They stand as edifices on the ridge-lines. They seem as permanent as the stony ground on which they grow, but they are not eternal. Sooner or later, boring of insects and the general rot of wood bring them into death. Then, the winds of summer storms and winter gales bring them to the ground, and their matter returns to the soil from whence they came.
The oak tree played a major role in the identity of two of my ancestral people. The German people see the oak as a national symbol, and the English had a similar position for them. It was from the oak trees that the Royal Navy’s ships were made.
The forests I know best in West Virginia are called “Appalachian Mesophytic Forests.”
“Mesophytic” means not particularly wet or dry. The oak and the hickory are the dominant trees, which has led to their other name, “oak-hickory forest.”
But the oak predominates. In a typical West Virginia forest, around 60 percent of the trees will be oak, and unlike Western Europe, where just a few species of oak exist, our forests will be filled a great diversity of the trees. The most common species are divided into “red oak species” and “white oak” species. but there are many other types of oak that fall under neither distinction.
One of the weird delusions one must fight against in these forests is assuming they are old, that they are the same forest primeval that existed when Europeans first arrive. However, most of these forests are regenerated from old farm pastures that were left fallow after the agrarian economy fell apart in the latter decades of the twentieth century.
Those old forests certainly had many oaks, but they also shared their growing space with massive American chestnut trees. The deer supposedly preferred the chestnuts to acorns, and even now, one can buy chestnut feeds to bait deer.
But those deer munching prepackaged chestnuts will never have the privilege of foraging beneath those old chestnut trees. In the early 1900s, a chestnut blight came sweeping through the Northeast and the Appalachians. The indigenous American chestnuts died off. And now only the deer’s ancestral proclivity manifests itself when the bait is put out.
I knew people who were alive when the last of the chestnuts died. I knew a few old farmers who missed the trees so much that they planted the Chinese chestnut as a replacement tree. My grandpa Westfall had a massive Chinese chestnut as the “shade tree” for his deck, and I can still see him sitting on his the deck, peeling away chestnuts with his knife that he had just collected from his favorite tree.
A big storm came one summer, and the howling winds twisted that tree down to the ground. I thought it would be there forever, but the wind had other ideas.
It was a lesson in the simple reality that trees are not permanent. They are living, and they die.
This year, a firestorm went off in West Virginia. The governor wanted to open up some of the state parks to logging. The reason for this move was never fully mentioned, but the truth is the Chinese market wants good quality oak lumber, especially from red oaks. The Chinese are buying the logs straight out and processing them over there, and the state wanted to make a few dollars selling big oak logs.
Now, it is certainly true that oak trees do grow back, but what is not mentioned much of the discussion about oak forests in West Virginia is that oaks are also under threat.
Just as the chestnut blight brought down our native chestnut tree, the oaks are under pressure now and have been for decades. Yes, the forests are still dominated by oak trees, and acorn mast still drives the ecosystem.
But now, it is quite difficult for oaks to reproduce. Squirrels still take acorns and bury them away from their parent tree, which makes for better growing conditions for the seedlings.
But when the seedlings arise from the leaf litter, the chomping maws of white-tails rip them from their shallow little roots.
Deer have always eaten little oak seedlings. The two species have evolved together, and during the autumn, the deer rely heavily upon acorns to build up their fat reserves.
However, we now live in a time in which deer densities are high. Sportsmen expect deer to be a high densities, and during the 80s and 90s, the numbers were even higher than they are now.
The state DNR, realizing that high deer numbers were ultimately bad for forests, for agricultural interests, and for auto insurers, decided to allow hunters to take more does from the population. The deer numbers went down a bit.
This deer number reduction coincided with a coyote population increase, and it was assumed that the coyotes were the reason why the deer numbers dropped. Some conspiracy theorists believed that the DNR or the insurance companies turned out coyotes to reduce the deer population. The story goes that some trapper bagged a coyote in his fox trap, and on its ear was a tattoo that said “Property of State Farm.”
Of course, the coyotes do take fawns, and some coyotes do pack up and hunt them. But there is very little evidence that coyotes have an effect on deer populations, at least in this part of the country.
Coyotes aren’t like wolves in that they don’t need to kill lots of deer to survive. They can live very nicely on rabbits and mice. Those smaller species have the added advantage that they don’t fight back with sharp hooves when the predator must make a kill.
So we have sportsmen demanding higher deer numbers and lower coyote numbers, and we have oak trees that are having harder and harder time regenerating, simply because there are too many deer eating their seedlings.
And now, fewer and fewer hunters are taking to the woods to hunt deer. State parks, of course, are off-limits to deer hunters.
So if these big oaks are taken for the Chinese market, it really could mean the end of oak trees in the state parks.
And statewide, they could become a rarity entirely.
Of course, the deer themselves will starve without acorns feeding them every September, October, and November, and maybe that crash will allow some regeneration to occur.
But it might be too late.
The truth of the matter is deer hunting is about forestry, and if more and more people see deer hunting as a cruel “sport,” then we’re going to see drastic changes to our forest ecosystem.
