Sunday, November 17, 2013

Planting Tree Seeds - Stratification

This fall I've had a strange obsession with collecting various tree seeds (mostly acorns) for the purposes of cultivating and planting them myself.  Having never done this before, I'll share some notes and photos for those who may be interested in doing the same.  I'll preface anything more by saying that I'm not an expert, nor have I kept meticulous notes (at least by my standards).

This PDF from the University of Illinois has some great detail of the uses, characteristics, and cultivation of trees.  While it is focused on trees from Illinois (of course), the species listed are ubiquitous.  The four species that I've picked (varieties of oak, hickory, maple, and sugar gum) should all require some duration of stratification with the exception of white oaks (which I'm certain to have in my collection), which should germinate and sprout while being refrigerated.  What I've read about whites suggests that they can be directly planted in the fall, but since (a) I've lost tracked of what oaks I've collected and (b) I can't identify oaks by seed, then I'll stratify everything in the same conditions and for the same duration.

Basic steps I followed:

  1. Culled damaged seeds.  This includes acorns infested by an acorn weevil (see photo below)
  2. Prepped the seeds.  This involved:
    1. Removing caps from acorns
    2. Separating the sugar gum seeds from the "chaff" that came out of the gumballs
    3. Soaking the hickory nuts in warm water for several hours (they were all floaters)
  3. Mixed the dry vermiculite with water.
  4. Added the seeds to their respective zip locks bags then covered with an ample amount of moist vermiculite.
A few guidelines I will also follow:
  • There is probably an ideal stratification time and temperature for each type of tree.  In this case, they'll all be stored at whatever the average temp of my fridge is and for the same duration (probably about 90 days) -- I'm basically simulating a winter period.
  • I expect I'll need to add a little more water for some of the larger seeds.  They've likely gotten dried out being stored on my desk, so I expect they will absorb a decent amount of moisture.
  • I've read in multiple places online about using a "float test" for identifying viable acorns.  The sinkers are supposed to be the best candidates for germination.  I didn't follow this step.
  • Come late February or early March, I'll transfer the seeds out of baggies and into soil at room temperature.
L to R, top to bottom: samaras, acorns, acorns, acorns, acorns, hickory, acorns, hickory
Sugar gum seeds and "chaff" -- I had no idea this is how these things worked.  I left a green "gumball" on my desktop for no more than a week.  Once it dried out, this stuff started spilling out everywhere.
Hickory shell starting to open
Maple samaras 
Finished products ready for the fridge
Grub for an acorn weevil - I had kept some of the acorns in zip lock bags which apparently caused the grubs to evacuate the acorn.  I had another bag that I discarded entirely because it was full of grubs and crud. 
Discarded acorns -- obvious weevil holes

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Climb the Mountains and Get Their Good Tidings*

Over the past several weeks, I have been gathering the energy and focus to write something here. Hiccups of inspiration pass through my head from time to time, but I never get a chance to write these tidbits down.

Rather than trying to create a post for every interesting trip or adventure I’ve had in the past 8 months, I’m going to consolidate the highlights down to a single picture and blurb for each one. Well, it might actually be two pictures in some cases.

March: Hawaii and Jon’s wedding. Being official wedding photographer earns me free airfare and lodging on the Big Island. I knew someday my skills would come in handy. The trip was way too short.

April: EHART. High angle rescue training courtesy of the National Park Service. Western North Carolina has such incredible terrain. It was a challenging week of long days starting from scratch (here’s to tie a figure 8) finishing off with a full team-based rescue evolution.

May: Graduation. It came with a big sigh of relief , but opened a new can of worms: where to next? My life for the last four years has been geared towards this, but my plans to become a doctor are slowly deflating.

June: New job. Pharmacy Coordinator at the Charlottesville Free Clinic.

July: Backpacking in Dolly Sods with SSW and crew. First extended trip to this area, and first time here in the summer. It looked exactly how I envisioned it. Rolling plains, thick evergreen forests, huge vistas. Plans are in the works for a return visit for some fun in the snow.

September: ORMS kicks back into service – lead steward for two weekends. It’s hot, but fortunately uneventful (for now). Paramedic class is finished. Trip to upstate NY for a wedding.

October: Halloween on the UVA Lawn. Oh yeah, and lots of ORMS including a helicopter rescue.

November: Even more ORMS, including Sunday Funday to finish off the season – climbing from Lower Sunset Rocks to the summit, completely off trail. I lost track of how many pitches it took. Completion in the dark with awesome pizza in Sperryville to end the day.

December: Trip to Maine to check out the Physician Assistant program at University of New England. There may be hope for the whole “what I want to be when I grow up” dilemma. Since few people can make a living as a mountaineer, I guess I’ll have to leave all that nonsense as a obsessive hobby, and find a way to fund it. I’m realizing that I can’t make work my life, and I can’t make my hobbies work – so it’s a balance of the two. Portland, Maine is awfully compelling for not only being home to the UNE PA program, but a classy an interesting urban area surrounded by incredible adventures in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Canada.

*Courtesy of John Muir

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interesting Quote

I came across this interview of Anderson Cooper in Outside magazine, by way of the NOLS Blog. It has a great quote that I wanted to make note of:

I don't believe you should be ruled by fear in anything in your life. I don't like anything that scares me, and I prefer to face it dead on and get over it. Whether it's public speaking… I wasn't fond of it a couple of years ago and I just forced myself to do it and now I'm fine with it. Anyone who says they're not scared is a fool, or a liar, or both. I don't want that fear in my stomach to be part of my life, so I work to eliminate it.

