Friday, January 28, 2011

Nutrition Facts?

Yes, I'm still planning on preparing those Korean acorn noodles I received in the mail (and no, contrary to the vicious rumors flying around, I'm not still trying to figure out how to first boil the water).

Partly I'm trying to summon the courage to eat from a package with a slight tear and that expired Feb 23, 2009.  But don't worry, I never let expiration dates come between me and packaged food before, I'm not about to start now.  Plus, acorns are eternal.

In the meantime I took a look at the nutrition facts on the package.  Per serving - and they list a serving a whopping 7 ounces:
2g Total Fat (0g Sat or Trans)
Carbohydrate 103g
Protein 15g

All of this compares very closely to Creamette pasta as listed on their web site.  Then I came to:

Sodium 560mg... huh?

Then I realized the nutrition information includes the flavor packet that comes with it for making acorn noodle soup.  The main ingredients in the flavor packet are: Salt, MSG, Garlic and Salt.

Which makes it right up my alley, nutrition-wise; I'm the guy who refers to a 16oz pretzel bag as the "handy single serving size."  But it will be a tough sell for the rest of my much more nutritionally-aware family.  (On that note, I am, without question, the only person in the history of planet Earth to ever shout at the dinner table: "No one gets any more tofu until you finish all of your french fries!")

Based on the acorn starch and acorn noodle packages I have, the Koreans either have acorns with much lower nutritional content than those we have in North America (And I, for one, consider fat to be an essential nutrient.  So does my - and every other mammal's - body.), or they are particularly adept at taking one of the most complete and nutritious food sources in the world and bringing it down to the level of a mere cereal grain.  I need to look into this more.

In the meantime I love the final instruction on the acorn noodle soup package:  "Combine noodles with the soup and garnish with boiled beef..."  Now that's my kind of garnish - beats the heck out of parsley!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Manna From Heaven

Of course the phrase manna from heaven has an oak-rooted origin, but actually that's another story for another day.

For purposes of this post the phrase manna from heaven is the answer to the question, "What do you call it when one of your heroes sends you Korean acorn noodles in the mail?"  It's better than Christmas.  It's... well... that manna thing.

And it works out great, because boiling noodles is the one and only thing I can do in a kitchen!  There's no easier way to be an accidental balanophage (too rushed for time to link - look it up ;-) than having noodles show up ready to be boiled.

The question now is: What sauce goes best with acorn noodles?  I'm open to suggestions!

The Beauty of Kells

Friday night has become pizza and movie night around our house, primarily so that our children realize what that ugly box with the glass screen is for (since they don't see its hypnotizing glow any other time).

This past weekend was The Secret of Kells, a gorgeously animated movie telling the story of the creation of the Book of Kells during a time of darkness and constant danger in Ireland.  Not to go all two thumbs up Siskel and Ebert on you here, but if you have upper grade school or middle school aged kids, they should see this...

... but first they (and you - and I, since I had only a hazy understanding of it) should know the back story of the book.

It was, of course, done largely with oak gall ink.  I have linked to this wiki page several times before.  I thought as a complete change of pace that I might actually read it this time.  I have written before about how one minor problem with oak gall ink - the high quality ink of choice for important documents from da Vinci to Bach - is that over time it eats the very surface upon which it is written. 

According to wiki: "The acidity of iron gall ink is well known but it must also be observed that the case for the acidity of iron gall ink is somewhat overstated. There are several thousands of manuscripts, some of them well over 1,000 years old, with iron gall ink on them that have no damage or degradation whatsoever from the iron gall ink."  Apparently degradation is much less of a problem with vellum than with paper, which helps explain the generally good condition of The Book of Kells - especially considering everything it has been through.

Imagine the times!  9th century Ireland.  Vikings, borne across the sea with terrifying speed in oak ships (whose equal would not be seen again until the 19th century) that seem to literally swim across the waves, are raiding the coastal areas including the rich abbey at Iona, dispersing monks to monasteries in Ireland and Scotland.  Dedicated monks painstakingly concocting oak gall ink, stretching vellum, and sitting in the scriptorium by flickering candle or oil lamp light to create works of art awe inspiring beauty, designed to bring light - to illuminate - a world that seemed bathed in darkness in fear... all the while feeling - knowing - that the next Norse attack could come at any time. 

The Book of Kells is what happens when belief and hope flow through gifted and dedicated hands to simple natural media of incredible permanence.  Although personally I believe fairies were also involved somehow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Range Maps Get Drawn

** Updated proof read version, this time in actual English for your reading pleasure **

I'm feeling vindicated and gypped at the same time.

