Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcome to world

Welcome to the world Harmon Walter!

Make sure your papa plants an oak tree in honor of your arrival.  Knowing him it will be bearing acorns by the time you head off to kindergarten!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Approaching this tree on Vineyard Drive west of Paso Robles, CA I thought to myself, "Gosh that's a pretty darn big valley oak."  But, like so many of the bigger valley/California white oaks (Quercus lobata) in the area, this one had seen better days, and had been through the wars of lightening strikes, dropped branches and the minor detail of having a road built over its root system... leaving me to think to myself once again, "By golly, I wish I could have seen it about 50 years ago."

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Then as I got nearer to the trunk of the tree I just about locked up the brakes and thought to myself, "Holy moly that tree is huge!"  Because apparently I have taken to thinking to myself in dialogue from episodes of Ozzy & Harriet. 

To return to the more appropriate lingo of 2012 central coast California:  Bro, this dude is a beast.
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Need a little scale?  Here you go:
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That is my ball cap.  Stylish, eh?  Keep something in mind here:  I have a big head.  A really big head.  And not just figuratively.  My older brother played football at our very large suburban Minneapolis high school, and he was the only kid on the team for whom the school didn't have a large enough brain bucket.  He had to order a custom helmet from the same place that used to outfit the Minnesota Vikings.  Do you know what we call him in the family?  Pinhead.   As usual I didn't have a tape measure with me, but I'd estimate the dbh (diameter at breast height in forestry jargon) at 7 feet.

The California white oaks of the coast range hillsides and valleys amaze me.  Summer temps hover around a bajillion degrees.  Winter temps often go well below freezing.  Rainfall is as infrequent as it is sporadic.  These oaks cling tenaciously to life for decades & centuries, and then the second they tap into a water source (in this case a creek/ditch) they grow to immense proportions.

This is the base of a branch this tree dropped:

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The base of the branch is bigger than most mature oak trees in my native Minnesota!  The architecture necessary to support a branch of those proportions boggles the mind.
Oh, yeah - remember the pruning scare on the roadside of the tree, the pruning scare that left much too long a branch stub?  Here's what you see as you drive by:

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Yes, I could be a curmudgeon and file this under "Oak Abuse," but come on.  I'm not a big one for anthropomorphizing trees.  My friend/mentor/hero Donald Willeke (co-founder of the American Chestnut Foundation, past president of American Forests, co-founder of the Twin Cities Tree Trust, etc etc etc) once wrote a typically hysterical and acerbic piece lampooning Joyce Kilmer's poem Trees, in particular questioning the contortions required for a tree to press its "mouth" against the Earth while at the same time lifting its "leafy arms to pray" while "looking at God all day."

But you have to admit, giving this tree a face is pretty cool.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oak Abuse #548

These photos are of the same huge California white oak (Quercus lobata) north & west of Paso Robles, CA (can you tell from recent posts I have been spending a lot of time in that part of the world delivering bird netting for vineyards?  I have about a dozen more posts ready to go resulting from these drives through oak-laden vineyard country!).

I don't know why stuff like this bugs me so much, but it just does.

By my count that's eleven nails within about a square foot.
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I would conservatively estimate the number of nails pounded into this (approximately 2.5ft diameter) tree at three or four goo-gobs.  Do the nails harm the tree?  No, not really - although they could severely harm the poor soul who might someday have to cut down or section it with a chainsaw.  To me it's more indicative of a mindset, of how people so often think of trees as telephone poles with branches and leaves.  Instead of vice versa.  Or something like that.
All I know is that's one heck of a lot of posters for a tree on a very lightly traveled country road.  What are they posting?  Lost cat flyers? Probably better off asking the local coyotes.  Barn dance announcements?  Posting of indictments/contradictions of Catholic teachings?  Soon-to-be-disregarded Indian treaties?  Hard to say; I have never actually seen something posted here.

Same tree:

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Another in my series of "oak tree as fencepost" photographs (none of which have I posted here, so don't waste time looking.  He said, as if you had actually planned to look.).
Again, is this especially harmful to the tree?  Eh.  It is of course better than wrapping wire completely around the tree and eventually girdling it.  It's not precisely bad for the tree, but for crying out loud would it be that hard to drive a fencepost a couple of feet away?

And again, I'm glad I won't be the guy with the chainsaw in hand cutting it down someday.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tree of Life

California white oak (Quercus lobata), Chimney Rock Rd, Paso Robles, CA.

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Is there any organism on the planet that, pound for pound or acre for acre, supports as much life - in terms of diversity and volume - as the oaks?
I counted 15 wild turkeys under this tree, feasting on early dropping acorns.  Standing amidst the turkeys were three large does which bounded gracefully away just as I pulled to a stop (and yes regular readers, I actually pulled to a stop this time before shooting the photo - big mistake ;-).

And if you look closely in the reflection of the windshield of my Dodge pick up you can see the ghosts of the humans - the indigenous people of California's central coast - that were smart enough to take their place beside the wild turkeys, deer, squirrels, jays, woodpeckers, etc etc etc and take sustenance from these Trees of Life.

Oak Abuse #529 comment

Commenting on the previous post reader thefuturefarm writes,

"Maybe white oaks pollard well really high?"

I hate when readers' comments are about 50 times more clever than my original post.

I shouldn't hate it, because a) I love getting comments, and b) my readers are 50x smarter than me.

Thanks for reading thefuturefarm... and keep commenting!

Oak Abuse #529

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Well, I have seen better pruning jobs.  Ouch.

California white oak (Quercus lobata) - or rather, it was a California white oak - Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles, CA.