Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Species: Quote Of The Day

From the Las Pilitas Nursery web site:

"It seems that every few years a budding botanist blunders out of his or her ivory tower and discovers that there are bushy oaks outside. Now these oaks do not key in the floras easily (keying is wandering through a flora's (a book) selection process that is supposed to be based primarily on reproductive parts of the plant). So, Mister or Ms. hot shot botanist writes a paper describing his or her 'new' oak. Every time a 'new' oak is described it leads to more confusion and more 'new' oaks."

A budding botanist blunders. Now that's great writing!

... which will bring us to the strange case of California scrub oak, Q. dumosa, in the next exciting episode of Quercus: One Species.

If you live in the native range of anything they sell, go order from Las Pilitas Nursery! These people "get it."

One Species: Wavyleaf Oak

I was struck by the description of wavyleaf oak, Quercus undulata Torr., as listed in Oaks of North America by Miller & Lamb.

LEAVES: deciduous or evergreen, thick and leathery, varying in size and shape but generally about 1.8 to 6.25cm long, wavy lobed or toothed...

FRUIT: acorn matures in 1 year, 1.5 to 2.1cm long, borne singly or in pairs, set shallowly or up to one-half in cup.

See any problems with the taxonomy of this "species?" Apparently you're not alone. To quote further from Oaks of N.A:

"Little, 1979 Checklist (of American Trees), has reduced Q. undulata Torr. to a hybrid of Q. gambelii with one of six other species. Over vast stretches of the range of Q. undulata, the only parent available is Gambel oak. Thus, it is difficult to see what other parent may have been available to produce a hybrid. For this reason it has been described as a species in this publication. However, the wide range of variation in size and shape of leaves and acorns across the range of this oak tends to strengthen the hybrid theory."

Yes, I should say it does. I give very little credence to the authors' contention that since Gambel oak is the only other oak present across large portions of the range of wavyleaf oak, it can't be a hybrid simply because no other oak species currently occupies a large portion wavyleaf oak's range.

We know that the ranges of many oaks have moved in response to changes in climate. Cottam identified a population of natural hybrids of Q. turbinella (scrub live oak) and Gambel oak in northern Utah, outside the current range of scrub live oak. Cottam theorized - no doubt correctly - that the range of scrub live oak advanced into northern Utah 7,500 years ago during a period in which the mean temperature was 4 degrees warmer than it is now. These scrub live oaks hybridized with Gambel oak, and then died out as temperatures cooled, leaving the hybrids behind.

... so there easily could have been another oak whose range migrated or expanded to intersect that of Gambel oak across a wide area, and this oak could easily be the other parent of wavyleaf oak. Or perhaps I should say these oaks (plural) could easily be the other parents of several "wavyleaf oak" hybrids. Again from Oaks of N.A:

Wavyleaf oak is considered to be the offspring of the following crosses:

Quercus x pauciloba (Q. gambelii x turbinella) - Aha there's our Cottam tree
Quercus x (no name given) (Q. gambelii x arizonica)
Quercus x (no name given) (Q. gambelii x grisea)
Quercus x (no name given) (Q. gambelii x havardii)
Quercus x (no name given) (Q. gambelii x mohriana)
Quercus x (no name given) (Q. gambelii x muelenbergii)

Good grief. Perhaps a better Linnaean name for wavyleaf oak is Quercus x I don't know what the hell it is.

We need a genome map to determine parentage... or a special arboreal episode of Maury Povich.
All I know for sure is that the same variation that makes oaks virtually impossible to classify into species and hybrids also hold the key to feeding mankind and saving our planet. If only we would devote 1/1,000,000th the time to breeding oaks that has been devoted to annual grains.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One Species... Drat!

We are told that there is a clear line of demarcation between oaks of the white oak group (acorns mature in 1 year) and oaks of the red/black oak group (acorns mature in 2 years), and never the twain shall meet. White oaks have rounded lobes, and red oaks have barbed lobes. Easy, right?

I spent a recent plane trip scouring Oaks of North America in hopes of finding crosses between oaks of the white oak group with oaks of the red oak group. Because I am a dork.

I thought I had found 2 examples:

Quercus tharpii (graciliformis x emoryi)
Graciliformis, chisos oak, a card-carrying red oak group member with barbed lobes and acorns that take 2 years to mature.
Emoryi, Emory oak, with acorns that mature in 1 year.

