Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tree 'rich'ness

Healthy Hickory Tree in Spring

“To be poor and be without trees, is to be the most starved human being in the world. To be poor and have trees, is to be completely rich in ways that money can never buy.” 
― Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęsThe Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die

Trees give us so much.  There are some native to a large part of America that provide nuts with high nutrients, as well as prime wood for lumber.  Not to mention, Hickory trees and Walnuts trees are just downright pretty.



We had the honor to tour a Walnut plantation in Northern Missouri this Spring of 2014.  What a beautiful view!  This grove was planted in 1990.  After many methods of trial and error, much work in weeding, thinning, pruning, the growth is nature's glory. 


2 year old Walnut Sapling.  Cute huh?

“But what is work and what is not work?  Is it work to dig, to carpenter, to plant trees, to fell trees, to ride, to fish, to hunt, to feed chickens, to play the piano, to take photographs, to build a house, to cook, to sew, to trim hats, to mend motor bicycles?  All of these things are work to somebody, and all of them are play to somebody.  There are in fact very few activities which cannot be classed either as work or play according as you choose to regard them."
- George Orwell




“I like to tell people that trees are organic, natural, and, most importantly, renewable,” says the 61-year-old rocker. They give us materials for buildings and books. They clean our air and our water. They shelter wildlife. That’s just for starters. Did he mention jobs, too? He turns serious when he talks about this. He wants to get through, to make people see. He knows some think using trees is harmful. But no, “We need reasons to grow trees.”
Chuck Leavell  (From Philly.com:)  

What better reason than this to grow trees?
At www.Livingakers.com, we thrive on tree creativity.  Trees represent nature, and we represent trees in our gifts.   Come join us and take a look.  Give us ideas!  We want to grow!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mushrooms at your fingertips

Inoculating small logs at our tree farm with Shitake mushrooms spores pays off a few months later.
Sound different?  Difficult?  We were clueless the first time we heard about this, but found information and learned just how amazingly easy and inexpensive it is- really.

During a tour at one of the Missouri Forest and Woodlands Association conferences for tree farmers, was a family farm where some short logs were propped up in a row on their place.  There were mushrooms popping out all over them! He told us briefly that he cut some logs, drilled holes, and the kids put spores in, covering each with wax.  Well, that still sounded a bit foreign to us.  The very same afternoon, the University Extension center, which is a partner with the Missouri Conservation Department, had some brochure handouts on ... would you know?  GROWING SHITAKE MUSHROOMS!!!  

THE place referenced to get spores is Field & Forest.  They are real experts, with a large variety of mushrooms, advice, starter kits, tips, tricks and more.  So, we ordered spores and got started when the weather was right.  First, the logs we cut were approximately 6" White Oak (because size matters.)  They need to be fresh cut for moisture, and the bark on Oak doesn't disintegrate as much as other barks, so that the moisture is kept in the log.

For our third time inoculating, this is the method we chose:
1. Drilling

2. Thimble Spores

3. inserting the spores
3.
4. Inoculated logs
This year, we filled with "thimble spores".  First, the hole is drilled with a special bit, fitted for the spore.  The tray shown in photo 2 contains the spores, shaped like a thimble.  They are pre-measured, so just insert, press in, making sure the styrofoam is secure.  VERY SIMPLE
As I mentioned earlier, we have tried other methods, which also are not difficult at all.  We just like trying different ways, then comparing the process and results.

I recommend you check out Field & Forest, as they have more information than I can possibly begin to offer here in a blog.

7 months later, in September, 2014, we had these show up one day.  This was after a few days of cooler weather and some rain.  These are about the size of a quarter.  In 2-3 days, they were the size of a hamburger bun and DELICIOUS!!!
At Livingakers.com, we are proud to live sustainable, utilizing all that God-given nature has provided.  Trees are our passion.  They inspire us.  See what tree gift and items can be created!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Life needs Trees

Did you know that 1.6 billion people, including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures, depend on forests for their livelihood?

Winter has been long and cold... colder for longer than winters previous.  It has made life a bit harder for us.  The hardships of season are part of life, and so are trees.  Life needs trees.  When the weather makes things really hard for us, imagine how much harder is it for trees?  These stalwart creations of God are symbols for strength, reminding us to 'stand tall' and stay strong.  They manage to continue on in all types of storms, so I take it that means we should, too (proverbially speaking).


Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

The constant cold and dismal winter weather can be daunting and wear down our energy and desire to keep going.  We know, though, that Spring will be here again.  Working to get past the wait will make it all the more worthwhile when it does finally arrive. 
Our family of Living Akers are fortunate to live in the country, where we depend on the trees and what nature provides.  This winter, trees have also suffered from the harsh cold, but yet provided the very necessity of warmth from wood.  Yes, sadly, they don't all make it, but at least they can be productive, even at the end.  Harvesting the wood is hard work, though, getting out in the snow to cut, stack and haul it.  On the other hand, it can be very invigorating and excellent exercise!  



