Sunday, January 31, 2010

More on Herbie the 225 year old Elm tree, and Frank Knight

I blogged about Mr Frank Knight here, and the old tree named Herbie. Herbie was an approximately 225 year old elm tree in Yarmouth Maine that finally succumbed to Dutch Elm disease, despite being saved 14 times over fifty years by Mr Knight during his five decade tenure as the Tree Warden. Mr Knight is now 101 years old. The Portland (ME) Press Herald did a follow up on the tree regarding its age and the tree rings, and how the remnants of this historic tree- that likely saw the American Revolution- will be used in the future.

Herbie's trunk may help climate scientists

YARMOUTH — Herbie, the giant American elm tree, is giving his trunk over to science. Since the tree was felled two weeks ago, scientists from Columbia University, the University of Maine and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have contacted the Maine Forest Service about examining Herbie's trunk to see what can be learned about the tree's age and about the climate over the years.

Peter Lammert of the Maine Forest Service said his computer has been clogged with e-mails from scientists interested in the stories that Herbie's growth rings might tell. In particular, Herbie's demise is bringing out of the woodwork highly specialized scientists who study tree rings: Dendroclimatologists, who look to tree rings for answers about the climate, and dendrochronologists, who specialize in determining the age of trees based on rings.

The tallest American elm in New England, the 110-foot-tree survived 14 bouts of Dutch elm disease, thanks to the town's long-time tree warden, Frank Knight, who's now 101.

But Herbie was cut down on Jan. 19 after the fungal disease became fatal. Most of the tree's remains will go to artisans who'll create salad bowls, cutting boards and furniture, but several cuttings will be displayed prominently in the town hall, state arboretum and elsewhere. Scientists are interested in taking a look, as well. The tree, with a circumference of 244 inches, had a diameter of about 6.5 feet.

George Jacobsen, Maine state climatologist, said it'll be interesting to see whether Herbie's trunk reflects climatic anomalies such as the "year without a summer" in 1816, when volcanic activity halfway around the world led to an exceptionally cold summer in New England. That year, frost was recorded in every month of the summer, and the colder temperatures and lack of sunlight caused by volcanic ash might be seen in Herbie's rings, Jacobsen said. "I'm glad that people are interested in this type of analysis. We'd have to know more about the tree and its environment and its history before we know what its scientific value is," he said.

For now, Lammert is focused simply on determining the tree's age. Based on the growth rings, Lammert announced after Herbie was cut down that the tree was about 212 years old. But that's subject to change. On Friday, Lammert and others returned to Herbie's stump to slice away a cross-section of the stump. An examination indicated Herbie likely grew in the wild for 10 to 20 years under the shade of other trees before being transplanted, said Jan Ames Santerre, senior planner with the Maine Forest Service.

That discovery will add 10 to 20 years to Lammert's preliminary age estimate, bringing it closer to Frank Knight's estimate of about 235 to 240 years, Santerre said. The tree would have been a seedling in about 1770-75, by Knight's estimate.

Ultimately, Lammert said he'll invite others to join him for a final examination. The cross-section is big enough for a half-dozen scientists to count rings at the same time. Lammert said it's important to get it right because Herbie was New England's champion elm, watched over for five decades by Knight.

"I want to be real careful," Lammert said. "I want to give Frank a true account of how old that tree is, for the record books."

Rural scenes: oil drums

Among the scenes I usually post, of barns and fences and churches and cows, this is another usual scene along the byways of rural Georgia. A great old car, a shed and the ubiquitous 50 gallon drums.

Here's another scene, this one is along my own street. If I was a guy, I'd probably see the attraction to 50-gallon oil drums. As it is, I took the photo below because I liked the font on the drum. I took the photo above because I liked the car.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Corner View: My favorite hang out

Jane at Spain Daily has a weekly theme called "Corner View" on which we all write, sharing our view of our corner of the world. This week it's "Our favorite hangout." Be sure to check out her blog which has links to all the other Corner Views.

I've hung out in some of the world's most famous places: La Coupole, Spanish Steps, Machrie moor, Rodeo Drive. I've hung out in my previous home city's most hip cafes. I've hung out in parks of all kinds, libraries, and museums. All were great. But there's no place like home.