Every range map I have seen for chinkapin oak (Q. muhlenbergii Engelm.) shows it just barely reaching into the southeastern corner of Minnesota.  From time to time I have joked that we have six native oaks in Minnesota (white, swamp white, bur, red, black and northern pin), seven if you count "those two chinkapins growing in Houston County."

I didn't realize how correct I was!

I was reading Welby R. Smith's amazing and gorgeous Tree and Shrubs of Minnesota (guess which section I went to first - my two favorite words both start with Q, Quercus and quixotic).  Under 'Natural History' for chinkapin oak:

Native chinkapin oak has been found only once in Minnesota.  The discovery was made by the early botanist W. A. Wheeler on July 15, 1899, in Section 19, Crooked Creek Township, Houston County.  Wheeler described two small trees in some detail:  one was 9ft (2.8m) tall, the other 10ft (3.1m) tall.  He documented the discovery with authenticated herbarium samples.

The site is on a dry southwest-facing hillside at an elevation of 850ft... At the time of the discovery the habitat was apparently open and prairie like... The site has since grown into a substantial forest, a common fate for savannas deprived of wildfire.  It is now dominated by several species of oak (only chinkapin is missing)...

No one knows for sure what happened to the chinkapin oaks, but they have not been seen since the original discovery.  Some say they were cut for fence posts or trampled by cattle, but more likely they were overgrown or crowded out when the habitat succeeded from savanna to forest.

In the general description under fruit (acorn) it says: "Maturing August-September of the first year (dates imperfectly known for Minnesota)."

Imperfectly known?  I should say so, considering the entire documented presence of chinkapin oak in Minnesota consists of two small trees which were probably too young to bear acorns and haven't been seen since July of 1899.

I feel vindicated in that my little joke was more accurate than I ever could have thought; not only are there officially two chinkapin oaks in Minnesota, those two chinkapins no longer exist.  But they seem to have earned Minnesota a permanent spot on the range map for chinkapin oak.

I feel gypped because despite my joke about 2 trees I always assumed there was a least a viable small population of chinkapin oaks in SE Minnesota to justify the shading of the range maps, and that someday on a hike or bike ride in Houston County (which is a beautiful area by the way - Mississippi River bluff country) I would see some.  The cool thing now is that if I do it will be big botanical news - first sighting in more than a century - and I'll probably get a mention in the next edition of Smith's book!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Photosynthesis?

Reader/commenter (and therefore hero!) Eric had a thought provoking comment after my sickeningly anthropomorphic post on what red and bur oaks think and feel during winter.  Eric writes/wonders:

"According to Phil Rutter (ed: Founder, American Chestnut Foundation and owner Badgersett Research Corporation), chestnuts and hazelnuts do a measurable amount of photosynthesis during the winter months using chlorophyll in the bark. I wonder, since oaks are related to chestnuts and hazelnuts (ed: All members of family Fagaceae along with beeches) - do they also photosynthesize during the winter months? And all those fractal branches would help expose more surface to sunlight and reflected light..."

I feel silly for not thinking about/pondering the same thing.  I read the passage in American Chestnut: The Life, Death and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree, by Susan Freinkel where Rutter says of chestnuts: "if you scrape half a millimeter under the bark it's green as grass. It's making sugar all winter long."

It's a great discussion topic!  One would think that a genus that includes many evergreen species (and some, as we have learned to our confusion, that are "half evergreen" and "partly evergreen") would have some mechanisms in place to get something out of every last drop of sunlight no matter what time of year.

1. What do you readers know about winter (winter of course meaning different things in different locations) photosynthesis beneath the bark of oak trees?  If you have trouble using the comments section feel free to email me at siemschristian (at) gmail (dot) com.

2. I'll do a little investigating myself, checking oaks of various species at different temperatures (today's temp quickly approaching absolute zero) and report my findings

3. Who knows, I might even crack a book to see what I can learn on the subject!

Thanks, Eric for a great subject to explore, and thanks as always for reading.

Arguing Evolution Under The Oaks

The other day I walked past my daughter who was (as usual - and very much unlike me at that - or this - age) immersed in a book.  I looked at the title and asked her, "What's a 'Scopes Monkey' and why did they put one on trial... for stealing bananas?"  Though not yet a teenager she has already perfected the withering look that  so eloquently says - without saying a word - "Papa you're such a door knob and having half your genes is a burden I struggle to overcome every day."

