able to replace old leaky windows in my house. I was able to insulate and renovate the facade and the roof. I was able to overhaul the central heating system. In a few years, the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint – burning coal for winter heating – was reduced to less than one-third. From burning through 10 metric tonnes of coal and being cold all the time we went down to 3 tonnes and having constant-ish temperature throughout the day whilst more than handily offsetting the 100 700 l of gasoline that I have burned on commute per year.

I did not stop there and I made another overhaul to my central heating, converting it to a high-efficiency wood-burning stove. Wood is not always a renewable resource, but I do grow 5-10% of it in a truly renewable fashion on my own land and it would be much more by now if it were not for the blasted water voles who keep destroying my trees planted in the coppice. My health does not allow me to go vegan and my finances are no longer so good that I could put solar panels on my roof, but I do not think that it matters anymore (for the environment) for the same reason that none of my personal actions so far mattered.

I was able to significantly reduce my personal carbon footprint because I have in many aspects fairly privileged life. I own a house with a huge garden, in the country, where I am free to use the land as I please (within reasonable limits). A person living in an apartment in a big city, or even a person owning a house in the suburbs, does not have the same range of choices that I had, or even might not have any choice at all. Thus most people here are stuck with heating their homes with fossil fuels and using electricity from the grid that mostly relies on fossil fuels. Meatless Mondays, planting dozens of trees, or even going full vegan and cycling everywhere will do diddly squat to their carbon footprint, as will literally any other thing they personally can do within the limits given to them by their life circumstances. Not to mention that it is possible to grow meat in a carbon-neutral (and in some places for a limited time even carbon-negative) way.

I view the calls for personal action as a distraction and I am cynical enough that I would not be surprised if at least some of these campaigns were covertly financed by fossil fuels interests. Trying to convince a large number of people to significantly change their lives on their own does not work, because many simply cannot do it no matter how right or righteous the cause is. Trying to convince everyone to go vegan is an exercise in futility, but it might help to associate people advocating for green policies with fringe, unreasonable ideas. A red herring, throwing the public of the scent and putting the guilt on people instead of the corporations and moneyed interests.

However, that does not mean that nobody should take any personal steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Everyone should still do that. If going vegan works for you, go for it. If you can cycle to work, great. I won’t dissuade anyone from doing what little they can to help.

But public campaigns must focus on the only thing that matters in the Grand Scheme of Things – changing policies in a way that makes the polluting of our planet, including CO2 emissions, unprofitable. Without that, nothing you or I do will do diddly.

Tornadoes in Czechia

Smaller whirlwinds do happen quite often even in Central Europe, although usually we just have ordinary high winds. Occasionally some roofs get torn off, but rarely anything more severe than that.

Yesterday was different. A once-in-1000-years tornado ripped through the south of Czechia and flattened seven towns and villages.

If you can spare some money for disaster relief, you can donate here. This is run by a non-religious charity foundation.

There might be some glitches, their servers have difficulty coping at the moment.

The Art of …

… trash, by Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo

I recently discovered an artist who is bringing attention to the problem of environmental waste and, in the process, making treasure out of trash.

Big Trash Animals’ by Artur Bordalo is a series of artworks that aim to draw attention to one of the world’s most pressing problems: Waste production. The overproduction of things like plastics and metals, a general lack of recycling and the ensuing pollution that it causes has a devastating effect on the planet, and we shouldn’t just learn to accept it as a necessary evil.

The full story, along with more photos, is at Bored Panda.

Trash Cat, by Artur Bordalo. Image from Bored Panda.

Trash Bird, by Artur Bordalo. Image from Bored Panda.

The Art of …

… maps, by Harold Fisk

Meander map of the Mississippi, 1944, by Harold Fisk, cartographer and geologist, image via The Public Domain Review

This map is one of a series made to highlight the changes in the flood plain of the Mississippi River. The maps were drawn using information from 1944 and old records from 1765, 1820 and 1880.

All of these alterations, both human and nonhuman, can be seen in Fisk’s wonderfully detailed, wonderfully vibrant maps — further evidence that the Mississippi, as Mark Twain put it, is not at all “a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable”.

The full story is at The Public Domain Review

Starling

I had an extremely bad year bird-watching wise so far. There are definitively a lot fewer birds around than there used to be.

For example, only a few starlings came by to harvest all the surplus aronias. And only one was visible enough to take a picture. Normally, at this time of year, the tree should be stripped bare by starlings and thrushes heading south.

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

I have not seen a single golden finch, greenfinch, or siskin the whole year. Neither have I seen any fieldfares, or thrushes, and just a few blackbirds, very sparsely. Chaffinch song is usually a constant presence the whole summer – and this year I cannot remember hearing it even once, despite chaffinch being supposedly the most common bird of central Europe.. And in the last month or two tits and sparrows  – the consants of my garden the whole year – have disappeared too. Redstarts are still here, but wagtails never showed up.

I fear this is a real environmental problem and a local sign of a global catastrophy.

Oh My Potato!

