For the Life of a Tree

“The Last Hours of Ancient Sunshine” by Thom Hartmann winds through history, pre-history, our modern age (thirteen years ago) and where we are headed. His introduction talks about how all life on this planet is directly from sunlight. “Sunlight radiating heat, visible light, and ultraviolet light is the source of virtually all life on Earth. Everything you see alive around you is there because a plant somewhere was able to capture sunlight and store it.” Until recently all life, including humans, were limited in their population by the amount of sunshine that was able to be captured by the plants in their local area in each growing season. This all changed when humans found fossil fuels.

Today I am quoting from the chapter The Death of Trees.

“A fully grown pine or hardwood tree has a leaf surface area that can run from a quarter-acre to over three acres…. rainforest trees… can run as high as forty acres per tree. Through this enormous surface area, sunlight is used as an energy source to drive the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen and plant matter (using the “C” which is carbon). Trees literally breathe in the CO2 through that enormous leaf area after we exhale it as biological waste, and they exhale oxygen as their own waste. With out trees, our atmosphere would most likely become toxic to us…”

According to Hartmann a rainforest tree will pump up to three million gallons of water up it’s trunk and out through it’s leaves over it’s life time. All this water is sent into the atmosphere as water vapor. This water vapor then floats downwind to later become rain. Hartmann says “on our continental landmasses, only trees effectively cycle large quantities of water back up into the atmosphere.” To demonstrate a comparison, the water that evaporates off a forty acre lake is equivalent to the water vapor pumped through the leaves of a large tree.

When a mature forest is clear cut then replanted with all saplings a break is developed in the water vapor sent downwind causing a drying effect that can lead to desertification.   “According to a 1996 study….funded by the World Bank and the United Nations, 72 acres of rainforest are destroyed every minute“.

“Drinkable water falls from the skies as rain and soaks into the ground…At deeper levels, the water has often acquired (from the soil) high concentrations of dissolved minerals, particularly salts. Trees reach….into the earth and draw up moisture from just above this salty water and pump it up into the atmosphere, using the minerals to harden the wood of the tree. This removal of water…creates a downward draw, into the soil, for the fresh water raining down from above. This circulation keeps the soil healthy.” If a forest is cut the salty water level then rises. Hartmann says that when the saline water gets within a few yards of the surface any remaining trees become immune damaged and then die from fungus or beetle infestation or some other infection.

A rise in salinity of the ground water of course negatively effects the health of those drinking the ground water as well.  “Most major U.S. and European cities have water that is, at best, unpalatable. Dissolved salt levels of 1300 ppm… are the point where people begin to become sick and dizzy from drinking water: in many cities levels now exceed 1000 ppm.”

“Forests are imperiled world wide.”

Most of the rainforest clearing is being done to create pasture land for beef. While doing a presentation for a high school group last summer I came across the statistic that over forty percent of the beef in this country is imported, by one of four companies. We can a make a difference to the rainforest directly by boycotting fast food beef and supporting local, sustainably raised meat. The forests of the earth, especially the rainforests are the lungs of the planet. If we care for life we must become more aware of our impact through our day to day decisions. Our dollar is our vote. Let’s make it count.

Plant a tree.


Week in Review 4-20-12

Another week on and off the farm.  Spring.  A couple days ago I started wondering how this week would tally up. It didn’t feel like things were moving fast, or at least as fast as I wanted them to. Working with another person is something that I am starting to get used to and need to find more and more ways to make it happen.  I also spent time off project running machinery for someone in need of work. Thank you for having me over!

There was some time looking up for the piercing blue skies that we are graced with.  So.  I took some pictures.  This was the first one that I took (all the others for some reason mysteriously corrupted on the card and aren’t coming off).

The thousand words I guess will replace the picture. This one is of a U in the sky. The first spectacular display came earlier with a perfect * three lined asterisk that stretched from horizon to horizon. The picture that came in the afternoon occurred as one was flying straight paralleling another line. Then, as I watched, the massive military gray jet with five distinct emission points banked hard to the right, hard to the left and hard to the right again. This maneuver put it back exactly on it’s previous trajectory and left a perfect horseshoe in the sky until it was whisked away by the snappy spring breeze.