My current favorite hang out is here at my living room in Comer Georgia. I dive into it after about 6 pm. I'm busy at work all day and when I get home around 3pm I write at my desk-table. By about 6pm I'm too tired to really think and my eyes are going funny from the strain. So the couch beckons.

You note that the set-up here has everything a hang out needs. There is a comfy place to sit or lay. There is the important presence of the coaster, that's for the ever-important cup of tea. The remote control brings the world of satellite (such as it is) to my living room. The maneuverable lamp at one end of the couch shines light over my shoulder so I can read, and the stack of books on the edge of the coffee table is testament to the pleasures that those hours will bring. Sometimes I'll bring my laptop over and use it for a few more hours of light research. The blanket is for my feet, which get cold, and the pillows are numerous and fluffy. Also note the cat at the threshold of the door, he and my other cat pile on when they hear me get on the couch.

It is a great hangout. Who can ask for more when I have everything I want or need at my fingertips?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Winter's wreckage

The birdbath needs paint. Walking in the yard yesterday I noticed that the frost heaves have sagged the fence. The brush around the plant pots is piled with brown leaves and detritus blown in from the dead greenery around the yard. The birdhouses are peeling, and this birdbath needs paint.

I am sort of like that. My old body has some dead spots. Years of accumulated waste is piled up, and the exterior sure could use a coat of fresh paint. I wouldn't trade my ole body for anything though. As tilted and cracked as it is, it is still standing after winter's storms.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Corner View: Personal style

Jane at Spain Daily invites you to talk about a weekly theme relative to your corner of the world. Tune in to her entry today, and there is also a list of other participants you can click to read. The theme this week is "Personal Style".

I used to have a personal style. It was the classics: straight lines that never go out of style, simple lines in luxurious fabrics. Velvet dresses, cashmere sweaters, tweed blazers. However there was an incipient germ inside me that, along with the inevitability of aging, combined to bring me where I am today. The germ is hatred of shopping. I truly dislike malls, stores, and trying on clothes, so after a while I drifted away from the scene. Combined with aging (I'm thicker now and the straight lines don't hang straight anymore) and a more full life, I regularly fail to even momentarily enter a store. Add diminished wealth to the mix and now velvets and tweeds and satins are out of reach for me. The final nail in the coffin was that I never actually cared about fashion. I don't spend energy to seek it out nor do I travel any more to Paris or Rome, there is no need to entertain counts or Arab billionaires or global importer-exporters at Le Grande or on the Med. Now I am content to stay at home and write in my lounger pants and substitute teach in jeans. Thus in photographing a piece that represented my personal style: it came to me that now at nearly age 50, I have none.

All the clothes in this closet, my one and only closet by the way, are hand me downs, ebay finds, yard sale purchases off the cuff. None of this represents my favored colors, styles, or fabrics. My personal style is whatever I happen to be wearing at the moment - which right now are Chic jeans and a tattered DKNY sweatshirt. Sigh. Let's hope my fabulous personality makes up for the lack.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cardinal in the sun and candlelight for the rest

Some birds are making their way back to my yard as the weather warms a little. Arriving home from church yesterday, I heard the distinctive call of the cardinal. Looking over, I saw this bright red little guy on top of the silver fence, under the green magnolia tree. I loved the colors and slid out of the car, lifted my camera, and snapped away, hoping not to spook him into flight. Not to worry, that part of the yard is the domain of the birds, and they feel comfortable, even entitled, to sit under the tree and sing to their heart's content, no matter what. I'm glad. The tree is home to two bird houses and countless chicks, moms, and dads, and their birdsong livens up the yard. I can't wait for spring till they are all back!

I watched Masterpiece Theatre last night as the Cranford series continued. I love the genteel scenes, the witty and lilting dialog, yet it is incisive and occasionally biting too. I love the Thomas Hardy-ish rolling hills of the English countryside, and the costumes of the dowagers who run the town. In one scene, Matty, Judi Dench playing the lead character, decides to lift the spirits of the town by re-opening and renovating the long-disused town ballroom. As the spinsters excitedly enter the room, and plumes of dust trail after their skirts, they do not see the dilapidation and ruin. They reminisce about their youthful dances, when their dance cards were full and life was ahead of them. Their faces lit up and they swirled around the room, lovingly touching each lampstand, each curtain, each sconce. The spell lasted until they assembled in front of the dusty gilt mirror and their memories of their young, blooming selves was evaporated by the reality in front of them. Their faces falling, they viewed their dowager selves for a moment, cocking their heads this way and that, as if the truth was not the truth but only a cruel joke.