Not so fast. Emery oak has barbed lobes, and despite having acorns that mature in 1 year it is generally considered to be a red oak.

Quercus inconstans Palmer (gravesii x hypoluecoides)
Gravesii, Chisos red oak or Graves oak, with acorns that mature in 1 year.
Hypoluecoides, silverleaf oak, with acorns that mature in 2 years.

Double Eureka!
Not so fast again. Apparently there is either doubt or inconsistency about the length of acorn maturity in both cases. In the case of Graves oak, Oaks of North America says 1 year but adds paranthetically "(may take two according to C.H. Muller)."

In the case of silverleaf oak, Oaks of N.A. seems adament that acorn maturity is 2 years, but this Texas A&M site says: "The acorns can mature in either one or two years, even though it is a member of the black oak group, whose acorns usually take two years to mature."

The Texas A&M site classifies Graves oak as a black oak, but mysteriously leaves silverleaf oak unclassified with respect to group. Does it have rounded or barbed lobes? Yes. Yes it does. Except for when the leaves are entire, which is most of the time.

Why would a species have acorns that can take either one or two years to mature? Might it not be a hybrid that crossed that supposedly uncrossable white oak / black oak divide? Does anyone know anything about these hybrids?

More taxonomic fun to come!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Acorns du Jour

(Click to enlarge)

California live oak... easily our most aerodynamic acorn!

I helped a customer unload a container of product (of course it had to be the hottest day of the year - 107 degrees), and this tree provided some very welcome shade for a couple of water and rest breaks.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taxonomy By Taste

The description of scarlet oak in Oaks of North America, by Howard Miller & Samuel Lamb contains this helpful nugget: "Inner bark red and not bitter to taste." Thanks for the tip!

Typical of foresters to start gnawing on bark in order to properly classify and identify trees.

When I was in college Urban Forestry majors like me had to take a course in Woody Plant Identification through the horticulture department. Most of the students in the class were landscape architecture or nursery management students. These hort students used to complain about having forestry majors in the class because the specimens to be identified on tests always had teeth marks and saliva on them.

That course was also notable for something else. It was the first time I ever ate acorns. Professor Mullin served acorn muffins and sumac cider after our final exam. What a cool guy! Of course at that time I thought he was a crackpot. Now I aspire to crackpot-dom.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One Species: Sand post oak gets the girl

Note: The "One Species" series of posts is meant to illustrate how oaks stretch to the breaking point the definition of "species" and state my (only partially tongue in cheek) contention that rather than two to four hundred species of oak there really is only one species with hundreds of varieties. In these posts I poke good-natured fun at the absurdity of the efforts of botanists to fit the square of genus Quercus into the round hole of taxonomy. But mostly the purpose of these posts is to contemplate the mind boggling potential of acorns as a food crop that could be unleashed if oaks only received 1/1,000,000th of the plant breeding efforts devoted to grain crops.

Here's a gem from Oaks of North America, under entry for sand post oak, Quercus stellata var. margaretta:

"Sand post oak is a variety of post oak and the characteristics of this variety generally follow those of post oak in form and growth. It occurs within the range of post oak, often intermingled, on dryer, sandy sites."

OK, let's stop here. So... sand post oak grows where post oak grows, and looks pretty much exactly like post oak. Doesn't that make it... post oak? To continue:

"It was named by Dr. Ashe, in 1903, for his friend Margaretta Henry Wolcott, who later became Mrs. Ashe."


That Dr. Ashe was one smooth operator! But I'm not sure that we should be accepting new named varieties of oak just to help some taxonomist improve his dating chances - no matter how badly he might need the help.

Well, two can play at that game! In Northfield, Minnesota there is a population of bur oaks that occurs within the range of bur oak and which look exactly like bur oak except for a very subtle difference in the exact number of fringes on the acorn cap that only I have been able to classify. It is now officially to be known as Q. macrocarpa var. Alice.

I'm sure her excitement knows no bounds... better than having a star named after you!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Acorns Poisonous?

Good grief.

The columnist, a gentleman named Bill Hayes, appears to work at the Master Gardener Office of Aiken County South Carolina Extension Service. He was asked if acorns are poisonous. He decided to make the question the subject of his column in the Aiken Standard.

He spends most of the time confusing the concepts of bitterness and toxicity. He spends the rest of them time equating acorn diets with a short lifespan and reduced population numbers.