Our only hope is that black bears become more carnivorous and eat as many fawns as they can find, and the coyotes learn to swarm the hills like Kipling’s red dogs.
Or maybe more human hunters will take to the forests and fields in search of high quality meat.
But none of these events is likely to happen.
And in a few decades, we may very well see the end of the oak-hickory forest as we know it.
I guess it is time we thought long and hard again about selling out our natural resources to out of state concerns. The curse of West Virginia is that we never really have, and those who dared raise the issue were either driven from office or kept as far from centers of power as possible.
Maybe times are changing.
Let’s hope they change fast enough for our forests and wildlife.
We recently received this message from Tracie Anderson in Minnesota about a cat named Slim:
“Slim is a feral orange tabby cat. He is 9 months old now. He was hurt in August 2017 and I saw it all happen. He got banged in the head right in the left tear duct. He howled so badly. I ran and quickly picked him put and help him to my chest and started praying. I could tell it was a significant brain injury. Three days I held him, only putting him down to go take care of the rest of the animals here at Triangle Acres.
Slim’s chances were slim. But that is not why he is named Slim. He is a slim physique as well. The vet just told me to be patient, if he didn’t improve in 4 to 5 days then he advised me to bring him back and humanely put him down.
Slim fought the first 3 days. He was fed canned cat food watered down. Dropper for water to give him water. His head swelled up but not as bad as the vet thought. He had tons of seizures and body tremors.
Day 4, I was dead tired from staying up the past 3 days. I picked him up gently and held him and kissed his head carefully. I asked him what he thought and he meowed and gave me a bit of a purr. When the vet saw him he said he was surprised he was still alive. He examined him and said the swelling was slowly going down but it appeared Slim couldn’t see anymore. The vet just said keep moving forward. Help him eat, teach him to eat whatever I could do. So I set up a pen for him and we started learning to do things over.
Day 30 Slim was walking but held his head to the left and walked in circles and clearly had a handicap we had to work through.
The vet was amazed but yet guarded. I hadn’t seen a seizure for a long time, but when I am sleeping and working with other animals, I don’t see everything. He was eating, but not dry cat food well. So after voicing my concerns about his weight not advancing and his coat being so rough I wondered what to do. The vet didn’t have any ideas either. Plus it seemed Slim was having a hard time with another canned cat food – processing it. So I started to look for a different food.
I came across Halo® on an Amazon Daily special and ordered a case. Slim went nuts over it. It took about three weeks of Halo chicken canned cat food before I really started to see a difference. But he started becoming more active and his coat was softening. And he was doing much better processing the food too. We tried the dry food, he likes it, but he just can’t crunch it well.
Today it has been about five weeks since we started Halo- goodness its spendy! Slim eats 2 full cans and shares another can. I put the old ladies (3-17 year old sisters whose health is failing now) on HALO as well. Slim races around his room and leaps with abandon. Actually I noticed this past week he has been gauging heights of the furniture in his room and has been clearing them just fine the past couple days.
Yes Slim is still blind. We think, the vet and I, that he has partial sight, but it would be the angled at the ground. He follows toys on the ground, but not in the air level with his head. So we know he sees something.
Today was a surprise and a first. Slim leapt into my arms. He’s been studying the height of my knees when I sit down for almost a week. He made a clean jump and I was able to catch him.
I don’t know if I would have found another cat food, I am just glad Halo is what he goes nuts over and what has helped him come up in health and I don’t mind the poop end of things either. Much easier to tolerate.
Jazz is a new kitty about 3 months old that was rescued from the cold. Jazz had 3 siblings and a neighbor brought one of his siblings over to me when it started to get cold out. They were about 5 weeks old at that time. The sibling that was brought to me did not make it, it had been cold too long and I couldn’t get it warmed up and couldn’t get it to take milk. The other 2 siblings we hunted for, but couldn’t find the same afternoon. Jazz showed up in my barn that evening. He was in between 5 other cats- they were blanketing him in a circle of fur. Cats are intelligent. However, I knew if they scattered, Jazz wouldn’t make it. So I grabbed Jazz and brought him inside. Jazz now resides in the same area of the house that Slim does and Jazz is now on Halo, too.
It’s a good cat food. Slim is living proof of how good it is. The improvement of his overall health and his coat speaks volumes.
If I were rich I would buy stock, lol.
I just wanted to share Slim’s story. If we hadn’t stumbled on that Amazon deal, I am not sure where we would be today. Thankful we stumbled on it.”
Thank you Tracie for sharing your story and we are happy to hear that Slim and Jazz are doing well on Halo!
The ceremonial start is going on now, and actual racing starts Sunday at 2:00 pm, Eastern Time (10:00 am in Alaska). Typically the restart, as it is called, leaves from Willow, but poor conditions there have moved it to Fairbanks. The race lasts 9 – 12 days, ending when the last team makes it to […]
If you watch the news, you are likely concerned by the recent reports regarding the withdrawal of certain pet food products from store shelves because of food safety concerns.
