Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Yesterday, from the roof where we are replacing the rotten siding, sun behind the trees, I spotted a hummingbird darting around Rex's garden. I never see them away from those sugarwater feeders. So I watched it, as it went from flower to flower, including impatiens! Who knew those could have wildlife impact?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The weather when we arrived in Minnetrista, Mn, on Sunday night was warm, and humid. Folks were commenting on the humidity, how high it has been and how unusual for here -especially in August. I have never been here in August. My wife told me it would be the beginning of autumn -cool, dry, less mosquitoes.

On Monday night, a cool front came through, bringing some rains. The windows open, the sound of rain I never appreciate in NYC. On Tuesday morning, it was breezy, cooler, drier. Suddenly it felt as it can in NYC on a late September day. It's been breezy since, although on again, off again. Last night we opened the windows wide for the breeze was blowing and it was beautiful to sleep with it. The wind is southerly -the other side of the high pressure that has been affecting the east coast recently.

The breeze blows the mosquitoes away in clearings, allowing me to work on the house without cursing and slapping. What a wonderful thing, and it stands to reason that mosquitoes dwell in the forests, where breezes barely break the canopy, let alone the understory. Should it increase in strength enough to break the canopy, then one has other worries -flying limbs! Surrounded by woods, one listens to the crack and whoosh of fallen timber. If it is rotten and wet, limb fall is hush and sudden thud! Keep moving, use your ears, look up, know the canopy.

As you walk along or off the trails, you'll see fallen timber. Everywhere. To my eye, trained on change by long periods of absence, it's more severe than ordinary. We point out the dead trees above the canopy -largely comprised of red and white oaks, maple, bass. Rex, my father in law, informs me that it's the red oaks, not so much the whites, and that maples are moving in to replace them. Only the largest trees are dying -but none so old that they should be considered beyond their normal life span. Something's wrong. The loss of these grand reds is disturbing and changes the feel of the forest.

I tell him that I will google the issue, the way we all tend to nowadays but he certainly does not. Red oaks, minnesota, dying. Google comes up with Oak Wilt, Ceratocystis fagacearum. The listed symptoms appear as ours do -the rapid decline, the loss of leaves. Most disturbing is how the problem is spread locally -through intertwined and self-grafted roots of neighboring trees and through the movement of diseased or dead fallen timber. Both of these are happening on Rex's land.

Today, I will have to inform him, if in fact this is the disease infecting his red oaks, that his use of the fallen logs, cut by his chainsaw for his trails' edging, may be an important vector for the disease around his property. Or maybe not. When we have this conversation, I will learn what species have been cut up for trails and the evidence of disease should be linked to this. The woods is not all that large, and it is entirely possible that the fungus would have been spread by root grafting and the insect vector you can read about via the link to oak wilt.

Ignorance is bliss, but in the age of easy access to information, it's also a shame. Not that I blame him, he's not the only 79 year old man without interest in the internet. If anything, his forester should have spotted the problem. And maybe he did, but thought to shield an aging man from problems he will not perceive as such until he discovers he cannot solve them.