One gem: "I found all sorts of stories about Native Americans eating acorns as part of their daily diet. I also found one article that said that the average life span of the American Indian was 30 years but made no reference to acorns as being part of the problem." For Pete's sake. For starters we don't really have any clue what the average life span of Native Americans was pre-European settlement. Post colonization there were minor issues like disease epidemics that tended to limit life span.

If you leach acorns they are perfectly tasty, and incredibly nutritious. Native Americans knew how to leach, process and store acorns in a way that rendered them edible decades later when settlers uncovered abandoned caches. Acorns have extremely high food value. It defies reason to suggest they might somehow shorten lifespan. Lots of other things faced by indigenous people would conspire to shorten lifespan: The vagaries of weather, the dangers of hunting, warfare, and again and most importantly devastating diseases brought by Europeans. Acorns were not one of those things.

Another doozy: "I finally located an article about squirrels and acorns. It turns out that gray squirrels have an enzyme in their system that protects them from the effects of red acorns. It doesn't change the taste, which is very bitter, but it does prevent a toxic reaction in the stomach. Most squirrels in Aiken are gray but we do have a few red ones too. Red squirrels are not as lucky as the grey and have no protection against the toxins in red acorns. Maybe that's why we have so few red squirrels."

First of all gray squirrels (and blue jays) cache acorns in a way that allows rainwater to percolate and leach the tannins for them... which apparently makes them smarter than many people I can name (and their remarkable ability to find the acorns they cached the previous autumn always amazes me, a guy who can't find my own car at the mall). Secondly red squirrels don't have the enzyme that helps break down tannins primarily because they eat other plant seeds, mushrooms, etc. Or perhaps they eat those foods because they lack the enzyme. Chicken, egg. The point is that their evolutionary niche is different from gray squirrels, so I doubt red squirrels shed a lot of tears over their inability to digest acorns.

Speaking of evolution, yes there are some kinds of livestock for whom acorns can be toxic, such as cattle and horses. Meanwhile, hogs + acorns = tasty. Can we put on our Darwin caps and figure out why that might be? Perhaps the difference between domestic animals who are meant to graze on grasses and forbes (and not, incidentally, feedlot corn) and domestic animals descended from woodland dwellers?

I know that mostly Mr. Hayes was trying to write a fun, light-hearted column with some interesting factoids meant to entertain readers, and there is some valuable information. But look, we are talking here about a food crop that sustained humankind for millenia, and that has the potential to feed millions and heal a damaged planet. Let's not make jokes about acorns shortening life spans, OK?

Toxic? Have you seen what's in most of the food we eat??


Agribusiness Hates Tree Crops

I spent Tuesday at a place that is fulfilling J. Russell Smith's vision of a permanent agriculture - later coined permaculture - based largely on tree crops and other perennial woody crops.

The surrounding farms are all traditional corn & soybean operations. I got to thinking that the local seed salesmen, herbicide and fertilizer salesmen and implement dealers must grit their teeth as they drive by my friend's farm. He has a small tractor, and another one that started rusting during the Eisenhower administration and is held together by the proverbial bubble gum and bailing twine. There are no drums of chemicals. His farm is notable for what isn't there, for what he doesn't spend, and for the fossil fuels he doesn't burn.

But the other thing that occurred to me is that the economics are my friend's farm are actually real. How screwed up is a system that has farmers growing corn and beans below cost, making up the difference with subsidy payments (that provide incentive for them to grow even more corn and beans, further suppressing the price)? How screwed up is a system that siphons money from farmers and rural areas and goes to large chemical, petrochemical and implement companies just so farmers can more efficiently (not in the sense of "profitably" but in the sense of "faster and easier") do battle with the soil each year to grow more and more of an unprofitable crop? How screwed up is a system that then must find new uses for that overproduction, such as high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks that keep getting cheaper by the ounce and served in larger quantities to a population in which obesity and diabetes are skyrocketing, and production of ethanol which in the short term serves the laudable goal of increasing grain prices but in turn makes it profible to slash & burn rainforest land and convert it to grain production?

Yes, those agribusiness companies provide jobs. Yes, those local seed, chemical and implement dealers are probably fine fellows with families to support. But the entire house of cards is built on an unsustainable relationship with the soil, an unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels, and an unsustainable economy.

It calls to mind the question Michael Pollen ponders in The Omnivore's Dilemma of who is really using whom - are we using corn, or is corn using us to expand its range and dominance in the landscape?

