Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holidays have arrived

We'll be off in the land of the Angles and the Gauls. Happy holidays and a joyous new year!

Black pine

When our neighborhood was laid out, it seems that Black Pine was a popular tree for landscape designers. We have lines of them alternating with flowering plum trees along the white fencing at the south entrance to our subdivision. They're nice looking trees with a dark green color and a puffy appearance. Our local evergreens tend to be pointy and lighter in color, so it's a pleasant contrast. We don't shape them as is done in Japan - they just grow freely.

Sadly, the recent windstorm was not kind to the black pines. These trees completely blocked this entrance to the neighborhood. A second entrance was partially blocked. The wind blew from the south and, as one might expect, virtually all the fallen trees point to the north.

The black pines that faced the wind without an upwind deflector didn't hold. Those in north-south rows did reasonably well, but those in east-west rows fell hard. Smaller trees were more likely to survive, but the larger, more mature trees had too much sail area.

Based on the way they fell, the black pine has a shallow, broad root system. The trees that were pulled up showed roots that rarely went deeper than a foot and were typically half that. The roots were barely deeper than the sod. The breadth of the root system wasn't enough to compensate. It's not clear if the root depth is natural or is a consequence of the soil structure. The soils around here are generally poor. The glaciers scraped off most of the soil and pushed it elsehwere. When they retreated, they left sand, gravel, and clay. The builders added just enough topsoil to allow the plants to survive. But I would think that twenty years of growth would have given the trees deeper roots. The black pines are also denser than the native trees. As I look at the firs and cedars, they have a more lacy look to them. Stands of them get very dark, but individual trees are more open than the black pine. The successful trees bend with the wind and let it pass.

There will be a faction in the neighborhood that wants to replace the fallen trees with the same type. I will lobby for native trees that have shown they can withstand our blustery days.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Risky business

I am fascinated by the risks that we take in our daily lives. We pay extra for special bottled water to avoid the perceived risks of tap water. Driving is particularly challenging. We drive cars at high speeds without seatbelts fastened. We talk on cell phones, apply make-up, and hand things to the kids while driving in heavy traffic. A sample of the damage left by the recent windstorm is shown here. A tall tree, probably a Douglas Fir or a Western Red Cedar, is suspended above the roadway by power lines. Many people were quite happy to drive under that tree on their way to shopping or soccer. Personally, I drove over on the shoulder to avoid a chance collapse. I know the chance was remote, but I just didn't want "Zap!" to be my epitaph.

I should have taken more photos. The damage was -- is dramatic.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What was your name?

The Seattle/Tacoma bureau of the National Weather Service wants your help naming the storm that blew some many electrons out of Seattle. The announcement page is here or you can send mail to .

Reeling in the years

It's been a while since I posted. I started to think that the content was not interesting to the audience. I have finally realized that the audience is rather small - probably just me - and I can't impress or disappoint myself, so I may as well start again. (No, I can't explain - it made sense at the time.)

We've just come out of a long, dark period. A major storm blew through the metropolitan Seattle area a week ago - Thursday night, 14 December 2006. It started with a few hours of pouring rain, almost three inches - an amount we normally get in a month. This was followed by strong winds - sustained at 50 mph. Trees started falling.

Although our home was not hit by anything falling, there were hundreds of thousands of homes without power as trees struck power lines. Ours was one of the many dark ones. We spend Friday thinking power would be restored shortly and we could resume our normal lives for the weekend. Not so. We finally had power restored Tuesday morning. Fortunately, we have a fireplace, but we had to source firewood from friends and neighbors. The furnace was inop (electric fan for circulation), but the hot water heater worked (natural gas). Washing the dishes has never been so popular. We dug out our camping gear - sleeping bags, flashlights, lanterns, and so on.

Once power was restored, we quickly forgot the hardships and returned to our normal, posh life. Lights, heat, computers, music, and garage door openers. As the Horsey cartoon (Seattle P-I) says, there's a thin line between civilization and nature.