Treasured champion bur oak to receive much-needed care

In  mid-Missouri, generations have known it simply as “The Big Tree.”
With a 140-foot crown spread, the nearly 100-foot tall bur oak located just off the Katy Trail near McBaine is a contender as a national champion. Most evenings, dozens of visitors to the tree take in the beauty of the countryside and gaze at grandeur of the McBaine Bur Oak. 
But as the  sprawling giant is closing in on its 400th birthday, the tree is showing its age.  
“The last few  years I have seen the tree in decline and that is why we are stepping up once again to help this treasure,” says William Spradley, owner and president of Trees, Forests and Landscapes. “I have a passion for large trees and this being one of the biggest nationally somebody needed to come forward to give the tree some much-needed care.”
Treasured champion bur oak
I doubt if they predicted how harsh this winter will be, but one thing's for sure; the care and attention this tree received came just in the nick of time!  We'll see come Spring how much affect the extra attention had on this majestic tree.

If you own property (it doesn't matter the number of acres),  then consider the importance of managing it, so that what is grown is healthy, desirable, productive, in order to be passed on to future generations.  Yes, information is needed, some labor to be done, but isn't it worth it?  Not sure where to start?  There is help.  You could start here: 

American Forest Foundation"...there are close to 23 million forest owners in the United States, owning 282 million acres of forest land. That’s more forestland than is owned by the federal government or the forest products industry—the size of all the states along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Georgia.  The initial 2011 data indicates that very few woodland owners know about programs that can help them improve their management of their woodlands."
We are proud to be part of the American Forest owners, Tree Farm Systems and Missouri Walnut Council. Even in this harsh winter, we care for our trees.   While inside in the warm, we created some new tree gifts.  Tell us what you think!  Living Akers.  We selected Missouri Walnut for its beautiful grain and high quality to make our brand item: Family Treasure Boxes are wonderful gifts for Christmas or weddings.  Up to 5 of the small "Baby Treasure" boxes fit inside.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Here's Your Sign- in Trees

Trees talk...
or do they?
History is recorded in trees, if you read the signs.
Ever carved your initials (or your undying love for another) in a tree?There are a multitude of variations, depending on the types of trees, the size of trees, and the messages presented in many different types of 'signs'.
These are called arborglyphs.

Many years ago, I went back-backing in the Rocky Mountains outside of Sante Fe, New Mexico. At this high altitude, Aspen trees are everywhere, and so are the messages carved in these specially unique trees with white bark. If only back then, we had such a thing as a 'pocket' camera, but alas, I have the memories. Once I started reminiscing about all those 'signs' and messages carved in Aspen trees, I wanted to find out more.  Luckily, nowadays-- you can find anything on the internet!

There is history in the 'signs' of trees. This article; "Reading the Trees" provides information following an archaeological study.  "Nicole Smith, Education and Outreach Project Director for the San Juan Mountain Association, directed the identification and documentation of arborglyphs on a stretch of the Pine Piedra Trail. The 2001-2004 research project, funded by the Colorado State Historical Fund."

http://www.insideoutsidemag.com/issues/2006/November_December/Reading_The_Trees/

 I ran across these posts in Waymarking.com.  VERY cool!  For example:
"This is a small cemetery for the Butler family in Morgan County Indiana, north of the town of Paragon."

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM2MWJ_Butler_Cemetery
 

I find it very interesting when I consider that signs of the past left in trees could be markers of history.  It kind of makes you wonder how long the 'sign' in a tree can last?  Longer than a ghost town like this one:
"Steubenville, Indiana of Randolph County was officially plated on the day before Christmas in 1839. It only had three or four homes even in its heyday."
http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMC75R_Steubenville_IN

So, we know from history that towns may or not live long...
Have you ever wondered how long a tree can live?  (They do represent life, sort of as a parallel to human life.)  Well... the Guiness World Book of Records has METHUSULAH= listed as the world's largest living tree! (Just more interesting info I found on "waymarking.com"). Would you believe "Earth's oldest living inhabitant "Methuselah" has reached the age of 4,768 years?"

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1wKHUw/www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMQDF/

There are even more stories of tree 'signs'.  Military veterans have reported messages in trees. 
Remember the "YELLOW RIBBON"?  In the United States military, the symbol of the yellow ribbon is used in a popular marching song. The first version copyrighted was the 1917 version by George A. Norton, which he titled 'Round Her Neck She Wears a Yeller Ribbon" (For Her Lover Who Is Far, Far Away). Ask.com       
     There was a big hit song in the '70's- "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando. It was about a man returning home from prison who asked his girl to tie a yellow ribbon if she still wanted him, and when he arrived, a 100 ribbons were tied to the tree.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NCZ4l8FCFc
      It caused some controversy because it glorified a criminal- not a soldier.

