Saturday, January 12, 2013

The American Chestnut Tree

My neighbors Chinese Chestnut Tree.
Catching the entire Eastern Seaboard by surprise, at the beginning of the 20th Century there was a horrible near extermination of the majestic and environmentally beneficial American Chestnut Tree (Castanea dentata).  Revered as the East Coast California Redwood this tree took up nearly 25% of the Eastern hardwood forest.

Very few of us are left to recall such a horribly sad period in history when a parasite was imported attached to Asian introduced Chestnut trees and subsequently killed nearly every American Chestnut tree it came in contact with.  The fungus was spread by forest insects and animals and was carried by the wind.  It was impossible to stop its rapid path of destruction - no cutting, pruning, or propagation revived this magnificent tree.  It has taken nearly a century to successfully figure out this maddening puzzle. 

Multi-branched Chinese Chestnut Tree.
I'm reading a fascinating book that I checked out from our local library written by the TACF, Mighty Giants, The American Chestnut Anthology.  I recall my mother explaining to me some time ago that our two Chestnut trees at our family home were Chinese because all the American species had been decimated by a horrible blight.  Deep inside I wished and hoped that somehow they were really the rare elusive American Chestnut.  I'm no expert but due to the shape, size and form and nut size, sadly they are not (they are probably (Castanea mollissima).  The American Chestnut was a grand forest tree - a mighty giant.  My Chestnut trees were big but they were multi-branched and planted by my Grandparents after the blight (in their lifetime I'm sure they ate many American Chestnuts and so missed the nuts).  Squirrels were always tucking a few Chinese Chestnut seeds into my pots outside.  It was common for me to have to pluck out Chestnut sprouts - complete with a nut at the end - each Spring. 

Dried leaves & hull of Chinese Chestnut Tree.
American Chestnuts were a favorite food item for people and forest animals, noted to be sweeter than Japanese or Chinese varieties.  There were two diseases that killed stands of American Chestnut trees. Ink Disease killed stands located in warmer climates along the East Coast first and much later blight killed most of the rest that were still alive in the cooler mountainous areas... to a tune of 4 billion trees or 25% of the Eastern Hardwood Forest - DEAD.  One interesting note and a blessing is that blight only attacks growth above the root so there are living American Chestnut trees still to be found and the root stock can be used for recovery.  Some American Chestnut trees sprout and die and sprout and die... which builds in susceptibility to the virus. 

There are ongoing efforts to revive the mighty American Chestnut Tree.  It sounds like such a worthy project and its amazing how for a long time just a few people tried to make this dream a reality until TACF was created in the early 80's.  There is an experimental station run by TACF in Southwest Virginia and in Tennessee at Dollywood there is a large forest stand thanks to Dolly and her Uncle that started it.  Due to the love of this beautiful tree, political figures have been involved, Jimmy Carter and Robert Vessey, and many scientists.  The largest American Chestnut tree is out West in Washington State at 88' tall.

Infamous prickly seed hull - gotta wear gloves and shoes!
The Chestnut tree (of any variety) is not that common and you have to search it out to discover it.  There is only one on my street and it's growing in my neighbors front yard - something I swore I would never do because of the prickly hulls that litter the ground in the Fall but I sure would love a few in the backyard - Chestnuts roasting in the open fire... and as a food for wildlife.  Believe me when I say, you will go out and collect Chestnuts in your flip flops once but not twice!  

I used to grow produce and sell it at farmers markets and my first sale was a basket of our Chinese Chestnuts!  They were plentiful on our 50 year old Chinese Chestnut trees but they were not what my Grandparents enjoyed in their youth.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year / Reflection on 2012

Monticello trail pond and Canada Geese.
It's time to reflect back onto what worked and didn't in 2012 (a more positive analogy than good vs. bad).  As the end of 2012 approached I decided my 2013 New Year Resolution was to surround myself with positive thoughts and deliver a positive message in my online writings and photos.  There is way to much  "anger pollution" on the Internet and TV and I choose to not participate and spread more gloom and doom.  If I can provide a moments relief to someone stressing from daily pressures our society invariably produces, then I've participated positively on a global level.

I can not wait until SPRING!
Somehow my tumblr photography blog has amassed 45,000 followers!  I'm not vain enough to think that that many people are actually checking in each day but there is exponentially more activity which makes me want to inspire others rather than be defeatist.

ForsythiaHill Limoges Tea Cups / Saucers 
What began as an experiment to see if I could figure out global Internet selling has blossomed into a full-fledged business.  I now operate two Etsy Vintage Shops and have items on Bonanza and Storenvy.  In 2012, I doubled my sales over 2011 and hope to continue on the upswing by taking Ebay more seriously.  I'm not thrilled about their convoluted fee structure and it is tedious compared to other online stores but one can not ignore the volume of goods moved and customers shopping.  I've focused on selling my family collected treasures but it's hard to not stop at a good old Yard Sale.  It is recommended that you not buy what you like... I now know why, you end up keeping things!  I mean how can I give up my found Rooster Lamp, signed Menaboni Bird Book, or Deco Hand Carved Cat!

The Maymont Trophy for $ saved.
Now that couponing is part of my psyche, I've seem to write less about it.  I continue to mainly focus on Grocery Store deals because that is where we spend most of our income.  In 2012 I saved over $2,600.00 by wisely shopping and couponing.  This does not take into account the numerous items I've found on Freecycle - Book Shelves, Packaging Materials, and even a very expensive Solar Pool Cover with Reel (my top freebie of 2012).  I feel like the really good coupon deals have been reigned in by stores that have figured out how some customers have taken total advantage of the term "discount".  There are still plenty of savings to be found, you just have to know where to look online.  I continue to post my favorite deals on my twitter feed.

My husband grew working up on roofs - not for the timid.
Typically we have an active home improvement project.  This year hopefully my husband will become inspired to paint the "Man Cave", Trellis, and Shed.  My top project is to replace the Kitchen Floor.  It's hard to believe that behind us is the Deck staining, Chimney Liner install, and Kitchen Sink replacement projects that came about in 2012.

No matter what happened in 2012, it has come to an end and you can start anew in 2013.

I wonder if I'll actually make room today for that Yoga session I promised myself... hum... sounds like a good way to step into the New Year.


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