My friend has operates his farm on a "pay as you go" basis. No price supports, no subsidies.
Then again, no erosion, no pollution. Just food.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oak Gall Du Jour

(Click to enlarge)

This time of year the leaves of any oak tree look like wounded warriors, having hung on through humid heat waves that breed foliar fungi, hail storms, 80 mph straight line winds and a cloud of hungry insects.

Then at some point wasps lay their eggs and somehow magically, mysteriously induce the tree to form a gall that both protects and nourishes the wasp larva.

I think oak galls are incredibly cool, in part because I love having some things that science can't yet explain (or even pretend to explain) such as how they form.

Oak gall ink is made from galls called marble galls or "oak apples." Its amazing permanence made it the ink of choice for the most important works of art (Bach's compositions, da Vinci's drawings) and political documents.

One minor problem: Oak gall ink might last forever. The paper on which it is written, however, does not. Oak gall ink gradually eats away at the paper over time. Creating stencils of da Vinci's drawings, and lots job security for conservators.

The ultimate in oak geekdom: A photo of oak galls against a red oak floor I installed myself. No comments on the quality of my sanding please.

Brush With Immortality

Yesterday I saw and touched a tree grown from a seed taken (in the sense of "gathered," not in the sense of "stolen") from a tree planted by J. Russell Smith, auther of the landmark book/Bible of this site Tree Crop: A Permanent Agriculture.

Apparently Smith stipulated in his will that he wanted his family farm in Virginia to be held in trust and used as a research center after his death. So of course the board of directors almost immediately sold the property for subdevelopment. (If any readers can fill in more details of this story I'd love your help.) Smith's daughter Lela heroically worked to buy back a small portion of the land, and also befriended many of the new property owners, explaining to them the historic and ecological value of what they now owned, so that many of the trees Smith planted - and in many cases grafted and top worked - are still standing

Ironically, the tree I saw yesterday has been a very poor producer of nuts for my friend, and if it was any other tree he would have culled it from his orchard a long time ago. But there's no way he's ever going to cut down a tree that has sprung - both genetically and spiritually - from one of the great geniuses and heroes in American history... and I'm not going to wash the hand that touched it!

I just realized that Smith died in the year I was born. Guess that means I need to be at least a small piece in making his vision come true.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happiness Is...

1. Spending the first cool, low humidity evening in weeks collecting acorns with your amazing, beautiful, talented-far-beyond-anything-that-could-possibly-be-explained-by-either-Nature-OR-Nurture children.

2. Being faced with the can't lose choice between preparing those acorns for eating or storing them for planting next spring... then doing some of both.

3. Gathering acorns from the feet of giants... from the trio of matriarch bur oaks behind Farm House on the Carleton College campus, with massive branches stretching 50 feet from the trunk and sweeping almost to the ground... from the red oak next to our friends' driveway with the largest trunk I've ever seen on a Minnesota oak but with half its time-ravaged crown missing after decades of storms and lightning strikes - who know how many more years it will rain down acorns, so every year counts... from stately bur oak right behind it, with the chain winch wrapped around a stalwart branch for lifting engines from the Volvos our friends' neighbor restores for sale - a true shade tree mechanic!

4. Acorns in the fridge to provide sustenance through the winter and the promise of new life in the spring - a feeling of security that extends deep into the mists of human history, but which we have forgotten.

5. Showing your kids some multi-colored oak galls and having them say, "Oh, cool!"

6. Realizing how blessed you are to be living this life, in this place, at this time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Plant Oaks!

Taking the "Plant an Oak Pledge" at Mast Producing Trees reminded me that I need to post the last of 3 short clips that aired on Minnesota Bound earlier in the summer.

This one focused on - you guessed it - planting oak trees, as well as promoting the benefits of air pruning nursery pots to produce trees with better root systems. Air pruning pots prevent spiraling roots, which over time encircle and eventually strangle the base of the tree & are a major reason too many our urban trees live such short and unhappy lives (next time you're walking down the sidewalk take a look down at the base of the trees... you'll see large roots wrapping around the base of the trunk instead of growing outward in a radial pattern).

As you know I'm a huge fan of planting small seedlings (or even directly planting acorns) and using tree tubes to protect & launch them, but I also know there are situations where it makes more sense to plant larger stock.

In those cases I highly encourage you to find nurseries like Knecht's Nursery here in Northfield MN who are converting to air pruning pots for their oaks and other shade trees.