Mrs Forrester's voice is soft: 'I do not recall such a mottled patina.' With a gloved hand, Miss Matty wipes away the dust and answers: 'The candlelight was kind. It polished the glass, and the faces captured there.'

'Candlelight was kind'...indeed. If we could all go around in the soft sepia tones of the old movies, designed to highlight the softness and freshness of the face. Have you ever caught your own face in the mirror, and been startled by your mother's visage lurking there? Or worse, that the youthful decline had skipped a generation, and the grandmother's visage reflected back? Ah, where does the time go. Until then, we always have candlelight.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lubec Maine

Old cannery in Lubec, a town that isn't a the end of the world, but you can see it from there. Located at the very tip of Maine, Canada a stone's throw across the harbor, the town is stark and beautiful...and totally driven by the sea and its bounties. The canneries are gone, but fishing is still alive.

Wandering Water Street on a summer day, the gulls screaming and the trawlers putt-putting, the tide lapping against the cannery pilings, and the foghorn in the distance, I always loved the sea sounds and the crisp air.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This is why I love kids

At school today: a boy, lost in thought, tuned out of the lesson I was conducting. One finger was hooked on either side of his mouth, widening it till either side of his lips was practically near each ear.

I put the teacher's manual down and asked "What are you doing?"

"I'm stretching the cracks out of my lips."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A day in the life of a substitute teacher

The Middle School is letting out. There's an endless line of buses that trundle down the new road and onto Rt. 98. A policeman directs traffic. This was a nice end of day, kids going home, my window was open and the sun was warm for the first time in weeks. The day began with frost on the windshield and a heavy sweater but finally, blessedly, the temperatures warmed up. I lowered my window as the buses dispersed and snapped photos all around. I was leaving behind a good day with cute first graders and looking ahead to home,  a cup of tea and my computer and the kitties. A great day, all in all.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Corner View: "Holiday"

Jane over at Spain Daily has resumed the "Corner View" Wednesday peek at life in your corner of the world. The theme this week is "Holiday." Be sure to check out Jane's photo, they are always lovely, and click the links to everyone else's Corner View.

A few years ago, I lived on a sailboat, cruising up and down the Eastern US to the Bahamas and back. Every day was a holiday.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Somebody dropped their drawers!

This cracked me up. Two metal drawers, one on top of the other, placed, not thrown, on a traffic island in the middle of of a two-lane highway. How'd they get there? Why are they there? Why two drawers, and not 4? It's hard to stop in that spot, kind of dangerous too. Oh, well, it gave me something to think about on the drive hime.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Frank Knight and the 240 year old tree

Seven or eight years ago, I wrote a feature on Frank Knight of Yarmouth Maine. I was editor/publisher of The Monument Newspaper at the time, and Mr Knight's stature as the 90-plus-year-old tree warden of the Town of Yarmouth, Maine was of interest.

During the course of the interview, I learned much about trees, dedication to one's chosen profession, and also about courtliness. Mr Knight is a gentle man, in both senses of the word. He showed me "Herbie", New England's oldest and tallest elm tree and told me that the tree had been standing since before the Revolutionary War. It was something special to be able to put your hand on a living thing that pre-dated our nation's birth. The direct connection to a long-ago time was an opportunity one doesn't forget.

My challenge for the photograph was the man and the tree. The tree was too large to get a good photo of it in its entirety that would also show the man next to it who had nursed it for five decades. Mr Knight had cared for the tree through the Dutch Elm disease (14 times!) scourge, droughts, and development. But now the end has come. Not for Mr Knight, still going strong at 101 years young. But for Herbie the Elm Tree. It will succumb to the chop, having blossomed its last leaf. It is succumbing to Dutch Elm disease at long last. (Photo source and information about The Herbie Project)

The photo I eventually chose to use in my feature article was one that I remember to this day. It was of Mr Knight leaning against Herbie with his hand on its trunk, his other hand in his pocket, and a smile on his tanned face. Mr Knight's nearly 100 year old hand on the 240 year old trunk were almost indistinguishable. His aged gnarled knuckles, made all the rougher from years as a logger in his youth were similar to the gnarls and bumps of the old bark. Yet both tree and man stood proud, serving their purpose with dignity amid tremendous changes around them over the course of the centuries.

