Springtime 2018 1

Friday started off warm and balmy, but by the end of they day a cold wind began to blow. It was good for kites, as you see in my first picture.

Saturday morning I headed toward Southside. This is my usual Loves photo. Gas is $3.33. My mobile phone cannot seem to focus on the prices. They dance in the photo in ways they do not to the naked eye.

This has been a cool spring so far, so the trees and plants are a bit behind schedule. This is my least favorite time of the year, but in a couple of weeks it will be one of the best. Things are dull now, but there is a promise of better.

The last two pictures are from our Brodnax place. It looks barren now, but it will be verdant shortly. There is more to the picture than a latter day Andrew Wyeth Christina’s World. Look on both sides of the road. on the left are lobolly; to the right are longleaf. We burned that side in November last year. You can see this on the last picture. It was not a very hot fire, so a lot remains standing, but I think that it did the job. I am not finding enough little longleaf. We may need to plant a few more in November. I ordered 3,000 from Bodenhammer in NC. Looks bleak. Wait for it. In a couple of weeks it will be wonderful green and then full of flowers in June.

Middle picture is Walmart in South Hill. Say what you want about Walmart, you get lots of stuff at low prices. I usually stop there and get my staples – coke, beer and Cheerios for lunch.

Springtime 2018

Almost time
Almost time for the growth to burst out. My friends are getting ready to plant pollinator habitat in April and I have ordered longleaf to plant in November. Right now it is just waiting. We had a cool March and spring is a little behind average. That means it will burst forth with even more vigor.

My pictures show my longleaf. Last year they were a little farther along, but they will be online soon. Next is from the 2007 loblolly. I thought I should pay some attention to them. If I knock off the vines now, they will be better off a few years form now. My third picture shows a path a carved through the vines. That takes care of a few acres. A drop in the bucket, but something. After that is the outside of that stand. There are 24 acres of 2007 loblolly. Last picture in 1990 loblolly thinned last year. I expect big growth this year now that there is more light, water and nutrients. There are 45 acres of 1990 loblolly.

Mass Timber too

Vicki Christiansen, new head of the U.S. Forest Service was one of the opening speakers at our Mass Timber Conference. This makes perfect sense.

Sustainable if from sustainable sources
Building with mass timber makes sense only if that timber comes from sustainably managed forests. The forests is the beginning of the good cycle.

She said all the right things and I was very impressed. Ms. Christiansen has a background in fire management, which has become the big issue.

She talked about the need to thin our national forests and to increase profitable timber harvests, while expanding the use of fire as a management tool.

It was a rare case for a speaker when I agreed with everything I heard.

At breakfast just before the general session, I sat with a couple guys who made the mistake of asking me about forestry. I gave them my usual ideas about fire and thinning. They claimed to be interested and asked questions. I ran into them after the session. They jokes that I must have been planted to prime them for the morning talk.

Anyway, I have great respect for the U.S. Forest Service and I am encouraged by the leadership, at least what I heard at the general session. Of course, it is hard to make ideas into facts on the ground, given the budget and other challenges.

Moving beyond my expertise

I doubt I will go to the next Mass Timber Conference. This is no disrespect to the conference, but it has moved beyond me.

It is a problem of success. Mass timber is becoming more mainstream, as I hoped. In doing so, however, a generalist like me is increasingly out of place.

The talks today were very interesting, but some, many, were technical. I remember stuff like this from my operations research class. I was not good at it then and I am not good at it now.

I was – and remain – an advocate for the wider use of mass timber. I think that this is the way to build in environmentally responsible ways. But as mass timber becomes more commonly accepted, the skills are different.

The other success of the mass timber conference is the numbers. Last year, there were about 600 attendees. This year there is twice as many. I figure next year they will need to raise the prices, both to raise money and to limit the numbers. I won a free admission this year, but I am unlikely to do so again. So…I think this is my last time. I am content that things are working out better than I would have anticipated.

Mass timber conference

Springtime in Portland looks warmer than it feels. You can see the beautiful blooms in Holladay Park but you cannot feel the cold breeze.

