why, in a forest, are the leaves of a small oak tree larger than a big oak tree?

Yesterday, while walking through the woods, I noticed a very large oak tree leaf.  Automatically, I looked up and around for the parent and saw just large pines and then, on the side, a smallish 14 ft oak tree.  Could this small tree have produced such a large leaf, I wondered.  It still retained some leaves and indeed they were very large. Now I know that oak trees will wait patiently in shrub form for an opening in the canopy above and then they spring to life.  I have found 1ft high Read more [...]

a pleasurable Fall task -fruit trees

"task" and "pleasure" seem opposed but not when it comes to fruit trees.  I enjoy planting fruit tree saplings.  Fruit trees are a long term investment and some of the best advice I received was to plant the trees first and then focus on the vegetables and berries.   While in Portland last September I visited the Powell bookstore, which is a landmark.  In the growing section I found the Lee Reich book "Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden" marked down to $9.  I snapped it up,  read it and then Read more [...]

from peaflowers to DNA

I never studied biology and as I pursue my "new track "in growing and interacting with nature I am at a disadvantage. I recently completed the excellent "Introduction to Sustainability"  MOOC provided by www.coursera.org entirely free, and learned a lot.  I enjoyed the experience and have now decided to study biology.  There is a coursera course starting summer next year "Introduction to Biology: DNA to Organisms" and the notes suggest acquiring "Biology" by Campbell Reece.  I was able to Read more [...]

welcome diversion and a bit of luck

My property is about 50 minutes (=50 miles) north of Atlanta.  Some 30 minutes into the trip I will often find a pretext to stop at the convenient Lowes DIY store for a "necessary " purchase as well as for the free coffee, friendly cashier and to ease springs.  The last reminds me of my army days when, after serious imbibing in the NCO mess, we would "request permission to ease springs" and then stumble over the tent guy ropes into the darkness of the night. So this morning was no different Read more [...]

lessons from the slope, including the war with brambles

The house I purchased a few years ago is on sloping ground and between the house and the tarmac road was a gully which the previous owner, a contractor, had filled with trash.  (Not as bad as contractors digging holes for landscaping dirt for a new house and then filling with tree trunks, which results in sinkholes, anguish and expense for home owners.)  I tried clearing the trash myself with trips in my pickup to the recycling center but made little progress.  I did not have my bobcat at the Read more [...]

trees and Oregon visit

My interest is moving from annual vegetable crops to tree crops and perennials.  Perhaps the bonanza of pears from my Kieffer, Warren and Giant Korean, plus lots of figs from an old established tree have spurred me on. With the summer heat deterring outdoor activity for much of the day, I have been reading extensively.  Now that "Farmers of Forty Centuries" by F.H King (published 1911)  is behind me, I moved on  to "Tree Crops a Permanent Agriculture" by JR Smith published 1929 (freely downloadable) Read more [...]

rethinking contour ditches

I have excavated at least half a dozen contour ditches and, in the months following construction, they performed as advertised.  After heavy rains they dutifully filled with water and, because they are on contour i.e. horizontal, they held the rainwater and allowed it to infiltrate into the soil benefiting the plantings on each side of the ditch (actually the plantings on the side of the contour ditches which adjoined the lower slope did better, probably because there was more topsoil on that side Read more [...]

gumption and the intermittent failure

If the South's summer heat and humidity bear any consolation, it is that I have to seek shelter in the house for much of the day and thus am able to extend my reading. I enjoyed the first third of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig but struggled as the protagonist ascended higher into the mountain and into rarefied philosophical issues for which I was not prepared.  Now in the last third of the book the running is easier.  His thoughts on gumption and practical issues of machine Read more [...]

ideas from the past – the kang

I am reading the F. H. King classic "Farmers of Forty Centuries: Organic Farming in China, Korea, and Japan" written in 1911 and there are so many nuggets of useful information, including the "kang". He observed the  kang  during his visit to Mongolia and his commentary  made me think of the rocket mass heater (now popular in permaculture circles)  with which it shares a number of features. He describes several kangs - in one case it was 7ft by 7ft and about 28" high and "could be warmed Read more [...]

observation and analysis

I used to think observation was the key talent.  On trips through the Kruger game reserve in South Africa my siblings and I competed to spot the lion, cheetah, leopard or unusual game first.  On a river boat trip through north Australia we competed to be the first in the launch to spot the saltwater crocs ("salties") lazing on the banks.  And for such contests a sharp eye was all that was needed. But in my interactions with nature, observing the discordant object is only the first step.  Understanding Read more [...]