Posts filed under ‘American Chestnut Foundation’

Two “Babies” Meet

Dyson slept through the whole encounter, but when he was three weeks old he did get to meet one of my first “babies”.

Dyson, meet the American chestnut. American chestnut, meet Dyson.

Dyson - July 19th - First Visit to Chestnut
Dyson and our Restoration Chestnut from the American Chestnut Foundation – July 19, 2013

August 22, 2013 at 1:30 am Leave a comment

Happy 3rd Birthday, American Chestnuts!

Our Restoration Chestnuts from the American Chestnut Foundation were planted on June 17th and June 18th of 2010.  That means they celebrated their third birthday last month!  This year was particularly exciting because they got their first catkins this year. They are all grown up!

Like previous years, we celebrated with some photos.  Year 1, I was pregnant.  Year 2, my son Sagan posed with me.  Year 3, pregnant again.

American Chestnut - Birthday Tree and Vicky - Cropped
Year 1 – Pregnant
American Chestnut's 2nd Birthday - Sagan and Vicky
Year 2 – Not Pregnant

American Chestnut - Three Year Birthday
Year 3 – Pregnant Again
I look forward to posing for future photos with BOTH of my sons.  🙂

 

July 5, 2013 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

Tree Sighting at the Breakfast Table

This morning, Ryan and I tag-teamed breakfast. Ryan got Sagan situated in his chair with a inventory of cereal and berries. Then when I got my groggy rear downstairs, Ryan ran back upstairs to shower.

I made myself some oatmeal and strawberries, grabbed some soy milk, and sat down next to the little boy who immediately put his spoon down and started to enthusiastically point.

“TREE! TREE!” he shouted proudly. He was very clearly pointing right at…ME!

Well, I may start the 3rd trimester tomorrow, but I’m not definitely not THAT big, at least not yet, so I was a little confused.

Then I looked down.

It turns out I had slept in a shirt from the American Chestnut Foundation. Only I had put it on backwards (Hey, I’m not superwoman. I can’t mother, work, and be bothered with frivolous details like what direction my clothes are on. Hehe). As a result, a beautiful botanical drawing by artist Bruce Lyndon Cunningham was on my chest.


American Chestnut Botanical Drawing By Bruce Lyndon Cunningham

I smiled. “You’re right, Sagan. That is a tree!!!”

“TREE!” Sagan agreed.

With that, we resumed our breakfasts and had a most delightful Friday morning.

April 19, 2013 at 9:23 am 1 comment

Happy 2nd Birthday, American Chestnuts!

Our Restoration Chestnuts from the American Chestnut Foundation were planted on June 17th and June 18th of 2010.  That means they celebrated their second birthday earlier this week! 

Like last year, we celebrated with some photos!  Due to the long approval and construction process with our new home, the trees had to winter another year in pots. Luckily, they had an extremely mild winter to contend with.

American Chestnut's 2nd Birthday - Sagan Smiles by Pot
Sagan with American Chestnut

In last year’s photo I was 5 1/2 months pregnant:

American Chestnut - Birthday Tree and Vicky - Cropped
June 18, 2011

This year, I have an 11 month old son!!!

American Chestnut's 2nd Birthday - Sagan and Vicky
June 18, 2012

The tree we are posing with is over my head this year, but it does have a little boost from the new pot it is in. : )

This should be the last birthday picture of the tree in a pot. I look forward to seeing how both the tree and my son grow in the coming years!

June 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, American Chestnut

Our Restoration Chestnuts from the American Chestnut Foundation were planted on June 17th and June 18th of 2010. That means they celebrated their first birthday this past week! I took this opportunity to pose with my largest birthday tree (who is getting acclimated to my new front yard where it’s going to be planted!!!). It’s leaves are now chest-height on a 5’5″ pregnant lady.

American Chestnut - Birthday Tree and Vicky - Cropped
Birthday Chestnut and Pregnant Vicky

Happy Birthday Chestnuts!!!! XXX OOO XXX

June 21, 2011 at 1:00 am 2 comments

A Lesson from the American Chestnut

There’s a common misconception that the American chestnut is extinct. That’s not the case. The large trees may have been decimated by the blight, but you can see plenty of little trees in the Appalachians. Alas, those small trees will eventually succumb to the blight as well before they can reach the large sizes of yesteryear.

But here’s the thing about the American chestnut. It’s incredibly optimistic.  The American chestnut is not afraid to try again. The blight will take its the branches. The blight will take its trunk, but when the tree “dies”, the roots send up another shoot to give life another whirl. It’s almost as if the tree shrugs and thinks, “Well, that sucked.” and then moves on.

Prickly Pear - Blight and New Growth
Chestnuts Aren’t Afraid to Try Again – With the larger trunk blighted, new shoots give it another go.

The weeks following our wedding was an exciting time in the chestnut arena. We got to watch as our seeds germinated. I was amazed at how from the get-go the tiniest baby leaf already looked like an American chestnut. It had itty bitty curved teeth!