Not really cold, just that I was tempted not to dress properly. We were doing building tours. One of the buildings, called the Dumbbell Building because it is two buildings connected by causeways, featured a fire drill just as we arrived. We had to stand outside. I went over to the sunny side, see below. It is much nicer to absorb the solar energy, but still cold.

The builder said that they spent half a million dollars on painting that pattern on the building. It is original art. The inside is nice with lots of exposed timber.

Other people on the tour maybe got more from it. I realize that you have to already know a lot to learn more from looking at these things. When I see a construction site, I just see construction. Colleagues see joints, trusses and a variety of ways to make it both beautiful and functional.

Zuni Pine Barrens

Attended a wonderful program at the Zuni Pine Barrens, hosted by Lytton Musselman, from Old Dominion University and Cecil Frost, from University of North Carolina. It is always great to be in with experts who are passionate about what they do.

We looked at longleaf restoration, which is how and why I got the invitation and went, but I learned a lot more.

Cecil pointed to a pond pine savanna. I did not know such a thing existed. He explained that the pond pine was fire adapted but in ways different from longleaf. The pond pine is resistant to fire, like the longleaf, but the similarities end there.

Unlike other pines, pond pines can and do sprout from roots and will send out lateral branches after a fire. This means that pond pines can survive hotter fires, but less frequent ones. They burn to the roots and come back.

Pond pine savannas exist next to longleaf, but they do not overlap much. The difference is the water table. A higher water table favors pond pine, as they are more tolerant of the wet. Beyond that, the higher water table tends to make the vegetation a little less flammable. This leads to a longer time interval between fires, but they are hotter when they come, since there is more to burn.

This particular place was burned by accident Easter of last year. A prescribed fire got a little out of hand and burned hot through pond pine, burning off or turning yellow most of the needles even to the tops of the trees and burning the smaller trees to the ground.
My pictures show the pond pine savanna. Notice the sprouts from the roots of trees burned to the ground. I admit that I have trouble telling pond pines from loblolly pines. When the experts were there showing me, I could do it, but my expertise does not persist. But the experts told me these were pond pines. They showed some characteristics, such as the sucker branches in picture #3 and the ground spouting in picture #2.

Longleaf were exploited from “naval stores”. Naval stores include things used by navies, i.e. tar, pitch & turpentine. Virginia and the Carolinas became important sources for the Royal Navy after their access to supplies in the Baltic became more difficult.

Naval stores was a big industry for a couple hundred years. You can see the remnants when you find a road called “Pitch Kettle Road,” as there is in Brunswick Country. Picture #4 shows a tar kiln. It looks like just a mound now. What they did was pile pine wood, cover it with dirt and then set it on fire. It slow cooks, a lot like making charcoal. Pine tar comes out and is collected in barrels. To make pitch, you cook the tar – refine it. Turpentine is distilled from this.

Pitch, tar and turpentine was used for lubrication and sealing. Today most of this stuff is made from petroleum products.

The last photo shows Cecil and Lytton talking about their favorite stump. Lytton counted the rings and this tree was more than 300 years old when it was cut. Problem is that they do not know when it was cut, but it was at least 50 years ago. These longleaf stumps do not decay easily. They are dense, with rings close together, because the trees grew slowly, and they are infused with the precursors of naval stores, which inhibit decay. It would burn, however. They burn these woods frequently, but before each burn somebody goes out and rakes away the needles to avoid the fire. You an see that this was a big tree.

Old longleaf dense wood was called “light wood,” not because of weight but rather because it could be used as a torch, light in the pre-flashlight days. The resin burns a long time leaving the wood intact for a decent time.

Forest Visit March 2018

It was cold & windy today on the farms. I have said before but will say again that this is the least attractive time of the year on the farms, but one of the best times to look around, since it never is so open as now.

My longleaf are okay. The ones we burned a few months ago have buds, hard to see but there. The ones on last year’s burn also have buds. I could not see the top buds, since they were over my head, but I got a picture of a branch. Both are below.