I can't find the photo now of Mr Knight leaning against his great love, Herbie, and I wish I could. But the memory of my brief encounter with this courtly man and his tree remains vivid. Today there are many news outlets picking up on the story of the soon to be accomplished tree-felling, starting with the New York Times. There is quite a stir and hubbub online from the US to Canada and beyond about the loss of this tree. But I prefer to remember the affectionate, quiet moments with Mr Knight on a summer day in far-away Yarmouth Maine, his faithfulness to history, and his dedication to roots of all kinds.

240-Year-Old Maine Elm Tree to Be Chopped Down
YARMOUTH, Maine (AP) -- The massive elm tree that shaded the corner of East Main Street and Yankee Drive was sick. Like so many others in so many of America's towns in the 1950s, it was stricken with Dutch elm disease. Tree warden Frank Knight was so smitten with the tree that he couldn't bear to cut it down. After all, it had been standing sentinel in this New England village since before the American Revolution.

Over the next half-century, Knight carefully nursed the tree, spraying for pests and pruning away the dreaded fungus, even as the town's other elms died by the dozens. As he succeeded, the stately tree's branches reached 110 feet skyward, its leaves rustling in summer breezes off the Royal River and its heavy limbs shouldering winter snowfalls.

more at link.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Traffic, Comer style

I work at a school so I have school hours, from about 7:30 to 3. This suits me, I have the rest of the day to do my own thing, while it's light out, and a break between school and teaching at church Wednesday nights. Occasionally I get caught in the big traffic jam at Comer Elementary. Leaving Danielsville Elementary school at 3, if I ride back down Rt 98 at just the right time, I get tangled up in the bus and parent traffic leaving that school. I live across the street. There really is so much traffic leaving the school and the road is such a major road in the county, that it does require a flashing '25 mph' signal for the half hour in the morning when buses arrive and at the end of the school day when buses leave. It also requires a policeman to direct traffic, which also suits me. I like having the law outside my house two times a day, with all the burglaries happening.

So yesterday was one of those days when I got caught n the traffic in front of the school before it dispersed. I laugh, because the 'traffic' usually doesn't usually back up for too many car lengths, and the policeman is skilled and keeps things moving along evenly. However something was different yesterday and I did sit there in one spot for about 10 minutes. After a while I picked up my camera, rolled down the window and started shooting. There are many rural scenes all around and within camera-shot, without a zoom, even, lol. I laughed at the irony of idling in traffic in front of the American iconic white picket fence, cows, and birdhouses. 

Monday, January 04, 2010

How it is around here

Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over we sadly must return to regular schedules. Schedules that include paying bills, doing laundry, and eating right. However, while the holidays were on, some folks around here had a really good time as evidenced by the police blotter blurb below. I wonder what they are regretting now that the cold light of day has come upon them? ;) No Christmas party stock room dalliance that can be kept secret, these folks awoke to their name in the news.

"Three arrested after riding on horses while drinking Three people were arrested recently in an unusual case of DUI, after a deputy reportedly found them riding horses on the road at night while drinking. According to the sheriff’s office and the incident report, Deputy Dennis Harbison found the trio riding their horses on James Adams Road after dark Saturday night with no reflective gear on. Harbison asked them to get off their horses and noticed the smell of alcohol and that they were unstable on their feet. He also found several cans of Bud Light both open and unopened in their saddle bags. They were arrested and taken to the Madison County Jail."

We awoke today to a cold morning here in peachy Georgia. Bright, but very cold.No, the photo isn't of Georgia, it's from Maine, but the sun was that bright, glinting off the hard grown trees and icy patches in the yard.

Wunderground reports this morning "Gusty winds will persist across north and central Georgia this morning...creating wind chill values in the single digits above zero. Strong gusty winds from 15 to 25 mph can be expected. Wind chill values will be between 0 and 10 degrees above zero generally along and north of a line from Franklin to McDonough to Danielsville...through 9 am EST. Anyone going outdoors should dress in layers. Those especially sensitive to cold temperatures should remain indoors until temperatures rise later this morning." Hmmm, OK!