Take The Pledge

The very cool web site Mast Producing Trees has a pledge you can - and should - and will sign promising to plant an oak tree between now and the end of the year.

I know that for most readers of this site, signing a pledge promising to plant an oak tree is akin to signing a pledge promising to breathe! But I think that a pledge drive is a great way to raise awareness of the importance and value of planting oaks.

In the landscape oak are horribly under-planted due to misconceptions about their "slow growth" (to which I say, "Pshaw!") and the insane desire not to "litter" the lawn or driveway with acorns.

In the forest oaks are either:
1. Planted but frighteningly unsuccessfully due to record deer herds, hundreds of exotic and invasive vegetative competitors, and the lack of fire as a management tool and a means for species like bur oak (in Leopold's words "the stormtroopers of the prairie") to gain a competitive edge.
2. Not planted due to fear of and/or past experience with failure as described in #1. How many prime white oak sites in SE Minnesota were planted into red pine it was thought that planting oaks would work (or wouldn't pay)?

So to the pledge I would add a plea and a challenge: Step 1 is planting your oak(s). Step 2 is making sure they survive and thrive. And 21 years after first being introduced to the idea and first writing an article about the concept for my little non-profit newsletter as a means for successful oak planting, I still believe there is still no more powerful tool for oak establishment than treeshelters.

Disclaimer: I still make my living designing, making and marketing tree tubes (among other plant establishment products). I always will.

So kudos to Mast Producing Trees for initiating this pledge. Now go sign it and plant oaks!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cool Recipe? Yes!

OK so I made the Acorn Black Walnut Bread last night, and…

1- For visitors coming over from My Minnesota Woods, here's the highly anticipated photo (of what's left of a whole loaf made just last night):

(Click to enlarge) Looks good, eh?

2- Again, I was working from this Acorn Black Walnut Bread recipe, which in turn came from this very cool site. I stuck with maple syrup (hand produced in Rush City by tree farmers David & Carole Cartwright – delicious!) instead of the suggested alternative agave nectar. I went with Persian walnuts rather than black walnuts, for the simple reason I had them on hand. I went with applesauce instead of canned persimmons.

3- As is usual when I am in the kitchen, there was a bit of a mishap. Luckily this one did not involve an emergency room visit like usual (think Dan Ackroyd as Julia Child on SNL, except with more blood). I had the wet and dry ingredients mixed together before I realized I was supposed to have added a Tablespoon of baking powder instead of the teaspoon I had done. So I had to add a Tablespoon minus a teaspoon at that point and it never really got mixed in properly. My wife Alice got an especially large clump of baking powder in her piece. When I bake it's a surprise in every mouthful! (Of course that's better than the pancakes I made for my daughter's birthday when I mistakenly used baking soda instead of baking powder. I still think that the metallic tang those pancakes left on your tongue wasn't too bad. My daughter still hasn't forgiven me. Nor should she.)

Even after that, the bread turned out fantastic. Really tasty, very hearty and filling. Highly recommended. We did agree that if (when) we make this bread again we'll add either some nutmeg or vanilla (or both) for just a little extra flavor. We might try agave instead of syrup as well just to see the difference.

And we'll try again with acorns we gather and process ourselves. Acorn drop is almost here!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cool Site, Cool Recipe?

Found this site while searching (in vain) for acorn flour for sale on the web: http://wildfoodplants.com/tag/acorn-flour - video on how to process acorns.

There are a number of recipes, including one for Acorn Black Walnut Bread. I'll be making it later today. I'll let you know how it goes and will post some photos.

UPDATE: The very end of the acorn flour video shows an additional source of acorn protein!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Construction Damage Clip

I grew up (to the extent that I grew up at all) in the western Minneapolis suburbs in the 1970's and early 1980's. I watched suburban development replace the (mostly) oak woodlands I played and hiked in as a kid. I worked summers at a garden center in Plymouth and loaded cars and trucks with the plant materials (Crimson King Norway Maples, potentillas, spireas), landscape fabric, crushed rock and plastic edging that were used to replace the native woodlands that were lost.

I entered forestry school intending to be the guy who figured out how to build in wooded areas with minimal damage to existing trees, and how to re-plant what couldn't be saved with native plants. Once in forestry school I quickly realized that I didn't have to figure these things out. A lot of folks much, much smarter than me had already figured these things out. Donald Willeke. Dr. David French. Steve Kunde. Many, many others. I decided instead that I was going to be the guy to bridge the gap between all of those brilliant people and the general public. I was going to be the communicator.