That's all beside the point--- I want to bring the attention to the TREE.  Why an OAK?  Because among common species, they have the most resiliency and longevity.  You can count on the Oak Tree being there after long, hard years away.  THAT is just another reason why trees are so important.  What they stand for, long lasting love... and so much more.

The gifts we design at livingakers.com have that in mind.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Harvest time for NUTS

Ah, this year was a good year for harvest in the midwest.  Some parts of the country are having a hard time with weather, but nature seems to take care of itself... with help from us, of course.  Last year's drought was devastating, which makes this year's harvest much appreciated.

We had the pleasure of attending the "Chestnut Roast" at Forest Keeling Nursery http://www.fknursery.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.home/index.htm
October 12 was a wonderful, cool, Autumn day.  The roasted chestnuts were delicious... if you have the acquired taste for them.
We have been looking into adding some Cyprus to our farm, and were very fortunate to find a fantastic selection, but even better... 40% off!  Of course, we purchased some, then raced home (a 2 hour drive) to plant them.
These are going dormant.  They are not dry or dying.








We have been slowly adding Walnut trees to our forest, and this year hit a crop of healthy nuts for planting (and eating).  Then, along came a neighbor who has a bumper crop of Pecans.  Wow!  I think it's a jackpot year for nuts!




All the more reason/s why we love trees.
There are a few new items added to Livingakers.com, our website of unique products and gifts, made from trees or about trees.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Walk among wicked roots

If you think about 'roots', consider the family tree. Trees represent and symbolize family, growth, strength and life. We all have roots, even some that are not so desirable. In reality of nature, roots grow to represent survival, however unattractive and wicked they appear.
During a walk on a stretch of the Missouri State Katy trail (on the map as "MKT"), it was surreal how many 'wicked' roots I saw. This trail covers the entire state, but I found these on a 2 mile stretch mid-state North of the Portland, MO trail point. Beginning with these seemingly delicate, pretty little flowers growing right out the rock, it got more interesting. When you are driving along the highway, with cliffs or rock alongside, there just isn't time to take in the beauty that is so obvious- it gets missed. While on a power-walk, hike or leisure nature outing, the opportunities to see unique examples of nature are endless. So, take a walk , but engage in the surroundings...

Sandy Bank     
We set out to get to an old railroad bridge that has been renovated for trail-travelers.  After finding it, we wanted to get a picture, but the angle was very difficult, so we went down a bank below the bridge to get a better photo angle. After we stepped forward, backward, more sideways left, right, etc.; it just didn't seem possible to get a decent shot of that bridge. So, we sat down on the sandy bank to ponder it some more, and lo and behold, right there, was
one of the most wicked-looking tree roots growing out of that sandbank. It spoke volumes about the obvious; how resilient this tree had to be in order to adapt to overcome the continual erosion from banks that wash out during heavy rain.  Can that be true of people, also?  Adapting to hardship, that is.

 Rock Roll     
Does it ever seem that whenever you are taking a walk, something will catch your eye?  As you keep walking,  your thoughts still tune in to that particular detail.  But suddenly, in a few more steps, there is something else that catches your attention. Or, (like in my case,) something you might have missed. That's kind of what happened soon after the root growing out of a sand bank caught my attention. On the return walk, just a little ways after the bridge, I glanced up the hill and noticed a tree growing right out of a rock.

A BIG one! It was as if the roots were rolling out of the rock. (Keep in mind, I had already passed this going the other direction.) Now, I was paying attention and became tuned in to looking for these unique, resilient trees with roots that out of sheer determination, can grow in ways that I can only describe as uniquely wicked. And I found more...




Inside Out
When considering the conditions these trees have in which to grow, it goes to figure that some will die. These roots are all that remain of a majestic tree. What's really unusual, is that the roots are not usually exposed after the tree dies. It's as if these were turned inside out after the tree deteriorated. The picture here, does not do justice to the size of this cluster of 'wicked' roots. I would have to guess the spread to be at least 30 feet across (about the size of a Winnebago).


Monster legs

I know I've seen legs like these before in horror movies.

They could begin to move any
second... taking big steps with 20 foot legs
that move like flamingo-legs...
awgh!
The imagination runs wild!
Another example of how appearance can be 'wicked'-looking, but just think about the determination that tree had to have to improvise in such an extreme fashion so that it could continue growing.
I am only estimating the size, here, but the top of the cliff was at least 3 times my height (15+feet), so just the roots have to be over 10 feet!