There is a lot of talk about sustainability and growing your own food etcetera. So I wish to share this year’s results of our efforts in this regard, specifically potatoes.

In the spring we bought 20 kg of potatoes for about 40 € including shipping. We planted them to a patch approximately 40-50 square meters and now my father has great fun harvesting them.

Typical potatoes, ones that go into the cellar for storage look like this.

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

Then there is also a lot of “beads” which are very small potatoes, and a lot of potatoes that are damaged by weeds, slugs, bugs etc. Those need to be consumed first. But this year it looks like we do get reasonable amount of big potatoes in good condition. And whilst the saying in Czech goes “Čím hloupější sedlák, tím větší brambory” (“The dafter the peasant, the bigger his potatoes”), I think that saying just reflects the enviousness in human nature. Because getting reasonably big potatoes, regularly, is not easy.

The main problem with potatoes is that they need light, humous soil, and the soil in our garden is more like heavy clay. In the vegetable patch, it is a lot better, because that soil is a result of careful cultivation over several decades of tilling the clay with compost, manure, wood ash, and fertilizer. Still, it is far from ideal and way too sticky. So this year I have tried to improve the soil further by adding a lot of organic material directly around the potatoes during planting, specifically crushed reed stalks from my sewage water treatment facility. It seems to have helped – a few plants were planted without the reed stalks and their potatoes were visibly smaller. Also, the soil with the crushed reed is easier to tilt and falls easier apart. So it seems I have a use for the reed stalks, which until now were a waste-product.

But even without those, each year when we grow potatoes, there are outliers like this ca. 500 g (>1 pound) specimen.

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

Pieces like these bring great joy to my father, who currently really has fun with garden fork tilling the patch and getting the potatoes out. We have a small tractor, but my mother has urged me not to use it and leave my father to do the work manually – he needs the exercise and enjoys doing it. And although he impales some potatoes on the fork, the damage is smaller than the plow would do. For example, this 950 g specimen got impaled and needs to be eaten asap, but a plow would probably just cut it in half.

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

Well, that one is really an outlier. It can feed the whole family for a day. It would be great if they were all like that, but that is alas unattainable.

Ok, enough bragging and back to the sustainability issue and soil care a bit.

We have planted circa 200 plants. We get at least 120 kg of potatoes from it, so on average 600 g from each plant. That means we could, theoretically, set aside 20 kg for next year and still have 100 kg to eat. So how does that help us re: self-sustainability? It is just about 600 g of potatoes per week per person in our household, so two-three servings. That is a lot, being a significant money saver. But it still does not bring us anywhere near to being self-reliant.

The first obstacle to that is of course the sheer amount of land needed for true self-reliance. I almost have the land, but the soil quality on most of it is very poor and it would take years of back-breaking work to bring it up to scratch with the vegetable patch.*

The second obstacle are nutrients. Potatoes have about the highest yield per area of all crops that I can grow here, but they also deplete the soil of nutrients really, really fast, and can destroy it. I do not need to go too far to see a real-life example of this – my neighbor does not make compost, does not take care of her vegetable patch the way we do, and she did grow potatoes always in the same spot for many years. The soil got sour, and the potatoes were getting so small it was not worth the effort anymore.

The third obstacle is pests and diseases. We solve this problem by twofold approach – we spray the potatoes against mold and beetles, and we only grow them every second year. It seems to work out well, but should we try to be self-reliant, it would double the needed land again. We alternate them with onions, pumpkins, and legumes, which also produce reasonable harvests, but nowhere near to be significant on the same amount of land. Alternating the crops also reduces the amount of pesticides we use, since onions and legumes do not need to be treated.

The fourth obstacle is the sheer amount of work needed. My father does most of it, with me only doing the most difficult parts like plowing, and it takes a lot of time and effort throughout the year. To feed all three of us that effort would be tenfold.

This makes me highly skeptical about growing your food on the windowsill or front porch. But even so, I think it is a great idea to plant some vegetables in pots on your windowsill or front porch if you can, just do not expect any wonders regarding the amount you will get.

What you can expect though, is great taste. Supermarket bought vegetables cannot hold a candle to anything you grow by yourself.


  • The poor soil quality around here is one of the main reasons why many fields were converted to pastures and meadows after the Iron Curtain has fallen.

Tree Tuesday

In the small Palestinian village of Al Walaja, just outside Bethlehem,  lives an ancient olive tree, that may be one of the oldest trees in the world. It has been carbon-dated to an age range of 3,000 to 5,500 years old and it is the job of one man, Salah Abu Ali, to protect it.

Ali wakes every morning to tend to his family’s orchard. Entering through a neighbor’s yard, he trots down the grove’s narrow paths in a way that belies his age, occasionally reaching down to quickly toss aside trespassing stones; briskly descending verdant terraces, one after another until he comes to the edge of the orchard. It is at this edge where Ali spends most of his day, pumping water from the spring above or tending to the soil. It is where he sometimes sleeps at night, and where he hosts people that have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But many come for the tree, an olive that some believe to be the oldest in the world.