I did find a couple from last fall though.  I wonder what that is.  It doesn’t happen all the time.  Even in the same flight.

One bee box is totally finished and at it’s new home and another is promised to be delivered the coming week. The flier is getting around and I am hoping to need friends to help with another batch soon.

This is just the demo with scratch track… meaning that we are still a bit out from polished, finished project, but, my friend DB is a magician. Yes, that is him playing his shiny electric guitar, drum set and five string bass. On the myspace site check out “SCRATCH we’ve WON!”

On the way home today from the hot springs we drew a circle on the map that stretched out a hundred miles. Pretty cool! You might want to try it, just to see how much is close to your home!

The grand finale: Happy Birthday Fancy New House! Ground was broken on this structure six years ago today. Good reason to spend the day with the family in lithium saturated water. Aaaahhhh.

Week in Reveiw 4-13-12

On Saturday we took time as a family to boil, blow and color eggs. The blown ones turned into exquisite scrambles to fuel fence stretching all afternoon by Brotha J and myself.

Sunday and we were off to hide and find the aforementioned eggs. We returned home shaking from bottomless cups of coffee and I leaped towards the roof to return the favor to Brotha J.  Thankfully, I couldn’t find my harness and he spent the afternoon on the 12/12 pitch.  I had already done that!  He was able to install all the last pieces of metal, trim and ridgecap. What a great project to have closer to completion! (Picture from December, I told you I’d get a photo up!)

Monday had us ready for sheep shearing at 9:15 am and the man was paid and the ruminants chilly by 10:15 am. Now to our goal for the day: the wood shuffle! Move the firewood from this location (that you moved it to when it was wet and cold out) to a new one! And in the clearing made in the front green house: a brooding area for the chicks coming on Tuesday.

Tuesday had my project list casually scrapped. Instead of what ever it was I was planning I helped in the garden, pruned the undersides of some ancient juniper trees next to the garden to encourage child hang out in the shade, and finished the chick brooder. L and the kids went to D-town and picked up chicks in the afternoon. It was a successful run.

Wednesday and I was off with a full truck to J’s for the insane tandem planer, and slicing and dicing of boards. This blurred right through until Thursday afternoon when: Ta Da!! Four Warre Hives with only a punch-list left to get them done. We washed it all down with a wonderful “home made” to-go pizza dinner with friends in our home.

Back again… Friday! But not just any Friday, my sweet wife and I had our first date and marriage on Friday the 13ths. So it’s an anniversary, and…… Dada and Kid Day!! To the river for mud fun in the partial sun, with friends! It looks like it is going to sock in for a couple days with a taste of that ol’ winter weather.  We are so thankful for any moisture that we can get!

Bein’ Home

What it means to be home for me is relaxation at it’s most energetic.

We started building our house six years ago this month. We have done the majority of the work ourselves, with breaks to “work for
money” and play with the kids.  Many people have built there own houses.

Newly weds pounding tires

ceiling and framing

Many people have done this both slower and faster than I am, using many different methods.  The way that we chose to do this project involves a good deal of labor.

Our foundation is made of tires filled with dirt and pounded with sledge hammers to compact it into a brick.

The super structure is traditional mortise and tenon framing (with a handful of timber lock and star drive screws thrown in for good measure).

The exterior walls are twelve inch thick poured adobe in Larson Truss and the interior walls are light clay straw on Larson Truss and wattle and daub. The interior of the apartment we are in now is finished with natural plaster. In the kitchen we have painted it to enable ease of cleaning, the rest is still raw.

natural plaster on cob

We are building our house as a multi-family home. My wife, children and I currently live in a four hundred twenty-five square foot apartment constituting one third of the second floor. This apartment will become my mothers as we move into a new (yet to be built) co-housing living space on the first floor.

Then, of course, there are the sheep, the small orchard, green house, chickens…… the list goes on.

I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts, dreams, progress, stumbling blocks and frustrations.