Baby American Chestnut!
Baby D4-28-30, 16 days After Planting – Aww… It’s Baby Leaves Already Have Teeth!!!

We slowly exposed our baby trees to full sun and full wind. We watched them peek out of the top of their pots and continue to grow. I remember how giddy I was when I realized I could clearly make out the chestnuts when we drove down Dawson Street before we reached our road! In June, we celebrated one of the chestnuts reaching 12″ tall.

Then disaster.

Leaving for a trip, I gave the trees extra water. It turned out to be an unnecessary gesture. It rained the whole time we were gone. Worse– the holes in the bottom of our pots were obstructed so all that water queued up. This was not good– American chestnuts are sensitive to overwatering. When we returned home, our formerly happy chestnuts were far from happy. And just like that, they died.

I felt… horrible! The American Chestnut Foundation had put so much work and research into those nuts and I turned around and killed them.  I literally lost sleep over it, a fact I couldn’t hide from my mother thanks to Mark Zuckerberg (“Why were you on Facebook at 4 AM?!?”).

After a few days, I realized there was only one thing I could do to feel better. I needed to confess! I called up The American Chestnut Foundation and apologized to the poor employee who happened to answer the phone. She had a scientist call me back to gather up some data about my potting mix, my fertilizer and pot sizes. All I wanted from the conversation was a means to appease my guilt. I ended up with a lot more. At the end of our phone call, the scientist surprised me, an established tree killer, by offering me more seed.

And here’s another confession. I’m not as brave as the American chestnuts in the Appalachians. I didn’t want to try again.  I was timid and scared and had to be talked into it! Luckily, I gave in and in mid-June Ryan and I received another package marked “Refrigerate Upon Opening”

Take II
Our second wave of chestnuts aren’t from the “Restoration generation” (B3F3). They are still 15/16 American, but are members of the earlier B2F3 generation.

Pots
Ryan and I didn’t have enough pots to accomodate all of our newcomers, so we bought cheapy biodegradable peat moss pots to get some of the seedlings started. They were shorter than the recommended size, but they did have a surprise side benefit. Those pots dried out super fast, helping me avoid the overwatering mistake from my past. Later in the summer we invested in real pots for all the seedlings! This time, we verified each and every hole in the bottom and in a couple of cases, poked extra holes. : )

On the surface, it looked like the small peat moss pots did the trick, but I will note that all of our tallest seedlings were ones that were planted in the bigger pots from Day One.

American Chestnuts - Take II - July 8th
The Temporary Homes

Germination Stats
With the help of Jacal, we planted 48 nuts. Some of them had crazy long radicals. We cut the radical down to 1/2″ for 11 of the nuts. The remaining seed we left the radicals completely in tact. Two nuts were moldy and didn’t have radicals. One nut’s radical broke. Out of those 48 nuts, we had 45 germinate. Yup– the moldy nuts and the one with the broken radical were the ones that did not make an appearence.

American Chestnuts - Jacal Plants
Jacal Planting Seed

Potting Mixture
Our soil mixture was the recommended 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 vermiculite. Jacal helped me mix it up.

American Chestnuts - Jacal Mixes Dirt
Jacal Prepares our Soiless Potting Mix

Germination Time
Germination was substantially faster this time. In March, it took our seeds roughly 13 days to poke up out of the soil. The June wave, took just 4 days before baby chestnuts made their above soil debut.

Fertilizer
Chestnuts like slightly acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 to 6.5. For fertilization, I used MiracleGro for Azaleas, Camellia, Rhododendron (it’s geared for “All Acid-Loving Plants”). It was recommended that I fertilize them every other week. Once the hurricanes and tropical storms started coming our way and the plants were getting watered frequently from nature, they were only fertilized once a month (the fertilizer was mixed in water and I was fearful of overwatering).

Pest Control (Or lack thereof)
I did not use any kind of pesticide this summer, but it probably would have been welcomed by the chestnuts. A couple of them were deemed tasty by insects and I did find two cankerworm squatters.

American Chestnuts - Take II - July 15 (7)
A Baby Chestnut with a Partially Devoured Leaf

Size
Of the twenty-two chestnuts I kept here in Elizabeth City, I did have three casualties. Of the survivors, some have done better than others. My tallest right now was planted on June 17, 2010 and on November 29th, it was 29″ tall.

American Chestnuts - Take II - September 9
Jimmie with Chestnuts – September 9th

Planting Date Size on 11/29/2010
June 17, 2010* 24″
June 17, 2010* 29″
June 17, 2010* 15″
June 17, 2010* 11″
June 17, 2010* 24″
June 17, 2010* 16″
June 18, 2010 9″
June 18, 2010 10″
June 18, 2010 6″
June 18, 2010 12″
June 18, 2010 7″
June 18, 2010 12″
June 18, 2010 6 1/2″
June 18, 2010 12″
June 18, 2010 18″
June 18, 2010 11″
June 18, 2010 9″
June 18, 2010 10″
June 18, 2010 7 1/2″

*Originally Planted in Larger Pots

Fall Colors
I may have planted these guys late, but apparently they got to grow a little longer here in warm North Carolina. On Facebook, I saw someone’s Restoration chestnuts in Traverse City, Michigan yellowing in early October. Our chestnuts didn’t start to yellow until nearly a month later.  I first spotted changing leaves on November 17th.