The trial of John Scopes for violating a recently passed Tennessee law banning the teaching of evolution in its schools was a media sensation.  In the sweltering heat of that summer of 1925 in tiny Dayton, TN the issue of faith versus science was debated before a national audience.  Scopes himself was virtually an afterthought, a bit player on a stage that featured celebrated characters like William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darraw and H. L. Mencken.

In reading through her books and printouts on the Scopes Trial I have been struck by four things.

First, how completely manufactured the whole thing was, how staged.  After the Tennessee legislature passed the anti-evolution bill, the recently-formed ACLU placed ads asking someone to violate the law so that the ACLU could challenge it, offering to provide for that person's defense.  Then a bunch of dudes sitting at the drug store in Dayton, TN over coffee cooked up a brilliant scheme:  Biggest philosophical issue of the day + High profile legal battle = Tourism!  If there's going to be an evolution trial, why not here in little ol' Dayton?  Think of the money to be made. 

So young John Scopes was recruited to break the law and get arrested to stand trial.  Bryan volunteers to travel to Dayton to argue, as only he can, for the prosecution, and on hearing this news Darrow immediately volunteers his services to the ACLU for the defense.  Mencken - and about a jillion other reporters - descend on Dayton to cover the battle.

The thought of how CNN would cover the spectacle nowadays is physically nauseating.

Second, after a few days of holding the trial in the county courthouse and carting out a continual procession of fainting spectators, the judge decided to hold the remainder of the trial outdoors in the shade of nearby oak trees (you knew there was an oak angle coming, didn't you?).  There is a delicious irony to holding a trial which was obstensibly to determine simply if a young teacher had broken a well defined law (in his closing remarks Darrow asked that Scopes be found guilty just so the case could be appealed to a higher court) but was actually about the much larger issue of religion versus science, in the shade of oak trees.  Oak trees which are continuously evolving all around us to adapt to continously changing environmental and climatic conditions, forming new species, fusing old species into new ones, mutating.

Third, the irony of holding the Scopes Trial in the shade of oaks is even larger when you think about the facts that 1) what was actually being discussed was interpretation of the Book of Genesis as "Gospel truth" (sorry) versus oral history, when 2) as the brilliant J. Russell Smith has shown us Genesis stands as an almost perfect oral history of man's transition away from a life of peace and plenty eating the fruits of trees provided for him, to a life of sweat and toil coaxing annual grain crops from the Earth.  Genesis stands as an oral history of an absolute truth.

Finally I have been struck by how a man's views and legacy can be simplified and trashed in an instant.  William Jennings Bryan has been characterized, in large part due to the film Inherit the Wind, as a closed-minded buffoon who was made to look silly on the stand by Darrow's brilliant cross examination.  The truth is, as always, considerably more complicated. And much more interesting. 

Part of Bryan's objection to the teaching of evolution in schools was his deep concern about the implications of Social Darwinism, which in his view allowed one group of people to see itself as the pinnacle of evolution while believing other groups of people to be inferior. In fact, the very text book that Scopes taught from promoted the idea that caucasions were more evolved than other races of humans.  Bryan understood, and to his eternal credit argued, that this concept could be used to justify wars and unimaginable mistreatment of fellow humans.  As world events would very soon demonstrate with barbarous clarity and on an imaginable scope, he was correct to be concerned.

Bryan died five days after the trial ended.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tough Call

I can’t decide which I like more.

The northern red oaks and northern pin oaks, who say, “Screw you winter, you can take my chlorophyll but I’m going to keep my dry leathery leaves to rustle in your winds in stubborn defiance of your doleful silence.”

Or the bur oaks who say, “Fine winter, you can take my leaves - they were shredded, battered and pocked with galls after a summer of feeding countless insects and fungi and it was their time to go – but I’m going to use your whiteness as the perfect, stark white backdrop for my ancient labyrinthine branches, my massive skeleton which lies hidden all summer beneath a skin of leaves.”

Let’s call it a tie.

And that’s about all the poetic I care to wax about winter. Bring on spring. Please. It started way too early, has already lasted too long, and I have acorns I'm dying to plant.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just Say It

One of my personal heroes, completely unrelated to forestry (other than the fact that the lumber needed for wooden bats which might not be the time-honored white ash for much longer) is Bill James.  James completely revolutionized the way people understand the game of baseball, simply by writing long enough and well enough about the stupidity surrounding so much of baseball's collective "wisdom."  As an example, James once wrote how mind numbingly stupid it is to rank baseball offenses based on batting average rather than on runs scored.  Isn't the goal to score the most runs?  This blindingly obvious observation led to today's understanding and appreciation of on base and slugging percentages as the more accurate pieces of data from which to analyze a player's impact on his team's ability to score runs. Only took 140 years of playing baseball to get there.  I think it's all the chewing tobacco.