First, please be aware that no Halo products are involved in any of these recalls. Additionally, I want to take this opportunity to let you know of the steps that we, at Halo, take to provide you with peace of mind regarding the quality of the meat, poultry and other ingredients that we put into each of our products that you feed your companion animal
We start with only real, whole meat and poultry. That means that we are sourcing only whole muscle meat and highly nutritious livers that were processed and prepared to be human food. Unlike most kibble pet foods, we never use any “meat meals” (like chicken meal, lamb meal, fish meal, etc.), which are rendered ingredients that are not human edible. These whole, real proteins are the foundation of our promise that Whole Meat Makes a Whole Lot of Difference™.
This difference in sourcing, using and labeling specific ingredients is very important. Many pet food ingredient labels also contain ingredients such as “animal fat,” or “meat byproducts”…terms that you will never see on a Halo product label. “Animal Fat,” is a vague term, which means that the fat could come from any variety of animals, including those that were considered inedible as human food. By contrast, you’ll see that our ingredient panel will list a specifically sourced ingredient such as “chicken fat” because that’s exactly what it is…fat from chickens…that were originally prepared and handled in facilities designed to deliver human food.
And, “meat byproduct”? That’s another vague term that represents ingredients sourced from unnamed species. Look again at a Halo ingredient panel. You will never see the word “byproduct” on any Halo ingredient list.
I hope this information is helpful to you. We want you to know that we take our responsibility to provide your loved ones with the most nutritious, digestible, high-quality ingredients on the market today.
Director of Sourcing and Ingredient Stewardship
About Dave Carter
Dave Carter studied journalism at University of Northern Colorado but found his true calling working with farmers and ranchers at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union for 25 years. He’s now the executive director of the National Bison Association. Dave served as Chair of the USDA National Organic Standards Board during the implementation of the national organic regulations. Follow Dave at @bisondave.
I was emptying the camera roll on my phone the other day (please tell me I’m not the only one who gets that “storage full” pop-up delay and is constantly having to delete photos because they take and save an excessive amount of them), and got lost in photos from last summer. I know, I know, I just posted about spring flowers last week and here I am again, unable to embrace the present. My kids have taught me how to appreciate a good snow day, they really have, and I will say that my distain for winter has lessened over the years, but I’m not going to pretend I’m not looking forward to warmer weather and longer days somethin’ fierce. Plus looking at these photos makes me happy. So I thought I’d share them here, because maybe they’ll make you happy too.
We were supposed to leave this morning for a last minute trip to northern California to visit a dear friend of mine who has been having a challenging time. I felt so lucky that we were able to make this happen during a small break in Robbie’s intense tour schedule with the band so we could all four go. But I let myself get so stressed about finding a way to get out there, and then got even more overwhelmed once we got the flights, trying to squeeze in work for Bubby and Bean in the few days last week that Robbie was home and able to care for the kids, followed by close to break down status when Emmett got another severe ear infection after Robbie left again that involved things like projectile vomiting antibiotics. And then, after taking Emmett for a follow up just to make sure he was better, the doctor informed us that his ear infection has gotten worse and he absolutely could not fly. So we had to cancel the trip (second trip canceled due to a sick child in three months) yesterday. I genuinely felt like I was going to explode with stress and sadness. So much had built up and I was already so overwhelmed, and that just pushed me over the edge.
Then, I suddenly had this moment where I remembered the hell my friend is going through battling a terminal illness, and the hell the parents of the kids in Parkland, Florida are going through after last week’s shooting – and how ridiculous it was that I was putting so much pressure on myself over stuff that doesn’t even matter. I rebooked the trip for early April. I went to bed early. And I gave myself permission to take a little time off work, to focus my family and myself. This isn’t easy for me to do mentally (I am not wired to take breaks) or logistically (we have a new mortgage and rely on both incomes, and I can’t justify taking time off work when I’m not out of town), but I need to do it.
The reason I’m sharing this here is that I know most of you probably go through these periods too, when life’s small struggles build up until you feel overpowered. And maybe you’re not in a situation like I am where you’d already planned to leave for a trip and took time off work and therefore have the luxury of taking a few days for your family or self care. But if you are, do it. And if you’re not, find a way to allow yourself a break in a different way. A therapist friend of mine recently said something to me along the lines of, “I understand you feel guilty when you’re not working or taking care of others. And if it’s too difficult for you to justify the fact that you deserve it just for you, that’s okay. But know that the only way to be your best as a parent and a partner and a business owner is to give yourself a break. You can’t take care of everyone else if you’re not well.” This may seem like common sense, but I needed the reminder.
So Bubby and Bean will be silent for a few days. And I hope that inspires you to do something for yourself as well. I’ll be back on the 28th (the 28th of February! That means March is almost here! Woohoo!), hopefully feeling a little less buried. I would also love to hear what you do to take breaks and take care of yourself – self care is something I crush sometimes and absolutely suck at other times. Right now I fee like I could definitely use a refresher course.
Thank you for listening, and for allowing these occasional personal ramblings in between the design and lifestyle posts. You guys are the best.