I got off to a good start. In 1988 with Don Willeke's help I started a non-profit organization called Lasting Woodlands. I published a newsletter on construction damage and celebrating our native woodland plants (being a forester I'm sure I focused too heavily on trees and not enough on shrubs, ephemerals, and other important components of a healthy woodland system!).

I gave my first seminar on preventing construction damage to trees 22 years ago. I wish I could say that I fulfilled my initial promise as the communicator of this information. I didn't. But I will.

Hopefully this is at least a small start. Again with deepest thanks to Ron Schara of Minnesota Bound and his top-notch production staff, here is the short clip I did on construction damage prevention that aired in May. If it made just one homeowner or builder stop and give some thought to protecting a 36" diameter oak on their property then it was worth it. (Actually, it was worth it no matter what because I enjoyed working with Adam and Steve from MN Bound. What I mean is if it saved one tree it was worthwhile.)

... proving once again that there is nothing as painful in the world as having to watch and listen to yourself on video!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oak Nirvana

I just got back from Oak Nirvana. A place with staggering diversity of oak "species." A place where there's so much natural hybridization that it renders laughable the concept of species when applied to the genus Quercus (frequent readers know that I contend that there are perhaps two true "species" of oaks with hundreds of interbreeding variations in constant transition and evolution). A place that literally makes my head spin with the possibilities and potential for going back in time to our acorn eating Eden. A place where the word dirt is spoken with the reverence it deserves.

Stay tuned.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happiness is... Absolutely Brilliant Readers!

I've been exploring - in a very intermittant and extremely haphazard sort of way - the question of why humankind "evolved," or more accurately transitioned, from living a life of relative leisure and plenty living on the "fruit" of trees - acorns - to living a life of toil and sweat waging war on the soil to grow grains.

Commenting on my most recent post on the subject reader "Eric The Red" wrote:

... consider these aphorisms. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. An army marches on its stomach. The bible stating that man must support himself by the sweat on his brow. Control what a culture eats (and how much free time the culture has) and you control what that culture does.

Brilliant stuff, encapsulating in a few short sentences what I've been struggling with across months and rambling paragraphs.

Control. I have to think that the concept of control - over land, over food, and therefore over populations - has a lot to do with the transition from living off the bounty of trees to the sweat, oil and blood-soaked battle with the land.

Yes, traditional balanocultures had a tradition of "ownership" to some degree. In California's balanocultures, which survived into the 19th and even early 20th centruries (and which, I should thankfully add, still survive today as a culture but not with the same freedom of movement or control over the land) family would lean a decorative stick against the trunk of a particular oak tree to claim ownership of that year's acorn crop. A family hoping to share in that tree's bounty would then need to negotiate for the right to a share of that tree's crop, and provide payment of some kind.

But this is a very different concept than the kind of land ownership necessitated by and made possible by production of annual grain crops.

Dr. David Bainbridge writes that California balanocultures could gather enough food to last a year in just a few weeks of labor. Of course there would be continual labor involved in processing (leaching and grinding) and cooking the acorns to eat, but this work would be done with the reassuring knowledge that a year's food - or two years' food - is cached and safe. The amount of leisure time must have been astounding! Astounding... and a real threat to anyone hoping to control a population's activities. Far easier and far better to have those people (and by "people" I mean men who a) must have had immense amounts of leisure time in balanocultures and b) would be the people rulers would most want to control for their own military purposes) staring at the back end of a beast of burden while fighting to keep the plow straight. Far easier to own and control the land, and get others to work it in exchange for a very small portion of the crop. Far easier to keep others in a permanent state of indebtedness.

It's a system we all bought into, and buy into every day in a hundred small, almost unnoticeable ways.

I've been obsessed with the question of why we changed, why we stopped eating acorns. Greed, control, guilt, wanderlust. I'll keep thinking about and writing about this question of why.

But the new question I'll be spending a lot more time thinking about, writing about, and hopefully living out is: How do we go back?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oak Wilt Clip

With very sincere thanks to the fantastic production staff at Minnesota Bound, here's the clip on oak wilt they aired this past spring.

We're losing enough oak trees through forest succession, land "development," disease and poor natural regeneration due to high deer populations. We don't need to lose any more oaks to something as ridiculously preventable as oak wilt.