Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 29 UK - Expert talk

The experts came and talked. And pretty knowledgeable it was too, and pretty interesting, and very tiring. My brain needs time to digest it. I will try to pass on some of it tomorrow. Today I am not up to thinking so there arejust two photos. First, Hugh looks at the strange bumps that grow around the roots of old trees, no one seems to know why and below Bryan talks animatedly about how branches grow out of a sort of collar. Never cut that collar off!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

November 28 UK - The rain and the brown in the leaves

The oak stands proud again on another dank autumn day. Little seems to change but the small twig I have been photographing every day is now almost leafless. Compare it with the state it was in three days ago. I suppose all over the tree where knots of leaves remain they are falling one by one.

On the ground the leaves are almost all brown now and the wet sodden leaf litter is beautiful with bright tans and here and there a few yellows.

Tomorrow the chief tree officer of the national park (or some such panjandrum) is coming. I will pass on to you what Jeanie and I learn from him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27 UK - Another dark day

Another dark day and our tree hardly seems to change. In light like this it is the browns of the beech trees that stand out.

As a special treat for nerds I'm including a picture of the oak tree that featured in Blake's Seven. For a while this neck of the woods became popular with the television people. Blake's seven filmed an episode here (oh sorry I forgot it was actually on another planet) and Wayne Sleepe did part of a special where (I imagine) people danced around under the trees.

The oak in question has lost all its leaves bar about two. Our tree has a long way to go yet.

Monday, November 26, 2007

November 26 UK - A dark, dull, gloomy day

A view through the dripping brambles shows our tree in the mist. It's been one of those awful November days when the dawn seems never properly to break. But it's still beautiful walking among the autumn woods.

I've taken the view through the dripping brambles. When I was talking to our expert Hugh, he told me that a lot of naturally sown oaks depend on brambles for protection in their early years. Unlike beech, they don't grow up through brambles, they have to grow up with them. (Oaks are much less shade-tolerant than beech.) The majority of seedlings start under the oak but very few of those survive the second year. Here is one of the seedlings that grew this year.

These year-old seedling form lovely tender food to the thousands of caterpillars that fall off the leaves (most of whom die in their turn of course, as there are not that many seedlings and lots of fallen caterpillars). Those seedlings that the caterpillars don't get, the deer or the cows or horses get instead. The acorns that are most likely to make it, are those carried away from the parent tree by jays and burried as a food supply and then not used. An oak has to be extremely lucky to survive it's first ten years. After the next ten, it becomes almost indestructible.

I was looking up through the tree at the dull grey sky and thinking that there really were quite a lot of leaves still there. But going back to the first photos I took it is easy to see how many have gone. Some of the leaves stay because oaks are descended from evergreen trees that grew in warmer climates and have not fully developed the abscission cells that break leaves off in the autumn.

Apparently leaves stay on young oaks up to 8 ft throughout the whole the winter as they do on beech and hornbeam. So please, please, please, use beech, or hornbeam (or even oak) for your hedge and never ever, ever use Leylandiai. It is impossible to keep these beastly trees in check. The trees get taller and the hedge planter gets older and soon the trees are up to 40ft and the hedge planter has rheumatism and would need to call in professional tree sugeons that would cost thousands and he wants to spend his money on cod liver oil and glucosamine and world cruises. Meanwhile the neighbours are in darkness with their flowerbeds poisoned. And both sides are hating the other through the impenetrable and virtually lifeless wood that Leylandiai always become.

Enough, except one thing I discovered by mistake just now. Merriam Webster do a lovely illustrated dictionary showing the names of parts of things. Here's a link to a bit of it on trees.

I'll end with a beautiful photograph. A line of beech and oak this morning, beautiful even on such a gloomy day. The beech are the dark brown leavers, the oak the lighter and greener ones. The green stuff at the bottom is grass except for the holly and brambles which are the dark bits.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nov 25 Uk - Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday is a sort of joke. The prayer for the day begins "Stir up, oh Lord, the hearts of your people..." and the joke is that this is the day when you start making your Christmas puddings and "stir them up". The one person I mentioned it to today assured me that it was much too late and that his grandmother started making her puddings in August. Regardless you can still make them if you like so you can click here for a link to a recipe. I wrote a play that used "stir-up Sunday". It's very ingenious and all happens in the space of time it takes to bake a cake in the microwave (about 10 minutes), then the audience, or the actors can eat the cake at the end. Here's a link to the play - actually it makes an excellent two hander for a Christmas show so I hope you use it. Click here for the link.

Enough self promotion. Oh no, I've had second thoughts on that. We were talking to our friend Georgina the other night. She writes very nice poems and I asked her if she had one for the Blog. She said she hadn't written anything that fitted the theme. So I encouraged her to do so. Maybe she will. Meanwhile I wondered if I could do so myself. At the time, I could only think of two rhymes for "leaves" - "grieves" and "thieves". Gerard Manley Hopkins has used the first (quoted in an earlier post - click here for the poem) so I wondered what could be done with "thieves". Here is my contribution.

Autumn leaves, autumn leaves
Are of little interest to thieves.

In fact there's so many of them around

You can almost pick them off the ground.

You are invited to try your hand and see if you can do worse. Anyway here is today's tree photo and a series of photos of leaves taken in the last week.
November 19 - pretty green but especially in the leaf veins.

