Welcome to my bonsai blog!

Welcome to my bonsai blog!

Look around! Use the Search box, browse the Archive, and leave comments. Click on any picture to enlarge it.
I would be honored to have you follow my posts. There are two ways to do that.
-- If you have your own blog, use Join this site
to have notifications of my posts sent to your blog's reading list.
-- If you don't have a blog,
use Follow by Email: new-post alerts will be sent to your email address. Pictures aren't included; that's just how Blogger does it. For the pictures you come here!
Fora and vendors that I can recommend from experience are listed in the right sidebar.
For more about the ads, and just why I enabled them, please see "About the ads," below.
"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Call This a Mini-Travelogue

Our trip to Ecuador in June (see my last post) was my first time back to my "second homeland" in almost exactly 40 years. I had a wonderful time getting re-acquainted with the country I knew as a boy and young man. (There was one frustration: I recognized so many trees and plants, but didn't know names for them other than local ones; and sometimes not even those.)

(No, this post isn't directly about bonsai, but the practice of bonsai arose out of love of the natural world, so it's not unrelated. Besides, this is my blog and I can post what I like! <wink> )

A bit of background, for any who don't know. Ecuador straddles the equator, on the bulge in northwestern South America. The Andes run thru the country, north to south, splitting it into three major zones: the wide coastal strip, the highlands, and the Amazon basin in the east. Partly because of such varied topography, Ecuador is ranked as one of the two most biodiverse countries on the planet.

One thing I was immediately reminded of, and that you will notice in many of my pictures: sunlight is noticeably stronger there, primarily because the sun's rays come in from directly overhead. In the highlands, add in the fact that as much as one-quarter of the Earth's atmosphere is below you, and you'll understand why the sunlight can be even more brilliant! The lower air density also means that light is diffused less, and so shadows there are deeper. Both those facts are evident in my first picture.

A street tree in Quito, Ecuador's capital; a decent natural slanter, don't you think?
My wife Princene under that tree. The inflorescence suggests a possible relationship to Chionanthus

Eucalyptus are widely planted in the inter-Andean Valley and were a significant source of firewood.
Few trees grow at this altitude without human intervention. 

The day after we arrived, we headed over the pass and down the slopes of the western cordillera to Santo Domingo de los Colorados, the city near which the Tsachila live.

Typical scenery in the middle and lower altitudes: ridges covered with cloud forest. Pasture grasses in the foreground.
The "Devil of Tandapi." Somebody had fun creating this!
This waterfall was one scene I particularly wanted my wife and daughter to see.
The main city plaza in Santo Domingo, very much improved since I was last there. (Kudos to the city.)
We were there at the beginning of the dry season, when overcast days are typical.
A palm tree in fruit in the Santo Domingo plaza.
After the interment service with the Tsachila, we headed for the coastal city of Same (SAH-meh) for some "unwind time."

The view out over the Pacific from our accommodations.
Looking south down the beach.
The tree with the buff inflorescence is teak (Tectona grandis), imported as a cash crop and widely naturalized.
I have yet to identify the mimosa-looking tree.
A coconut palm with a load of ripe fruit ...
... and my daughter demonstrates how to enjoy a fresh coconut!
The base of this native Ficus almost made me drool! I'm still trying to identify the species.
My brother and I found no remnants of a host tree, so I don't believe it's one the indigenous stranglers.
Not bonsai-related but worth a mention. If you're ever in Quinindé in Esmeraldas province, I recommend this place
without hesitation! Great food and enthusiastic service.
From Same we headed back to the highlands. Our first stop was Mindo, a town in the cloud-forest zone known for its commitment to ecotourism. (Not to mention some excellent coffee.)

The chonta palm (Bactris gasipaes, I think) is one of the most useful trees in the cloud forest and rainforest. The outer layer
of wood is very hard and strong, excellent for building as well as for spears, bows and arrows, and other implements.
The dried fronds are used for thatch. The fruit is so high in protein that when it's in season, a local bird of prey prefers it
to meat! And the inner pith is often home to a particular beetle grub which is quite tasty when lightly cooked.  
Epiphytes of various kinds cover a tree just outside Mindo.
Trails like this one are very familiar to me. During our first years in Ecuador there were few roads in our area.
This tree fern is about 15 feet high (about 4.5 meters.)
At the other end of the scale, tiny ferns and club mosses (Selaginella.)
A Cecropia tree growing as a natural bunjin.

