Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Broken Giant: End of a Marker Oak

A "Marker Tree" is one left behind after cutting to mark the corner of a property. The family farm has several of these but none stands out more than the marker oak that indicates where the mill property and the farm property turn a corner at the top of the hill about the farm. In 1996 I wrote an essay about that oak which was later published in Phase magazine.
I am providing it in full below to give you some understanding of what this tree has meant to our family and the farm over the years.

Scott and Rayne Loder by the base of the marker oak in 2009

The Marker Oak [copyright, Michael Wescott Loder 1996]

by M. W. Loder

“Are we going by the Big Tree?” My younger sister or I would ask.
Yes, we would still have time to walk that far. There was always time to stop in those childhood days. Patty and I would run out ahead of our parents and older brother, racing each other through the open woods and up the path toward the one really big tree in the entire forest. Who would win the race? It varied, but “deadheat” was the usual winner I remember.
The Big Tree was special. In those days, a half a century ago, it loomed forty or more feet above all the other trees in our thirty acres of woods. Riding in our car on Route 222, I could easily pick it out against the skyline over a mile away. “There’s the tree,” I would point out, and the rest would look and agree. Yes, that was the Big Tree.
It marked a corner of our property. To the east was ours, to the west and south the land belonged to the neighboring farmer. Two hundred twenty years earlier all of this land had belonged to Peter Klein and his wife, good Pennsylvania Germans who owned the grist mill in the valley and 400 acres of land—most of it granted by the Pennsylvania legislature in gratitute to Peter for his participation on the winning side in the American Revolution. How did Peter’s wife get on the deed? I don’t know, but her name is there along with her “mark”—for she could not write her own name even if her husband could.
Except the Big Tree did not really mark the corner. Huh? Well, my father ran a transit on the line and discovered that the actual property corner was ten feet farther east—on a stump. In 1905 the then-owners logged these woods and took the true “marker oak.” Did they do that by mistake, or was the Big Tree already so much more impressive than any others that they decided to leave it and take the tree on the corner?
Today, it no longer stands out. A hundred years of regeneration have allowed new trees to reach greater heights than the Big Tree. If I search for it from within the forest, I seldom can pick it out until I am within a hundred feet—a case of not being able to see the tree for the forest. Yet … yet when I stand next to it, “awe” is still the first word that comes to mind. How can someone not see this ancient giant?
It is a black oak, Quercus velutina. It looms seventy feet above the ground, its girth so great that two adults can hug it and yet their hands will not meet. “50 inch diameter,” the state forester tells me as he runs his tape around it. He does some quick calculations and nods. “Probably three hundred years old.” We walk farther out into the adjacent cornfield in order to take all of it in. “It’s fully mature: branches are dying back. It probably won’t get any taller.”
“Bigger around though?”
“Yeah, it will do that.”
“How much longer will it live?” I ask.
“Ach, probably only another fifty years.”
“Fifty years? It’s gonna’ outlive me.”
He laughs. “You think so?”
“I know so,” I answer.
Three hundred years old? What did this world look like then? Had any white man yet set foot on this hill and looked out across the Great Valley? Pennsylvania was so new a colony that the first settlers were still breaking ground in what is now downtown Philadelphia. I scan the centuries, trying to comprehend the times of this tree. I have lived fifty-six years, traveled a third of the way around the world, lived in dozens of homes, and yet I cannot measure the experience of a tree like this—a living thing that stays alive by enduring, by outlasting. A limb breaks—it grows over the wound. A drought comes—it sheds leaves and waits. A hurricane blasts its branches—it bends and lets the little stuff break away. Moths eat its leaves—it grows new, more-toxic ones. Like love, it endures all things. Endurance, and a little luck, are what make its life. Time, in the end, means nothing.

-end of essay-

The hurricane that came through here in July brought all this to an end. The largest trunk broke and fell, taking another big branch with it. Only the minor branch of the trunk remains. Water now enters the trunk freely. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the tree will go. We will have to bring in the saws soon to save the fallen wood for heating and to clear the field.