The olive tree of Al Walaja, like all trees in the world, is under threat from climate change and is recovering from a recent drought.  It is also under the added threat of Israeli expansionism.

But the olive tree of Al Walaja has become something else to its residents. Now, it’s a symbol of resistance. The village is a shadow of its former self. Most of the village’s residents were forced to flee their homes amidst heavy fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “In 1948, we came here and slept under the trees,” Ali says, as Israeli military personnel chant during drills in the valley below. After the dust settled and the demarcation lines were drawn, Al Walaja had lost around 70 percent of its land.
The town was further eroded after Israel captured the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel then expanded the Jerusalem Municipality, annexing around half of what was left of the village.

More recently, Israel’s separation wall threatened to once again cut the village in two, isolating the Al Badawi tree. But residents won a court battle which saw the chain-link wall diverted around the village. The wall now stands just below Ali’s family orchard, separating the new village from the site of the old, just across a narrow valley.

Despite the court victory, dozens of homes have been bulldozed to make way for the Jerusalem Municipality. Al Walaja still sits isolated, hemmed in on nearly all sides by Israel’s separation wall and no longer able to access uncultivated farmland or many of the village’s once-famed springs.

It is because of these threats that Ali guards the ancient olive tree, and he considers it his life work to protect it. Ali now receives a small sum from The Palestinian Authority to take care of the tree, due to reports of Israeli settlers and soldiers cutting down and burning ancient olive trees in other parts of the West Bank.

According to the United Nations, approximately 45 percent of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip contain olive trees, providing income for some 100,000 families. “The Palestinians are attached to the olive tree,” Ali says. “The olive tree is a part of our resistance and a part of our religion. With the olive tree we live, and without it we don’t live.”

 

Story from Atlas Obscura

Tree Tuesday

David Milarch with clones of 3,000-year-old redwoods. Courtesy Archangel Ancient Tree Archive

David Milarch is a man on a mission, and his goals are ambitious. He is trying to save the Ancient Giant Redwoods and, in the process, save the planet.

Years of droughts and shifting temperatures have already driven these evergreen giants out of some coastal zones they once inhabited. The trees can live for as long as 2,000 to 3,000 years, but some scientists think, the way things are going, that they could disappear from California in a fraction of that time.

Milarch spends his days tracking down the heartiest coast redwood specimens he can find, cloning them in his own lab, and then planting them in carefully chosen plots where they can thrive, hopefully for millennia. One site is a new experimental bed in San Francisco’s Presidio, part of the U.S. National Park system. Milarch’s goal is both to strengthen the coast redwood gene pool with clones of the strongest individuals, and to store loads of climate-change-causing carbon—more than 1,000 tons per acre of redwoods, more than any other kind of forest in the world. It’s a complicated mission with a simple philosophy: Save the big trees, and they’ll save us.

Milarch is well qualified for the mission as are his two sons, both of whom assist him with the project and the foundation.

If you strike up a conversation with Milarch, you’ll get his life story inside of 10 minutes—from his motorcycle gang days in Detroit to the revelation that set him on his current path, involving a near-death experience, angels, and a disembodied voice that dictated a plan he wrote down in the wee hours of the morning. When he woke up fully the next day, he says, “There was an eight-page outline on that legal pad. It was the outline for this project.”
The angel who tapped Milarch for this mission seems to have picked the right person—not only is he an able tree-vangelist, but he is a third-generation shade-tree grower. His sons Jake and Jared, both of whom work for Archangel, make up the fourth. So he knows all the secrets of getting balky arborial species to reach their potential by locating the healthiest specimens, clipping and propagating them, and then nurturing delicate new trees.

Jake Milarch of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive packs up saplings that were sent to Oregon for planting. Courtesy Archangel Ancient Tree Archive

It’s a long, complicated process that involves cloning and Milarch manages it all with an eye to the future. The saplings are nurtured with compost and drip-fed water when dry, and in time, Milarch plans to plant underbrush species that will not dominate the young trees. He also plans to selectively thin the trees as they grow, allowing the most dominant to take over.

It isn’t a cure-all for climate change, but it is an important part of the answer.

As University College London earth scientists Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis point out in The Conversation, reforestation is hardly a magic bullet against climate change. It can take centuries, even millennia, to have its effect, and that’s time the climate problem does not have. Some of the land areas earmarked for reforestation in the Science study may end up too hot for forests by the time people get around to planting them. “Reforestation,” Maslin and Lewis write, “should be thought of as one solution to climate change among many.”
Even if champion trees aren’t an answer by themselves, Milarch is determined to see them at least become part of the answer. If there’s anything worth being downright messianic about, he figures, it’s creating eternal groves of thousand-year-old, self-replicating giants that could benefit all humankind. “We have a list of the 100 most important trees to clone. We have our marching orders. We know where we need to go,” Milarch says. “I raise my hand every morning and I say, ‘Use me.’”

I don’t believe in angels, but whatever it was that sent Milarch on his quest, I’m thankful for it. If you’d like to know more about this vital project please visit The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive Website.

 

Story via: Atlas Obscura