In my own little way I have been writing about tree tubes for more than 21 years.  Hopefully I have learned something from Bill James.  Just say it.  And: the blindingly obvious is always worth stating emphatically since it's probably being ignored.

My hope - my dream - is to have to be a small part of revolutionizing the way we plant trees (e.g. so that they actually live and go on to live long lives) in this country. 

It's not much of a dream compared to making the blindingly obvious observation that the sacrifice bunt is the most self-defeating idea ever, but it's something... that I can hang my cap on.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Oak Apple Day... 5 months early

Imagine celebrating - or at least commemorating - the 300+ year old re-establishment of your monarchy by wearing oak galls (aka oak apples) or sprigs of oak leaves!

Imagine also that " the 1960s it was the custom on Oak Apple Day that the chairs used by staff during school assembly were lined with nettles and brambles. The staff were then expected to sit on them without protest during assembly. At the end of assembly the pupils were granted a half-day holiday."

Both of which go to prove two things:

We're not as far from our pagan/druid heritage as some would have us think.

The British are really, really weird.

50 Oak Watch bonus points (whose value is truly beyond measure) to the reader/friend who reminds us all of Oak Apple Day on May 29. 

100 points to everyone who wears an oak gall.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Simple Pleasures

I was out walking the dog over lunch today, walked under the pin oak down the street (that I'm now convinced is a Q. palustris x rubra hybrid since it has the incredible branch architecture of a pin oak but doesn't get chlorotic from high pH soils like most pin oaks taken out of their range and planted up here on the tundra), and I stopped dead in my tracks.

To listen to the tsssssshhhhh of the sleety snow flakes ricocheting off the persistent, brown leaves on their way to the ground.

Here's a photo of that tree at a warmer time:

What a tree!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chinkapin's story

I always say that every individual oak tree has a story to tell us.  Same goes for species, and for once I won't use the obnoxious quotation marks I always use when associating the term species with oaks.

The more I learn about chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) the more fascinated I become, and the more I want to know its unique story as a species.

Miller and Lamb's Oaks of North America is divided very neatly into two sections, one for east of the 100th meridian, and one for west of the 100th meridian.

(Little reminder, more for me than for you, of where the 100th meridian is located.)
It can be divided neatly along the 100th meridian because of the simple fact that no oak occurs on both sides of that line, except one:  Chinkapin oak.  Predominantly an eastern oak, its range slices diagonally into central Texas and then... nothing.  No more chinkapin oaks for hundreds of miles heading west, until you find isolated islands of them in Trans-Pecos Texas, southeastern New Mexico, and northeastern Mexico.

Samuel Lamb writes in the introduction to the "Oaks West of the 100th Meridian" section of Oaks of North America:  "The breadth of the Great Plains has been a barrier to the spread of plant species for a long time.  When the sea subsided from the large area of the Midwest, the tree species from the East and the West were not able to migrate across the wide expanses, so the eastern species remained in the East and the western species remained in the West.  The same general rule applied to oaks, except for chinkapin oak, Quercus muehlenbergii.  This oak must have ranged across the plains, as there is still a remnant population in west Texas and in New Mexico."

So at one point in the mists of time the range of chinkapin oak extended contiguously through Texas into New Mexico and Mexico, and then receded due to climatic changes, leaving remnant populations where the local climatic conditions - rainfall, elevation, aspect, soils - were favorable, or at least favorable enough, for a few pockets of chinkapin oaks to remain.  For now.

I plan to spend a lot more time looking at the unique case of the chinkapin, but I think it's probably only "unique" in that it's happening now, but is simple a repitition of a pattern that has played out countless times throughout the history... of history.

I wonder if anyone has bred any of the remnant chinkapins west of the 100th with their eastern brethren? 

According to Lamb, in the "western extension" of its range only one hybrid with chinkapin oak is listed - Quercus x (no name given) (Q. muehlenbergii x gambelii).  No name given? Usually dudes are dying to get their name, or as we have seen, their girlfriend's name, on the latest hybrid.

Well I can solve that.  It is now Quercus x siemsii.

