Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Lucia sunset series

A couple days into our two week honeymoon in St. Lucia, a perfect Caribbean sunset...

As they say down there, "No pressure, no problem."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

funny flub on my part (aka orange board update)

A few weeks back I received an email from Chris about the orange board, the sweet new surfboard I got this past summer. I assumed it was Chris, the guy who had sold me the board. Reading the email in haste I didn't realize that it was in fact a different Chris entirely, a stranger wondering about the board thinking he might want to get one of his own. I would, of course, make the realization but only after a reply laden with the funny, foolish assumptions that it was surf shop Chris I was writing to. Ha ha ha, ooops! In any event, here is my silly slip-up and an update on the new orange board.

Aloha Alex

Was wondering what are your thoughts on the Fineline board you got? Also what size are you? Thinking about picking up a Fineline mp local to me thanks


Hey Chris,

Great to hear from you. The Fineline has been a total dream of a board. Like you said it's been great to make the most of the smaller days locally, definitely smooth planing and an easy wave catcher for sure. It went with us out to Montauk in September and I got to play with it in some bigger surf. Since I was raised on and mostly surfed thrusters my whole life the single fin and sidebites took me a little getting used to but I was instantly impressed at how it performed and how quickly I got used to it. This fall has been so busy work-wise I haven't gotten in the water much but I am psyched to take out the side bites and play with it as a just a single fin. In that respect it's really the versatility of the board that's been killer - I feel like I'm not going to get tired of it any time soon and that's awesome. Your recommendation was spot-on and Brian certainly makes a solid product. Even with the learning curve I don't think the deck has one pressure ding in it, so obviously a strong glass job to boot.

As far as size, I'm 5'7" or so and usually somewhere between 165-170. The full dimensions of the board are 6'3", 16 1/4" x 20 3/8" x 15 1/8", 2 3/4". Needless to say I'd recommend it to anyone out there.

Hope all is well with you and the shop. Have a great rest of the fall.

and yeah, sorry Aloha Chris for the email that must have been perfectly confusing. hope you saw through my flub and decided to go for a Fineline regardless. And for you fellows here in the north Happy Fall Surf y'all, let's don the hoods and booties and kick it!
all the best, -aef

Friday, November 11, 2011

bark gallery

Betula lenta (sweet birch)

Quercus rubra (northern red oak)
a more mature Quercus rubra (above and below)

Ulmus americana (American elm)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tree ID: Quercus palustris (pin oak)

If you want to start learning your oak trees this is a great one to start with. This is a young pin oak, Quercus palustris. On this foggy morning on the way to work I was elated to find this little guy because you can see one of the most interesting aspects of this particular species. Pin oaks have an attractive pyramidal habit in their youth and it's due to their unique branching. The lower limbs are pendulous, or weep slightly, the central limbs are horizontal, and the upper limbs point upwards toward the sky. Now you might think all trees limbs grow that way, as I did at one point in time, but as you reexamine your local trees you will see that this habit is really quite unique to pin oaks, and therefore makes them relatively easy to identify in the landscape. Most pin oaks planted in parks and yards can get limbed-up (the lower limbs pruned off to allow for easier passage underneath) so you eventually lose this quick indicator, perhaps another reason I was excited to find this specimen posing so perfectly this morning.

Tree ID: Acer rubrum (red maple)

Red maples, botanically known as Acer rubrum, are a great northeastern shade tree for many reasons. In spring before they leaf out (March into April) red maples produce great looking clusters of red flowers (click here for image of flowers). That in combination with the smooth gray bark was how I was able to identify the tree above when we moved across the street last winter. Our new neighbors talked about the amazing red fall color and just recently we got to see for ourselves.
These shots are of some red maple cultivars up at the new York Botanical Garden. You can see here the difference in the leaf. When people think of maples they tend to think of that quintessential 5-pointed or 5-lobed leaf silhouette. Here you can see that red maples, though they still have five lobes, tend to look more like a leaf with only three points. This can help you identify them in the summer when most maples are rich green in color and not so easy to tell apart. But then in fall of course we are further clued in as to why they are called red maples. As far as your standard list of maples often used in the northeast Norway maples (invasive bastards!) have a bright yellow fall color. Sugar maples can be every fall color imaginable but end up showing mostly oranges. But the red maples will always get this real intense red to scarlet coloration when they change in early November.

Younger trees have a smooth gray bark that helps you to identify them in the woodlands. They are also sometimes called swamp maples and as the name might suggest they do really well in a more wet situation. Often in a forest setting you will find them naturally living down closer to the stream edge or in lower, soggier areas. As the trees mature the bark transforms from being smooth to having these long vertical ridges and furrows, still a nice light gray. This mature specimen is located in the old growth forest up at NYBG.
There are of course a gazillion cultivars of red maples out there so you want to check your local nurseries and do your research before buying. I remember back when I was in the nursery trade we sold a lot of 'October Glory' and 'Red Sunset' but gosh, that was a good ten years ago.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