Flag's up at the lodge

Some days it is just nice to fly the Loder flag. It follows the medieval pattern of color over metal (black over yellow [gold]) and displays only the crest in the center instead of a full coat-of-arms. In this case, it is the white dragon of the Lowthers and Loders. But this flag has two sides. The other side is blue over yellow with a stag's head caboosed with a silver arrow running through it following the colors and crest of the Wakehurst Loders.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cooking with the sun

Our solar cooker finally arrived on Monday and today we got a chance to try it out. Pork roast, moist and cooked to perfection, and an apple cake, high and moist. The home-grown potatoes and Zinchini helped add a "local" touch. Sure beats using fossil fuels to bake something.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another shed (little this time)

When we built the shed behind our house last summer, it solved a lot of problems of storage and gave me a shop for projects. But the lawn mower and the wheelbarrow were still in the rain, getting garden tools meant one walk after another, back-and-forth, and clutter was taking over. So, another shed came into being. This one is right outside our garden. It is a tiny 4 X 8 feet, with just enough room for everything we need for grounds projects. It took less than a week to build, and I did all the work myself except for finishing the roof . That I left to our capable carpenter/painter, Danny Knarr—who knows more about getting roofs just right than I will ever know.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lovebirds in the Hemlock

Every spring and summer our hemlock tree becomes the perch of choice for our local pair of Red-tailed hawks. Usually we only see one at a time, but this morning the pair decided that being close was the best thing. They perched neck-to-neck for several minutes. Of course, by the time I had assembled and trained a long lens at them, they had moved apart. Still, the did not appear to be angry at each other. The smaller male is to the right in the picture.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New work out as Kindle ebook.

I have been watching as the ebook business continues to expand and have decided to give it a try. So, friends, you can now own Beetle: The Biography of a Virtual Girl in a Kindle edition for the price of 99¢!
Go to Amazon and look under "Beetle Loder" and you will find it quickly enough. Of course you do have to be able to read a Kindle electronic book to enjoy it…
Or link: http://www.amazon.com/Beetle-Biography-Adventures-Whitehead-ebook/dp/B00506U8WE/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
NOTE: Many people have the mistaken impression that you need a Kindle reader from Amazon to read a kindle book. This is not true. You can download the kindle reader as software for free to any modern PC, including Macintosh, Windows, or iOS devices such as the ipad or iphone. So help me out, and give this little story a try. I will post the sequel as soon as I have the right cover. [Sequel is up and available.]

Beetle is a virtual girl created by Jeff Whitehead, college senior with non-existent social skills. Only he has programmed her to look like an eleven-year-old in order to act as a babe-magnet so he can gain a suitable real girlfriend. Beetle tells the story of her successful efforts to do so, and the problems they all run into with interfering college administrators and an ex-boyfriend who won't give up. The closer Jeff and Annie get to each other, and the closer they get to graduation, the more desperate the violence-prone ex-boyfriend gets. Beetle does everything she can, but there is only so much a virtual person can do about a hammer or a gun when she can't touch anything.

There is a sequel, which I will also publish if enough people like the first book and request I do so. So, who will be the first to read? Who will be the first "friend" to give it a five-star review?
Please let me know what you think,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sanquinaria canadensis

We planted a few bloodroot a couple of years ago. Every spring they spread a little farther, adding their brief beauty to our deer-proof garden.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Glacier in our front yard

First came the snow, then the rain, then the ice. Now our wheat field is a hard-crusted sea of textured white. Today I noted that this ice field has begun to move as cracks appear. Gravity pulls the ice downhill, the turn of our house forces a change in direction and the field cracks. This crack is the largest and longest. It extends over halfway to our neighbor's property. By definition, a glacier is an ice field that moves, so, I guess, we have a glacier in front of our house. But not to worry. The groundhog said that "Spring is just around the corner," and soon this will be gone.
In the meantime, we are smug and comfortable in our passive-solar house on a day like this, soaking up the rays.

Friday, January 14, 2011

snow scenes

So often we have only a vague idea as to what the wind can do, or who visits us. We started with four to five inches but within a day, the wind had sculpted it into patterns similar to what it does to fine sand.
Snow can reveal as well, showing what passed in the night. Here the track of a red fox, giving our home a visit. Here the browsing signs of deer. Here the track of a coyote.
Finally, the tracks of the birds that come to our feeders. We get so many that the snow is refigured into something far different than what fell from the sky.