Wednesday, November 30, 2005

World's most expensive tree

Look carefully. Hard to believe it, but that scrawny live oak in the foreground is the world's most expensive tree. Not a claim to fame I'm exactly proud of. Tree planting efforts are always difficult on Wimberley mountain tops because of the solid rock inches under the surface, and brutal dry summers. For me it is even tougher since I'm a commuter from Houston, and sometimes can't get there to water any new trees for a month or so. After a few failed efforts to get trees started, I was desperate. Stubbornly determined to have my way, I soon resorted to the old trick of throwing as much money as possible at the problem.

Here is the method I used in this madness: 1) With no water source at the property, I needed to provide a way to water the tree in my absence. The water tank in the foreground of the photo at right took care of that.
2) Since I have no electricity at the site, getting the water from the tank to the tree was another challenge. A solar panel pictured atop the martin house bought my way out of that problem.
3) To tell the water tank when to release the water, a special DC timer lurks inside the electrical box below the solar panel.
4) When directed by the timer, a custom DC solenoid in the tank opens, sending water through a hose to the tree.

Are you convinced of my obsession, if not insanity? All this technology, and I still have to haul water to the tank on each visit there to keep it filled. If this tree dies after all this, it will surely send me right over the brink...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

First to Fall

The Cedar Elms pictured here at the property entrance are one of the early indicators of Fall in Wimberley. Every October they start to yellow a bit, and soon the small leaves are falling everywhere, getting into everything. I need to remember this look for the next four months or so, while baren limbs make things considerably more austere out there. But for now, the change of seasons stirs deep feelings of special times to enjoy. Times like playing touch football, gathering with family around the fireplace, or snuggling against the cool weather with my darling. How sweet, Mom Nature sending those little yellow leaves on their mission of love.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A friend indeed

My friend pictured at the previously mentioned watering hole. I've had several people help out over the years in Wimberley, but this true friend has actually come back for more. Unshackled! Sometimes there are things that I truly need a helper to accomplish, and during his visits it's nice to get a few of those things checked off my list. But the truth is that having someone to share the experience with is more meaningful than whatever tasks we complete. We can talk about life, astronomy, women, photography, and all kinds of geeky things that would make any macho-man cringe. I'm not sure if either of us gets more enjoyment during these getaways from being closer to nature or from getting the chance to really talk. Both are great therapy, and in combination they create a common bond that keeps us close, and keeps us thinking about coming back for more.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sharpen the Saw

"Sharpen the Saw" was the final of seven steps in Stephen Covey's popular "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" book. In Wimberley, several hazards to keeping the saw sharp are ever present. I used to think of Cedar as a soft wood. After cutting cedars in the Texas hill country I now know differently; the ash-juniper (commonly called cedar) trees grow so slowly that their wood is fairly hard. The trunks tend to twist and fall in strange ways when cut, often pinching the chainsaw bar. These trees also have an amazing ability to wrap themselves around limestone rocks, so occasionally in the middle of a cedar trunk my chainsaw will spit out some white powder and stop cutting well.

Like many of life's good habits that we must consistently practice to keep sharp, the chainsaw must be sharpened frequently. It is painfully tedious. Takes time out from what I'd rather be doing. But it's always worth it, because few things are sweeter than slicing smoothly and gracefully through trees, or through life.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


An experience even better than sky-watching from the ground is to do it while actually being way up IN a tree. And, the Wimberley treehouse provides the perfect setting. Here my sweetheart is pictured while spending some time up there reading.

For me, the coolest thing about sky-watching from the top of a tree is that I become part of the tree itself. That gentle swaying of the treetops when viewing them from the ground? The swaying became a downright spooky sensation when I first experienced it from way up there. After my fear receded and I realized that my life wasn't in immediate peril, it was invigorating. But it only receded after I could feel and move with the tree rather than fight it.

In the tree, my perspective on the world is different than that from the ground. The birds soaring above are much closer; sometimes buzzards swoop by so close to the treetops that I can hear their feathers rippling. The birds below don't seem to realize that I am up there, so I can study them as they dart back and forth to the feeder below. A sense of awe comes when I consider what those trees have had to withstand year after year, for hundreds of years. Even with mild winds, the twisting and creaking tell of huge forces the trees resist, and the would-be disasters that they put off. For as long as possible that is, until storms, erosion, disease, or their own size finally brings them down. Long after the treehouse is gone, hopefully...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Up in the air

One of my all-time favorite things to do is to lay down under some trees and look up at the sky. The details which make this sky-watching activity perfect are: 1) a blue sky, with a few puffy clouds being acceptable. 2) a light breeze to make the tree tops sway. 3) having my sweetheart looking up with me. Never does our loving creator seem so close, never do life's chores and pains seem so distant. My recommendation for reducing our world's crime rate is to pre-sentence all humans to an hour per week of this activity. The peace we would all get from that hour should keep us from even thinking about evil deeds. Those who do commit a crime should be sentenced to sky-watch for an hour per day, two hours for two crimes, etc. If nothing else, many of us would eventually be too tied up watching the sky to commit any crime at all...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Live or die

This small watering hole on my property provides a place for wildlife to stay alive during dry spells. Or to die, as the occasional skeleton or carcass attests. No big surprise that a small animal drinking here could sometimes be taken by a predator. Once my son found two armadillo bodies with no visible damage laying near the pond, and we wondered what could have happened. It seemed unlikely that poisoning or drowning would have left the two of them within ten feet of each other.

At times like that it strikes me that I'm there for such a small part of what goes on. Visiting one day per month translates to about 3% residency. 97% chance of missing anything in particular happening. Occasional tragedies like a tree toppling or an animal dying. Or the more frequent events, like beautiful sunsets, tree branches swaying and whispering in the breeze, or the often-dry creek gently babbling after a rainfall. Hmmm, feels like time for another fix...