The news says "Winter cold dominates country's eastern half""Brutally cold temperatures continue in the Eastern U.S., with snow near the Great Lakes."

Frozen pipes are a concern. Most houses around here don't have them well insulated or protected, there rarely being a long spell of below freezing weather. I don't remember it being this cold at any time in the four winters I've lived here. Mid-teens for an overnight low is pretty cold for anywhere, but especially cold for the people around here who think 45 degrees is a temperature assault on the bones. Above, Drudge Report home page today.

Yet, charmingly, the birds are back. I have heard more birds the last few days than I have in the previous two months. I think some of them are making their way back, or are-emerging with vigor. Anyway, it's good to hear them. They're active in the scuppernine fence at the back of the yard. They are swooping, playing, and chirping to their heart's content. It's great to hear. See the fat one in the middle of the brown foliage? They swoop across the yard and land there and then continue on to the next door guy's roof.

Yesterday I spent in one of my favorite ways, worshiping at church for the majority of the morning, and home cooking for the majority of the afternoon. The cooking and washing dishes after gives my hands a chance to be busy while I think and ponder the truths related to me from the sermon. I spent a long time considering what the Holy Spirit might want me to do to serve Jesus this year. As to the cooking part, I made brownies, baked a bunch of sweet potatoes, and made sweet potato casserole. Obviously I had a lot of potatoes to get rid of! I get them for free from an organic farm and I love them! Just love them. The casserole was a take on southern sweet potato casserole but I modified it for northern tastes. The recipe I was given was simple enough, steam or boil the taters as they are referred to here, mash, add salt, pepper, vanilla, sugar and butter. I omitted the sugar. I mean, they're sweet potatoes, they don't need more sweetening. The ladies of the south love their sugar. And I halved the butter. You just don't need that much with an organic product that has fantastic taste all its own.

These red berries are about the only thing that has color in the yard these days. Except for the occasional cardinal, the colors out back are brown and more brown. I can't wait for spring, which blessedly comes in March here in north Georgia, and not in May as in my former home of Maine. Then the yard bursts into color of all kinds as well as a chorus of noise from the returning birds.

I settled in for the final episode of Cranford last night on Masterpiece Theatre. Oh, what a joy to view great acting, sumptuous scenes, and stellar writing. It was wonderful, all snuggled up on my couch under a blankie and my two cats on either side of me, purring and stretching and kneading. Best of all, though things got pretty sad there in the middle of the run, all ended happily. I love Judy Dench...and Masterpiece. I can't wait for the series to continue with its sequel next week. And after that several of Jane Austen's books are made into series. It looks to be some nice Sunday night for the next few weeks.

So ends my vacation. Today I'm readying the apartment, the car, and myself for the hectic work-week. I'm making soup, vacuuming, doing laundry and bagging up 3 old canvas bags teachers seem to tote around, two with their ministry materials for Good News Club and Pioneer Club, which begin again, and the third for school for my lunch and subbing needs. I'm ready for the onslaught again! The question is, is it ready for me?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Above, the back yard on a cold winter's day.

The traditional New Year's lunch around these here parts is peas with greens. Peas as in the bean family. Greens, as in turnip or collard greens. Accompanied by cornbread. Sounds lackluster, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. Here are the ins and outs of great southern cooking.

We ate the traditional lunch today, together. My friend had cooked the lunch and invited a couple of us over. It was a feast! The turnip greens were cooked well, tender and juicy. The peas were crowder peas and really tasty too. You top them with a tomato relish. Take a tomato, chopped, and reduce with sugar and vinegar till thick. Plop onto the peas. It is soooo good! Cornbread is baked in a seasoned pie tin - with buttermilk-  for extra moistness and a crusty crust. It is soooo good! A sweet potato oiled on the outside and baked slowly while wrapped in tin foil completes the meal.

We ate slowly, enjoying the cornbread soaked in crowder peas juices, and the potato steaming as we slit the foil. They drank sweet tea, of course. I had water. The peas are supposed to represent coins and the turnip greens, money, for a prosperous new year. So, Happy New Year to all and I hope 2010 is prosperous and happy for all of you.