seeing the forest for the trees

As an alum of the School of Professional Horticulture I was invited up to the New York Botanical Garden on Saturday to enjoy a forest symposium by leading scientists and policy makers. From a global scale to a local scale four speakers addressed the challenges we face as stewards of the land going forward in this time of climate change and then we all went out and enjoyed the 50-acre old growth forest that NYBG is known for. Reuniting with friends and mentors it was such a treat to give our bodies a day off while exercising our minds and getting re-inspired to continue plugging away at the good work we do. I have specific tree shots and info to share but for now here are some of the more general shots I took that gorgeous afternoon. (as always click to enlarge images)
probably a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
What most people don't realize is that the stunning colors we see in fall are actually there in the leaves most of the growing season, they are just hidden by the chlorophyll plants produce in order to photosynthesize.
As trees and shrubs begin to go dormant in the fall they produce less chlorophyll, the green pigment in their leaves, because they have to begin shutting down and storing up water and sugars so that they can leaf-out next spring. With less chlorophyll present we get a glimpse of the other pigments in the leaves that are created throughout the growing season. Xanthophylls and Carotenoids are responsible for the stunning yellows and oranges and actually exist in the leaves most of the warmer months. The red and purple pigments come from Anthocyanins which the leaves manufacture mid- to late-summer to deal with the bright summer sun, almost like a plant's secret SPF. In fall we get lucky that the trees and shrubs take a little time to shut down and prepare for winter dormancy giving us this great show.

New exceptionally designed pathways now weave throughout the Thain Family Forest allowing arborists and novices alike the chance to experience this wonderful woodland with all it's age and lessons on the interconnectedness of life. Such a treat to breath easy, dwarfed by the landscape, and take it all in.

staying grounded

In the woods in fall you can find these great shots of yellow coming from various hickories, the genus Carya. Hickories can be easily identified with that unique compound leaf that stands out. Some have better fall color than others but all add this wonderful punch to the changing landscape. This was taken up at the New York Botanical Garden last weekend and don't worry, I have plenty more where this came from....

Following a surprise October snow storm that would send our horticultural world upside down here in New York City atop the typical work and pressures of fall life has been a real doozy recently. Luckily today thanks to Election Day I have been gifted a wonderfully quiet day off to catch up on photo editing, tree work, and hopefully a little blogging and art making. Breathing deep sighs of relief I am reminded how important it is to stay grounded. I for one am the kind of person who needs to every once and a while de-clutter, physically and mentally, and recenter and refocus in order to not feel like I'm just spinning my wheels like a frantic person.
...ok, back to editing. Enjoy the day everyone, and remember to vote! You are the 99% and you do have a voice.

genius tunes from a genius band

Sometime recently I was wasting time watching the tube and came across the band Phoenix playing an unplugged show. A French indie rock band originally from Versailles, my brother first introduced me to them back in 2000 when they came out with "United", a killer album that had that all the right hints of a throwback sound laced with fun new layers of sound. They would become huge in the world of hipsters and mainstream radio alike and as far as I'm concerned power to them. I definitely hope these guys are around making music together for a long time. But I admit some of their more recent albums I am not nearly as familiar with so coming across this show was a great find. Here are two extremely catchy tunes that I have been loving since: "1901" off Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and "Long Distance Call" off It's Never Been Like That.
...and of course huge thanks to KCRW and StepOutAgain for sharing! Enjoy,

Phoenix perform "1901", from their new album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix", live on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. 06.29.09

Phoenix perform "Long Distance Call", from their album "It's Never Been Like That", live on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. 06.29.09

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NYC Marathon, 2011

probably the best sign I saw while working the New York City Marathon today in Manhattan

Congrats to all you finishers - amazing, you are truly amazing, and way to go!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

pics from a morning stroll

I decided to take my camera along for my little walk and errand running this morning. Even though just a Hosta in this small cement urn I couldn't help but like the way the sun was hitting it from behind.
Everywhere in my neighborhood you see these small herbaceous plantings, such as these mums, peaking through the chain link fence in search of the sun. Get it, kids!
I could create a whole blog that was just old dilapidated laundromat signs from around the city. There is something about each sign and storefront that makes it unique, like the funny crooked ampersand.
People do some fabulous container gardening here in Astoria, land of the Greeks. Here they started with tall, narrow pots planted with red Mandevilla, a great flowering vine of an annual, and trained it up to create this whole elaborate trellis you walk under when coming or going. ...pretty fabulous.
Then I had to get stuck looking at all the new street trees. The Parks Department is about halfway through the planting efforts associated with their Million Trees NYC initiative which means over 500,000 trees have been planted in the last four years or less. As an arborist it's great because I never have to go far to find myself noticing new trees, eagerly trying to identify each one.
I am guessing that this new addition is a young black oak, Quercus velutina. Many oaks within the red oak family can look alike so often you have to carefully examine other parts of the tree in order to make your best educated guess. You need to look at things like the buds the trees set in fall that persist through winter.
In some cases you need to take into consideration the bark.
In both cases the buds and the bark seem closest to a black oak, though most of the black oaks I know are much older so there is some difference in their appearance. The reddish buds with their gray pubescence and gray bark with hints of a more yellow inner bark tend to make me think it is Quercus velutina over the other usual suspects like northern red oaks, pin oaks, and scarlet oaks. But again, just a guess for now.