I spent a lot of time pulling vines. It is good exercise & satisfying, but ineffective. I am not going to stop the vine pulling, but I think I will spray Diamond Grove at the end of this growing season for thinning in 2019-20. The spray will take out most of the vines and give the trees a year to put on extra weight. The benefits will continue after the thinning, as the remaining trees will get to take full advantage of the sunlight, space and water w/o vine competition.

The longleaf show up well now against the yellow grass and the generally dead stalks. There are a few empty places where we need to plant replacements. I am going to get the kids to help. I need to make paths so that they don’t get hung up on the brambles. I want to make the experience as pleasant as possible. It is hard work enough w/o hostile brambles. Best would be to burn, but I want to get them in the ground by November and I doubt it will be a good burning opportunity after growing season but before November. The stalks and brambles will not be dry enough.

The fire burned off the lower branches, which is as it should be. I think that when they get their growth this year, they will be spectacular.

My last picture is Diamond Grove Road. You can see my car at the end of the road for size comparison. I usually take the picture from the other direction. Because of the peculiarities of road construction in 1960, the road goes through our land instead of being the boundary. We own about 100 yards in on the east side of the picture, so we can keep it looking nice on both sides.

Smithfield, North Carolina

I reckoned wrong about how traffic and time. Had I figured right, I would have gone all the way to Emporia. As it was, I stopped off at Smithfield, NC and saw the sights.

Smithfield is the home of the Ava Garner Museum and the Smithfield Ham shop. I visited both.

Ava Garner was a local girl born in nearby Grabtown. Yes, that was the name. Her father was a poor tobacco farmer. Ava get her break when a New York photographer took her picture & put it in the window of his shop. A producer saw it and set up a screen test. When Ava got there and started to talk, nobody could understand her thick accent, so they asked her to just do a silent one. That was the start of her successful career.

The museum has some sort of endowment, which is good since I don’t think that they could support the place based on the traffic. The docent told me that they get around 6000 visitors a year, but the numbers are dropping off, maybe because the people familiar with Ava Garner are dropping off, or maybe shuffling off the mortal coil.

The docent asked me why I came. I tried to imply more knowledge of Ava Garner than I had. I vaguely remembered her from movies I saw as a kid, like “On the Beach” or “55 Days at Peking.” The museum is worth seeing, if not necessarily worth going to see. Ava Garner was strikingly beautiful and seemed a nice person, but she was born the year before my mother and I think her fan base is dwindling.

The Smithfield Ham Store, as the name implies, sells locally produced ham. They also have a variety of jams and products like ginger ale. The woman at the counter told me that the ginger ale was spicy. I discounted this, but she was right. It was too spicy to enjoy, IMO.
I bought some jam and the local equivalent of Prosciutto ham. Alex likes this. He is coming home from his training in Alabama. He will now be Lieutenant Alex Matel, so I figure that he at least deserves some of the food he likes. We will also do a little more. Proud of my boy serving our country.  


I learned about the language at a lecture about thirty years ago. It is a dialect of English, but with lots of forms and words from various west African languages and languages like Portuguese or Spanish.

Gullah is still spoken along the coast from Florida to Southern Virginia. There are lots of variations among speakers. A native speaker of standard American English can understand Gullah, but not all of it. Some of the misunderstanding comes from colorful idioms and phrases, not the language itself.

The Gullah language has penetrated American English & culture in many ways. George Gershwin went to South Carolina to study Gullah to write “Porgy & Bess.” But Gullah developed generally separate from standard English and English dialects spoken by some African-Americans.

Traditional Gullah is dying out. All languages are dynamic, always becoming something else. I read that Virginia once had seven distinctive dialects. Now they are mixed and matched. You have to talk to old people to hear the old languages, or even listen to audio recordings.
We listened to a presentations on Gullah at Boone Hall plantation. I wish that it had been more about language itself, but Chrissy pointed out that it might bore most everybody except me.