November 21 - about the same just a bit browner

November 23 - the green can just be seen in the veins.

and today - November 25 - almost everything brown now, in a day or two the twig will be bare.

Back to stir up Sunday. It is beauty like I have seen this amazing autumn, that stirs up my heart. I hope I have managed to pass on some of the joy of it to you. Here's today's sunset to end with.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 24 UK - First frost


It was the first real frost today and I managed to get to the tree while the ground was still white and the jackdaws were sitting on the top of the tree hoping that the sun would warm them.

Under the tree itself was a frost free circle, where the trees were a brigh orange. But all around in the open each leaf was framed in a coronet of frost, making each one a little jewelled work of art.

Here are a few of them. And at the end a reminder of spring a frost covered bud. This one had fallen but in our tree there are hundreds of thousands of them with next year's leaves and flowers hidden inside

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nov 23 UK - See the changes in the last month

Here is the tree after a month. It's completely changed from a month ago. But over the past week it has hardly changed day by day. But each day a few more leaves fall.

The big changes came in the windy, rainy days about two weeks ago. As you go through the sequence you will see that as the leaves fall you can gradually see more and more sky through the tree. And the pool of leaves beneath the tree gradually gets bigger and bigger.

There are scatterings of leaves around the middle of the crown and quite a few towards teh bottom.

Not a big change around this time

A lot of leaves came off in the winds around this time.

Over these few windy days there was a big change. Leaves now orangey-browny-gold came down fast. The air was full of them.

The dramatic changes happened over these few days when the bulk of the leaves fell.

November 5 looks very different. This is partly due to the light of course but it was in the week starting November 3 that the big changes happened.

The tree is still covered in leaves, but the green is going all across the tree. There is a distincly golden tinge across the tree.

After a week the tree looks just almost like it did at the start but slowly, slowly the green of the leaves is going and the leaves will soon start to fall.

The tree looks as green as it did in the summer. But under it the leaf litter is starting to accumulate. For any of you who want to see the complete sequence I hope to put it up on a web album in the next few days. The sequence above are taken on bright days. The lighting on the dull days is so different it is hard to distinguish which changes are in the tree and which are caused by the different lighting.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 22 UK - An expert pair of eyes and lots of new information

Hugh arrived today and we spent an amazing couple of hours learning more about the tree. First he thought it had probably been pollarded at some time. (Pollarding means you cut the branches at about 8ft or so (2-3 metres) and then harvest the branches for first building hay-ricks on and then for firewood the next year. There is a nice article on pollarding at:
Our tree is probably older than we thought (I guessed 350 years and it seems it was too little.) It's always been in the open, probably with cattle grazing beneath it (as they do now.) Barring catastrophe, our tree should outlive us with ease. It is perfectly healthy with very little fungus damage. There is hardly any sign of stag's head (or do I mean stag's horn?) growth except at the top right. See photo for an example of major stag horn growth in a nearby tree.

There is new good new growth from the middle left which I failed to photograph. Oaks can live more than one thousand years and it is nearly always the pollarded trees that live longest.

Here Jeanie and Hugh are measuring the tree at breast height (1.3 metres), so he can make an accurate estimate of its age. Hugh is amazingly knowledgeable and (oh it's wonderful to talk with someone who knows what he is talking about.) I have invited Hugh to contribute to this blog and I hope he will. Hugh asked us if it was a "named tree," as far as we know it isn't, so I am quickly naming it Yseult. Yseult, as those who knew her will tell you, certainly deserves to have a tree named after her. (The name is the cornish version of Isolde and is pronounced Izzult.)

Tomorrow marks one month since we first started photographing this tree and there should be a series of photos that show the changes so far, and as the weeks go on I'll pass on the information that we picked up from Hugh.

One more thing, there is a series of long black marks down the trunk which are where rainwater has flowed down from a little pool in the fork of the tree to a tiny pool at the bottom. Apparently areas like this are amazing places for finding different forms of life (insects, the birds that live off them and probably all sorts of bacteria).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 21 UK - The leaves hang on the action and the beauty is underfoot

The sun came out again today and the leaves on our oak hang on. They are probably there until there is a huge wind. Nothing seems to be happening but while the tree is sitting almost dormant there is furious activity under the leaf pile where bacteria and fungi, and worms and insects and mice(maybe) (and other things too) are busily eating the leaves and turning them back into carbon, nitrogen, phosphates and heaven knows what else. Click here for a nice simple article I found about it.

It's beautiful underfoot too with the oak leaves still patterned with green and gold. Pearl before swine in millions of leaves, each one a delicate thing of beauty.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 20 UK - Puddles and rain and bare branches

The rain goes on and the tree is looking distinctly bedraggled and sad. I'm reorganising my photos today so that i can show a sequence of them in the next few days when we are coming up to a month since we began. Just dank, and puddles and reflections from around the tree today.

Monday, November 19, 2007

November 19 UK. - The damp goes on

The damp goes on, the leaves on tree stay on. The last stubborn few unwilling to drop. Underfoot the damp creeps through your shoes and fallen leaves join the mud in the puddles.

But, just here and there, amazing colours shine out in the dark dank woods, colours brighter than the leaden sky.