American Chestnuts - Take II - November 18 - Yellowing
Yellowing Chestnuts – November 18th

The chestnuts got their first glimpse of snow of December 5, 2010. As you can see, some of them are STILL sporting green leaves!

American Chestnut - Aww, Chestnuts' First Snow
Chestnuts’ First Snow – 12/5/2010

American Chestnut - Aww, Chestnuts' First Snow 3
Chestnuts’ First Snow – 12/5/2010

The Neighborhood Kids
As with many of our endeavors, the neighborhood kids were involved. Above you saw that Jacal helped with the soil mixing and the planting. When Ryan and I traveled to Cape Cod this summer, the chestnuts stayed healthy under the watchful eye of Dada, Vick and Risha. But here is my favorite American Chestnut/Neighborhood Kid story (so far):

Over the summer, 4th grader Tyrek came over for a visit. We talked on the back deck surrounded by all the little baby chestnuts and all the little baby pawpaws. Tyrek was telling me a story when he suddenly stopped in mid-sentence. He looked at his surroundings and said, “Vicky, these trees make me happy!”

My reply— “They make me happy too.” : )

And there you go! Sometimes trying again can be terrifying. Sometimes trying again seems hopeless. But sometimes… sometimes trying again will bring you something to smile about.

Additional Resources
Please note– this post is just a discussion of my experience and I am far, far, far from an expert and am still learning myself. If you are interested in growing American chestnuts, I recommend the following references:

TACF Fact Sheet – How To Grow Your Chestnuts
Growing Chestnuts From Seed – Long Instructions from Meadowview Research Farm
Growing Chestnuts From Seed – Quick Instructions from Meadowview Research Farm
The Chestnut Growers Mailing List (Great resource for questions and answers)

For more information of donating to or becoming a member of The American Chestnut Foundation, visit:
http://www.acf.org

December 6, 2010 at 1:00 am 11 comments

Wedding – American Chestnut

In 2008, I visited one of the research farms of The American Chestnut Foundation and learned about their backcross breeding effort to restore the American chestnut. It’s hard work! Innoculating trees, evaluating blight resistance, pollen collection, flower bagging, meticulous hand pollinations and fall harvests of the spikey burs. After 25 years, all that effort produced the B3F3 generation. Dubbed the “Restoration chestnut”, the trees are 15/16th American and potentially blight resistant. But keep in mind– blight resistance isn’t enough for the trees to rebound in the wild. There’s a very good reason why we couldn’t just throw some Chinese chestnuts in the Appalachians and wish them well. Chinese chestnuts don’t grow fast or tall enough to compete with the likes of tulip poplars and other forest trees. To be successful, the trees would need American growth characterstics with the Chinese blight resistance.

Does the B3F3 generation have what it takes? Does it have the winning combination of Chinese and American traits? To help answer that question, The American Chestnut Foundation invited its Sponsor Members to become a part of their science team. Last March, Sponsor Members were able to receive two Restoration chestnut seeds to grow, measure and report on.

Ryan Somma and I received our seeds on March 17th. We were getting married three days later on March 20th. The timing allowed us to have a very special guest at our wedding. Good people have been trying to save the American chestnut since the blight was first spotted in New York City in 1904. It’s an effort that has spans generations. After 106 years of heartache and hope, Ryan Somma and I had the great honor to plant a Restoration chestnut during our ceremony.

Wedding Weekend - American Chestnut Unity Ceremony - Ryan Plants (by Liza Franco)
Ryan Plants Our Unity American Chestnut

Wedding Weekend - American Chestnut Unity Ceremony - Ryan and Vicky Water (by Liza Franco)
Ryan and Vicky Water American Chesntut

I can’t say for certain we were the only couple who have had an “American Chestnut Unity Ceremony”, but my hunch is it’s pretty rare. : )

In lieu of gifts, Ryan and I suggested two charities for our guests to donate to. For science, we suggested Elizabeth City’s Port Discover. For nature, we suggested The American Chestnut Foundation. The response was resounding! Out of just the donations that we know about, our guests gave $1392.50 to The American Chestnut Foundation. One of our guests, Ryn R, handmade a card to document her charitable donations. She did her homework. She gave the American chestnut leaves teeth!

Wedding Weekend - Inside of Alex and Ryn's Card
Card – The American chestnut leaves have teeth!

It’s been eight months and a handful of days since our wedding and Ryan and I are still fielding questions and witnessing continued chestnut enthusiasm from our family and friends.

To have your loved ones so wholeheartedly embrace and support a cause that is near and dear to your heart…. could there be a wedding gift better than that?

For more information of donating to or becoming a member of The American Chestnut Foundation, visit:
http://www.acf.org

November 22, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

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