So that's that problem solved.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All I Don't Want For Christmas Is A Really Bad Puzzle

In their early days tree tubes were known as Tuley Tubes, in honor of inventor Graham Tuley of the British Forestry Commission.
Now, a few weeks late for Christmas, for the complete tree geek on your shopping list you can now order a jigsaw puzzle of a bad photograph of a field of Tuley Tubes, presumably somewhere in Great Britain. Surprisingly shoppers on that web site give the item 1 star out of 5.

OK, I admit it:  I really want one.

Every Tree Is A Snow Flake

These days no one pays more attention to the characteristics of individual trees -- particularly when they drop acorns/fruit, how much they drop, and how big are the acorns/fruit they drop -- than hunters and sportsmen.

And probably the most observant of these is the guy who, sick and tired of the military style camo available at the time, brought a bag full of leaves, sticks and dirt into a fabric factory and said, "I want a fabric that looks like this."

That man is Toxey Haas of Mossy Oak.  Toxey has an amazing eye for identifying -- and, more to the point, remembering the durn location of* -- hyrbrid oaks and particular oaks with unique characteristics.  I absolutely love his saying: "Every tree is a snowflake."  Toxey gets it.  There are species (or, as in the case of oaks, "species") and then within those species, and especially with oaks, there is immense intra-species variation.  In the case of oaks I contend that that intra-species variation generally exceeds inter-species variation; that in other words our species delineations for oaks are so narrow as to be virtually meaningless and useless.  It is within this immense intra-species variation where so much potential lies.  Within "bur" oaks you have trees that drop acorns in August, and 50 feet away ones that drop in early November.  You have "bur" oaks that drop acorns smaller than marbles, and "bur" oaks that drop these behemoths. (By the way I love the name: Mastadon Oak!  Mast as in acorns, mastadon as in huge.  This is exactly the type of marketing we need to bring to the cause of planting oaks!)  You get shumard oaks that drop late, and ones that consistently, year after year, drop early

No two wild grown trees are exactly alike.  And within that variation lies the potential for oaks to feed a hungry world and safeguard our eroding soil.

It will take nurseries like Nativ out there identifying trees with remarkable traits, schlepping through the woods every fall to gather acorns (How can you tell a hybrid oak nurseryman? By the number of rashes and bites he has at the end of the day!), and eventually, breeding those special trees with others.  Others can gather acorns in lawns and in parks.  Hybrid and specialty oak growers must gather acorns for a specific tree at a specific time.  No matter what.

This is the best explanation of why these Specialty Oaks cost more than bed run seedlings.  I hope more and more people recognize and are willing to pay the difference.  I believe they are.

And of course, as a purveyor and peddler of plastic tree tubes, this warms my heart.

So if you live anywhere within the hardiness zones Nativ Nurseries' trees will grow, I highly recommend ordering some.  And even if you live outside the hardiness zones for their trees, plant some.  Within the vastness of intra-species variation of oaks I have become convinced that there's a lot more cold hardiness in the gene pool of southern oaks than we think.

* Location, location, location is everything.  It's one thing to identify a special tree.  It's another thing entirely to be able to find it again.  I am a very rich man.  I just can't remember where to find the source of my immense wealth.  Twenty three years ago, while driving near Itasca State Park in Minnesota, I saw a quaking aspen in full autumn color.  Only this one wasn't golden like the eight bajillion aspens around it.  It was bright red/orange.  It was stunning.  It was gorgeous.  And I have no earthly idea where the hell it is.  The market potential for that tree is staggering.  So if you're driving near Itasca State Park this autumn, drive carefully.  Don't look for "my" tree, because I don't want you to find it.  Just keep an eye out for a desperate looking guy driving on the shoulder with his head out the window staring up at the trees.  That will be me.  Again.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's In A Name?

An oak with a charming common name.

Now take a look at the three herbarium samples and tell me if, on a dendrology test, you'd ever believe these samples were the same species.

By the way it looks like the USDA lists 206 "species" of oak in the USA, but they include hybrids.
Then again, they'd have to.

Great minds...

... think I'm a moron.

But every now and then I have a thought.  I've taken to reading a few "species" per evening in Oaks of North America by Miller & Lamb.  Sometimes I even finish a page or two before falling asleep in mid-sentence and dropping the book on my face.  Not because it's not interesting - could there be a more fascinating topic? - but because I'm getting old and tired... and was probably up at the crack of dawn with an infant.

Whenever I see an oak with a range that looks like it was shot from a poorly patterned shotgun I think: That "species" must have occupied a much larger contiguous range at one point, and is now in steep decline.