Snake in the grass


Coiling right out the ground, are roots that at first glance appear to be a malformation, but after a closer look, resemble snakes coiled together, as if supporting each other. I bet that if it was possible for a time-lapse to show the years of process of this growth, (in fast forward), it could be creepy. Right now, you have to use your imagination to picture the movement of these 'tangled' coils growing out of the ground, like snakes.


Web of roots
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." - Sir Walter Scott.
These roots have overcome the serious obstacle of 30 feet of rock, growing like shoots as a spider travels, weaving, tangling, all with purpose- survival. 

Are these deceptive? You better believe it! First impression is that they are disguised as some kind of vine, but are actually the tree's roots.

Why the interest in the roots of trees?  I'm glad you asked.

Trees are symbolic of the foundation, and a source of growth parallel to human life. Yes, from the roots of our hair, to the roots of our heritage,  those wicked roots (many we wish weren't part of our family past), have only added to the interesting, eccentric, unusual family history that is part of all of us.






Our favorite thing to do is creating tree tributes at Livingakers.com.  We are inspired by the continuing relationship between man and nature.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From forest to garden

Forest to Garden

 Cedars are sometimes seen as a weedy tree, but it has the potential to become a tree with beautiful, scented wood. Cedars actually have many beneficial uses; the colorful wood is great for making outdoor furniture and special wooden gifts, cedar shavings are used for pet cages to help cover aroma. Farms have cedar fence posts because the red wood does not rot. My husband (born and raised woodsman) was cutting quite a bit of cedar, so I decided to utilize some of this unique wood in my garden. The chickens were becoming kind of a nuisance, kicking the dirt out when they scratch around for bugs. Part of the plan is that the scent of cedar will repel some bugs, therefore, not attracting the chickens so much, plus, it will be a barrier that keeps the dirt in. All good for the flowers...and me, so I can avoid the frustration and enjoy the beauty.

From scrubby bush to majestic tree

Here is a sample of a 'scrubby shrub' cedar, but years later, could become an impressive tree with a unique wood. The average height of Cedar depends on altitude, soil, moisture, sunlight, etc. Here in the Midwest, in good conditions, they can grow (like the large one shown in this photo) to over 70 feet. Unfortunately, many cedars sprout in fencerows or pasture, becoming a weedy brush, undesirable to farmers and landowners. If it grows in soil that is too dry, the trunk will become hollow which renders the wood only good for shavings. We got lucky with a harvest this year... found some large trees with high quality wood.

From magnificent tree to log 

When a Cedar grows tall and straight, there's a good possibility that it has decent quality wood. This one sure did. After topped, the log was 44 feet in length, and on the large end measured 16 inches diameter. This is pretty rare, but it ended up being healthy, with rich, red wood.

From log to lumber

Have you ever heard the saying about the rings in a tree telling it's age? Just for fun, I counted the rings in this log. Counting was harder than I thought, since these are not perfect circles, (and I kept losing track). I counted 85, but I'm not absolutely certain- just pretty darn close. The distance between the rings vary greatly. This means that some years held more growth than others. Last year the drought was so bad, I can't even make out a line. There are a few lines farther apart than others that indicate those must have been good years.

From lumber to dust 

I wish you could smell this cedar sawdust. Mmmm... indescribable. Kind of pine, sort of sweet, nothing else but the scent of cedar. We took some of this and put it in the chicken house for this spring's hatch. It worked out well for keeping down the smell, as well as absorbing moisture. Cleaning is easy, because when it's wet, it scoops nice, and not too heavy. It is used commonly in pet cages, and as mulch. My mother-in-law's strawberry patch loved it!

From years of growth to boards 

 I kept looking for garden edging, but just couldn't find any that was sturdy enough for my purpose. Since our cedar was plentiful, this ended up a perfect solution. I used some of the boards that varied in width, cut a point in the middle of the wider ones, and an angle point on the narrow. I mixed the wider pieces with a narrow piece in a pattern that gives it a rustic sort of appearance. The wider double slant with middle-point pieces are 18" and the narrower one slant pieces are 16", placed 6" into the ground. I used a narrow spade which worked well to place the pieces where they butted up to each other tight. An experiment that turned out well. Pretty and practical.

From tree to trim

Of course, Cedar is not readily available everywhere, but practically any wood could be used. As I mentioned, Cedar does not decay like other wood, and being in the pine family, has oil and scent that manages to repel pests. Any pine would work, as long as it is treated, especially the portion that goes into the ground. The color of the Cedar is what attracted me, also. It does turn grayish color with time, but the scent comes thru whenever it rains. I also should mention that the length of my flower bed is 48 feet, so there was A LOT of digging to place these. It's a good thing that the idea paid off- looks good, frugal and sustainable- can't ask for more.