Monday, March 26, 2012

My NEW favorite oak tree

On Friday we hiked a trail along a creek near Los Osos, CA.  A couple miles out we encountered a mammoth & perfectly formed coast live oak (Q. agrifolia) that I decided to make my new favorite oak tree.  Then a couple of minutes later we saw one WAY more awesome than that one.  (I know, I know.  This is the 137th favorite oak tree I have mentioned on this site.  What's Chris's favorite oak tree? The last oak tree he saw.)

But this one is truly awesome.  Spectacular.  A colossus. This monster has branches that swoop down to the ground, go completely subterranean, then emerge again several feet later.  This tree nourished generations of people.  This tree... Did I mention I forgot my camera?


Good excuse to take that hike again.  We went in search of wildflowers but blossoms are sparse this year due to a very dry "winter" (as a Minnesota native any reference to "winter" in coastal California will always have quotation marks noting the oxymoron).  I found something even better, and forgetting the camera gives me a good excuse to go see it again.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fruit of the vineyard...

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I might be the only person in the world to look at these scenes and say I'd prefer to consume the crop from the trees rather than the fruit of the vines (although, truth be told, I wouldn't say no to that either).

My work selling grow tubes and vineyard bird netting often has me traveling through wine country.  It's rough work, but someone has to do it.

I have been assembling a mental collection of my favorite "vineyard oaks" - mature oaks left standing as vineyards were developed around them.  I'm going to try to take more time to capture them on pixels.  These two beauties are along CA Hwy 41 near Shandon.  Both are California white oaks (Q. lobata), both photos were taken yesterday about 5 minutes apart (one with the sun properly at my back, the other horribly overexposed facing toward the sun but silhouetting the mistletoe balls to nice effect).  One is pushing new growth, the other is still fully dormant.

What changes these oaks have seen here in San Luis Obispo County, from being the staff of life for the local Chumash people, to the introduction of cattle and exotic grasses, to the rapid development of the vineyard industry.

It would be interesting to know how productive these drip irrigated oaks are in terms of annual acorn production!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Atascadero Giants

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I drive by this tree all the time - a California white oak a.k.a. valley oak (Q. lobata) - on my way to visit customers. Yes that's my baseball cap to show scale.  And even though I have a very large melon (both literally and figuratively)... that's still a stout tree.

Here's "the rest of the story..."
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This giant has seen better days.  What a monster it must have been!  Imagine the generations of people and wildlife she fed and sustained!

Here's another one:
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Found this one at a park while on a stroll between soccer tournament games last fall (yes that's how behind I am on posting).  Another California white oak.  I'm not sure how to measure dbh (diameter at breast height, the standard method foresters use for measuring girth) - immediately behind the tree is a (mostly dry) creek that drops down about 5ft.  Dbh on the creek side of the tree is at root level for the upper side.  To measure dbh of the upper side I'd need a step ladder when I get around to the creek side.

Any way you slice it, the diameter is more than 6 feet.  Heck, the branch has a diameter most oak trees would envy!  (It also has some serious cantilevering that Frank Lloyd Wright would envy... can you imagine what that branch weighs?)

I'm starting to "collect" these California white oak giants in a mental list while I'm out and about on sales calls.  It's fun because here in Los Osos, CA our coast live oaks (Q. agrifolia) - the only oak species you see until you go about 7.83 miles inland - come in three varieties:  Stunted, puny and wee.

That's because our weather comes in three varieties:  foggy, chilly and cool.  It rarely gets above 80 and generally doesn't get much above 70... and the warmer it is the foggier the mornings and evenings are.  Perfect for me since I'm allergic to heat, apparently not great for producing massive oak trees.  On a summer day when driving Hwy 41 from Morro Bay to Atascadero 5 miles could mean 30 degrees in temperature. What a difference that 30 degrees makes in oak growth!