The New Testament has been translated into Gullah. The woman talking about the Gullah language read the Lord’s Prayer in Gullah. You can see it below written phonetically.
We Fada wa dey een heaben, leh everybody honor your name. We pray that soon ya gwine rule over de world. Wasoneba ting ya wahn, leh um be so in dis world, same like dey in heaven. Give we the food what we need dis day, yah, an eb’ry(every)day. Forgive we for we sin, cause we da’ forgive dey what do bad to we. Let we don’t hard tests wen Satan try we. Keep we from evil.

For comparison, this is the same thing in Middle English, the kind of Chaucer would have heard, from which our standard English & Gullah evolved.

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyngdoom come to; be thi wille don, in erthe as in heuene. Yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce, and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris; and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.

Notice it is NOT simply ungrammatical English. It is a dialect with its own rules and rich heritage.

When I worked at Smithsonian I came in contact with research by Lorenzo Dow Turner, a linguist who studied the Gullah language of the South Carolina lowlands. At that time, most people thought Gullah was just bad English. Turner demonstrated the connections between Gullah and West African languages in some grammar and many words. He then went to Brazil and found similar connections in the Brazilian Portuguese of the African diaspora in the Brazil, especially in Bahia and Pernambuco.

My first picture shows the woman speaking about Gullah. Next is the row of slave cabins. These were for the better off among them. Following is a reconstructed slave church. After that is the oak alley, with live oaks planted around 1840. This has been featured on many pictures and movies. Last is a view from the church window.

Charleston Visit March 9-13, 2018 – Audubon Swamp & Swig & Swine

Swig & Swine

We had supper today at Swig & Swine, very good pulled pork and beer. I had a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Pale Ale. It had a unique taste. I would not want to drink it all the time, but it was good to have this one.

My other pictures are from Magnolia Plantation. Spring is coming.

Audubon Swamp

Visited Audubon Swamp near Charleston. It was full of birds and people taking pictures and watching those birds. It is a beautiful place in general. We saw snowy egrets, great blue herons and something called a snake bird, among others.

The snake bird got its name because it swims just under the water and its long neck looks to observers like a fast moving snake.

There were also lots of turtles and a few alligators. I used to be afraid of alligators and I still would be if I was in the water, but they just don’t do very much most of the time.They are not much fun to watch. Most of the time, you cannot see but a few parts of the animals. They look like logs. I suppose they could be dangerous if you just stepped on one and I would not be eager to camp on the ground where they might come ashore.

Bodenhamer Farms in Rowland, NC

When I found out that my longleaf pine came from Bodenhamer Farms in Rowland, NC, I called to see if I could see where my trees were born.

There I met some of the friendliest people ever. There was not much to see, since this is the time when most of the last year’s seedlings are shipped and the new ones are just seeds, but I did get to see some of the plugs.

Louie Bodenhamer showed me the mycorrhizal fungi on the plugs. Mycorrhizal fungi live in the soil in a symbiotic relationship with roots. The fungi can reach farther and provide nutrients for the growing plant. In return, the plant provides sugars from its photosynthesis.

It is only recently (recent decades) that we have appreciated how this works. Herbicides and even plowing the soil can break up and kill mycorrhizal fungi. This loss is responsible for significant loss in practical fertility and plant vigor, but it was difficult to detect in soil chemistry, since chemically everything is there, just not working.

Soil is a living medium, at least when it is right. It is not mere chemistry and cannot be treated as this. The old saying that we feed the soil and it feeds us makes a lot of sense. And a big part of living soil is mycorrhizal fungi.

You can add this to your soil and this is a promising new field of fertilizer. It might also be good to let it grow.

I will buy some seedlings from Louie Bodenhamer this fall. He thinks that the best time to plant is October or November. This is what I hear from my friends at TNC too (they told me to get them in before Christmas) and what I have read. The natural seed fall for longleaf is autumn. They get a head start over the winter, taking advantage of winter rains and less evaporation is the colder weather.

I can fit a few thousand seedlings in my SUV. Each box (see picture) has just over 300 seedlings. I will ask the kids to help plant, so Mariza, Alex & Espen, please take note. Brunswick County is real great place in fall. It will be fun, the promise of the future and a blessing for today.