I still haven't posted anything from my Hawaii trip....hopefully that is coming soon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brief Trip

This is completely what I expect Hawaii to look like at all times.

I'm headed off on a brief but rather extravagant trip tomorrow. My friend Jon is getting married in Kona and he recruited me as the wedding photographer. While this basically equates to a mostly-all-expenses paid trip to the big island, it lands right in the middle of my last semester, and it's stressing the hell out of me having to prepare and go on the trip (not to mention the costs...). Rather than stress myself out too much, I'm going to try and make the most of it by blogging, photographing, and experiencing the island.

I'm leaving tomorrow for an epic chain of flights (RIC --> ORD --> HNL --> KOA). There had better be a grass-skirted beauty waiting in a lei to garnish my pale East Coast neck as soon as I step off that plane!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Little Devil's Staircase -- Virgin Snowshoeing

Standing in front of some steep ice on the trail.

While I wouldn't consider myself a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy the feeling of getting up early to hit the trail (or generally do anything outside). This was the case this past Saturday, with a fresh cup of BoJoe and a egg/cheese/bacon bagel. Little Devil's Staircase is located just north of Sperryville, near Washington. Continue down a winding country road (Gid Brown Hollow Road) onto a gravel road (Keyser Run Road), past the state maintenance line, to a tiny lot right at the trailhead.

This was my first time on snowshoes, and it was a helluva of a hike. Silver Spring Wanderer loaned me a pair of slightly under-sized snow shoes. Under-sized or not, 2" of sinking is better than 18" (or more). After about 10 minutes on the trail, I knew I was in for a workout. Fortunately, we found that while the lower elevations had soft/wet/heavy snow, the higher we moved, the crispier the snow, and the less sinking.

Heading uphill on the trail with great weather.

Chad the crazy man had been in these parts recently doing some backcountry alpine skiing (ski the East, as he says). We found remnants of his presence all up and down the trail and slops in the form of ski tracks. It's pretty impressive that he was navigating through such tight confines between the mountain laurel and trees.

Chad's uphill tracks as we were headed down the Keyser Run Fire Road.

We saw a variety of animal tracks, including deer, rabbit, various birds, and we believe to be bobcat as well. We also came across a fairly fresh deer kill -- we're thinking from coyotes. It's amazing how nothing goes to waste -- I'm guessing the deer was killed in the last couple of days, and every bit of flesh was gone, even off of the mandible.

Deer skeleton. Self-explanatory.

Caught a glimpse of the summit of Old Rag from a distance.

Dodging freshly fallen timber.

As a note to myself and any other new snowshoer, here is some advice:

  • Plan on half your normal hiking pace.
  • Wear gaiters and sturdy waterproof boots.
  • Wear water-resistant pants. The faster you move, the more you're gonna kick up snow everywhere.
  • Use ski or trekking poles. Once you lose your balance, you're going down. The poles won't stop this from happening, but they certainly help.

As we were hiking, I was also thinking about the recent rescue/evac of the Navy helicopter that went down in WV. They must've been dealing with snow at least as deep as what we had. I can't imagine how difficult the process was of not only finding the crash, but treating, assessing, and then transporting the non-ambulatory to a point where they could be evacuated by motor vehicle. Based on the description of the crash, it was 100 miles south of Camp Dawson, WV, which would put it about in Monongahela National Forest. I believe some areas in the National Forests allow off-road vehicles, which would have certainly help the process.

At any rate, it was a great day, and I'm done rambling.

A parting shot from Flint Hill, VA. There was a great sunset, alas I didn't capture it quite how I had envisioned.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Victim or Patient?

I had an EMS-related meeting this past week, and an interesting point came up. When does a victim become a patient, or, unfortunately, a patient a victim?

In my mind, a victim is a sick person who hasn't received treatment or EMS contact yet. Whether it's someone entrapped in their car or someone having shortness of breath at home, they remain a victim. Even after dialing 911, that person is a victim until they can be reached and assessed by EMS personnel. And, of course, that person should never become a victim after they've become a patient. They remain in the care of EMS until care can be transferred to a higher level of definitive treatment (i.e., a hospital).

I found it an interesting comparison when brought up in conversation, and felt it was an interesting (albeit brief) rhetorical discussion.

Unrelated, I saw this today. Some of the victims are being treated here in Charlottesville at the UVA Healthsystem.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Woods Tools for Conservation, Not Camping

Have a look at this article. I was forwarded this by a friend who is heavily involved in the outdoors community. Written by Jeff Marion of the USGS and Virginia Tech, it's a great short read about the impact of woods tools (knives, saws, axes, hatchets) on backcountry flora, namely the trees and deadwood cut down for campfires.

I was a Cub Scout for several years, and a Boy Scout for about six years, including several stints as a camper and counselor at Goshen Scout Reservation. I have distinct memories of earning my Totin' Chip, as well as many a campfire and split log. While I think it's important for scouts to learn blade safety, the component of LNT is just as important (and should hopefully be just as pervasive across all of the various scouting activities).

The article pretty much speaks for itself and it would be great to see some of the changes adopted by BSA. I don't mean to be too critical of an organization which is (mostly) a very positive outlet for boys and young men, although they are, ironically, some of the more problematic (though well-intentioned) groups that I've come across in the woods.

Thinking about this stuff brings to mind a favorite quote of mine, from Mr. Teddy Roosevelt:

Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.