Arkansas oak (Q. arkansana Sarg.) is one such oak.  This range map shows it spanning seven states, but according to Oaks of North America the range consists of a four county clump in Arkansas and one county pin pricks in Louisiana, Alabama (5 dots), Georgia (2 dots) and Florida (3 dots).  Miller writes: "Arkansas oak is believed to be a relic of an ancient population which at some time in the past occurred over a much wider range than at present."  This site lists it as a threatened species.  Interestingly the site says, "Fewer than five localities of this woodland species are known to exist."  It then lists seven states in which it occurs; some of them are adjacent so conceivably some stands of Arkansas oaks stradle state lines.

We're watching momentous changes in forest composition, right before our eyes.  Sad, but utterly remarkable at the same time. 

Hey southern guys & gals, has anyone ever seen an Arkansas oak?  Can someone get acorns?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Getting It Right On Growth

If this site does nothing else I hope it is one small voice among many working to overcome the stigma of slow growth literature and ignorance has given oak trees - because it is that false reputation for slow growth that prevents many people from planting oaks.

So when I see someone trying to overcome that trend I want to trumpet their efforts.

Yesterday I received an catalog in the mail for Chief River Nursery in Wisconsin.  Their descriptions of their oaks were a breath of fresh air:
Bur oak - "Fast-growing (about 1' per year)"  - I think they're selling it short, but I love the fast-growing moniker!
Red oak - "Fastest growing of the oaks about 2' per year." - Again I think they're giving short shrift to red oak's growth potential, but it's refreshing to see the term fast growing repeatedly associated with oaks!
Swamp white oak - "Fast growing oak..."

Well done, Chief River Nursery!
Now I'm anxious to start planting oaks again this spring... only 4 more months of winter to go.  Grrrr.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Coolest House Ever

I tried a search on "tallest oak tree" and came across this instead.

My son has been asking for a tree house.  He must never see these photos!


A Stupid Resolution

When people speak of making New Year's resolutions I'm always reminded of my freshman year of college and a dude named Dave.  I spent my freshman year at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.  This was when I thought I was going to be a historian or a literature major, before I opted for a glamorous and highly lucrative career in forestry and a transfer back home to the University of Minnesota.

Shortly after returning to school from Christmas break there was a dance held at the cafeteria, featuring some band up from Boston and Ever Clear punch.  I'm not sure what genius decided this would be a great idea. "Hey, I know! Let's have a dance in a packed 90 degree cafeteria to get everyone hot and thirsty, and then let's serve Kool Aid spiked with lighter fluid!"

What ensued will probably go down in history as the shortest dance ever. One of the early casualties was Dave, a six foot five inch bean pole who had been a quiet, bookish guy for the first semester.  It was odd to see him completely smashed.  A buddy from the dorm floor named Ric and I half walked, half carried Dave across campus back to his dorm room.  Dave kept mumbling/slurring over and over, "I made a resholution.  But I made a resholution."  It seemed like a mantra laced with deep regret.  Finally Ric said, "It's OK Dave, everyone breaks their resolutions once or twice. Don't worry about it."  To which Dave stopped, seemed to sober up in an instant, and said with great dignity, "No, I made a resolution to drink more.  I thought I'd get more chicks that way."

Ric looked at me, rolled his eyes and said, "And how's that working out for you?"  We spent the next hour getting water and aspirin down his throat, while meanwhile comforting Dave with platitudes like, "If you just be yourself there are plenty of girls who would like to be with you."  And other lies like that.

I try not to make resolutions, because I know there are aspects of my basic nature that I'll never be able to change.  But this year I am making a couple.

First, I need to bake and cook with acorns more.  That is, after all, what this blog is all about, and I've become Exhibit A in why humankind moved away from a healthier, more peace-inducing food source in favor of the planet-killing and war-inducing convenience of grains.

The other is to spend more time exploring two themes/concepts: A new approach to classifying oaks, and concept of synchronicity in acorn production.  I'm always griping about the way oak species and hybrids (and don't worry, I'll continue to do so), but anyone who complains that much should also start to offer alternatives. 

I'm also fascinated by some research I've read lately and some correspondence with readers & friends about how and why oaks over vast areas "know" to produce large crops only periodically, and the implications of this for oak becoming (re-becoming) a major food source.

Not sure if those topics are thrilling enough to keep you tuned into Oak Watch this year.  But for me at least they are a lot healthier than a resolution to get drunk more often!