Mindo boasts a butterfly farm with excellent visitor facilities. This Morpho's wingspan is greater than my handspan.
When the Morpho closes its wings, its camouflage appears. The large imitation eye, meant to discourage predators,
gives it its local name: ojo de búo, or "owl's eye." This one is feeding on a bit of mashed banana on my daughter's finger.
Back to higher altitudes. The view into an extinct volcanic crater, in the eastern cordillera of the Andes.
The next two pictures are of a native tree that, again, almost made this bonsaiist drool! It is a Polylepis, possibly Polylepis incana. The genus holds the record for the highest-altitude native range of any trees in the world; I took these pictures at about 11,500 feet (3,500 meters.)

The exfoliating orange bark is very eye-catching, and the trees are often contorted by the winds.
What I wouldn't give for a yamadori specimen!
Individual leaflets are about the size of my thumbnail; perfect scale already!
My brother is a falconer and the family ornithologist (no run-of-the-mill hobbies for the Moore boys!) I went with him to visit a raptor rehabilitation center near the city of Otavalo. The daily presentations for the public include the chance to hold an American kestrel on your hand. (The glove barely fit me.)
At the Mitad del Mundo, "Middle of the World," just north of Quito.  My wife is standing in the southern hemisphere,
I'm in the northern, and our daughter is either in both or neither - take your pick!
Princene broke her ankle in Same when she slipped on  wet tile. Give her credit: she didn't let herself slow the group down any more than she could possibly help. While we wish it hadn't happened, we're thankful for the cost of medical care in Ecuador!
The yellow-flowering tree is quite common in the Quito area. I'm still trying to identify the species of Araucaria;
I don't think it's A. heterophylla (Norfolk Island pine.)
More than half the cut roses sold in the USA are grown in Ecuador, in greenhouses like these near Baños.
A fairly typical rural scene in the inter-Andean valley. I think this crater is named Pasochoa.
Another street tree in downtown Quito.
The sun was rising as our flight back to the US got ready to depart.
At the interment service, one of the Tsachi men turned to me and my three siblings and admonished us, "Now don't you go back to your own country and forget us! You come back and visit us again." It was clear he was completely serious. Dios mediante - with God's aid - my family and I plan to do just as he asked in a couple of years.

:-)  :-)  :-)

Monday, August 24, 2015

I'm Back.

My parents passed away in 2013 and 2014, as I wrote of here and here. One of the things they asked of their four children was that their ashes be mingled and scattered in Ecuador at the site of the house we all most thought of as "home" during our time there. That house, in the rainforest in the western foothills of the Andes, was in the territory of the indigenous tribe for whom Mom and Dad translated the Bible. Those Indians call themselves the Tsachila (singular and adjective Tsachi,) and their language Tsafiki.

On May 31st of this year, my siblings and I, with our spouses and my daughter, gathered with some 50 or 60 Tsachila to carry out Mom and Dad's wishes. At the request of the Indians, we didn't scatter the ashes, but buried them in the Tsachi cemetery between the graves of two of their long-time friends. There were tears, of course, but it was also a wonderful day of remembrance and reunion. (There were people there whom I hadn't seen in more than 40 years.) Many things that were said and done that day would have meant at great deal to my parents; but what would have meant the most, I believe, was the sight of a Tsafiki Bible that was obviously very well used!

Primitivo, one of the church leaders, speaks of his memories of Mom and Dad
before he takes his turn pouring some of the ashes into the freshly-dug hole. (His name means "first" rather than "primitive.") 
  (Several men in this picture are wearing their hair in the traditional Tsachi style: cut as you see, then dyed with mu, the dye from the seed of the annatto tree (Bixa orellana.) Because of that custom, the Spanish-speaking population call them the "Colorados.")

It was a day of closure, as well. This was our last earthly service to our parents. We won't see them again until we all stand together in the presence of Jesus Christ, in glory I can't even imagine now! Meanwhile, we continue on with our own lives here.

And that brings me back to this blog. If I have any regular readers left, thank you! I'm ready to start writing again, as and when I have things to say, and I hope you will find it worth your while to read.

And while I haven't written about bonsai for a while, I've continued to do bonsai. Let me introduce you to one of my recent acquisitions: another yamadori ponderosa pine from Golden Arrow Bonsai. But first I must tell you that the ponderosa I had before, which I last wrote about here, didn't make it. I'm now fairly sure that when the drought of 2012 hit, I over-estimated the ability of Pinus ponderosa to withstand severe drought (especially when in a container) and didn't adjust my watering properly. (Ponderosa pine is adapted to semi-arid conditions, but it's not bullet-proof!) It's a bit of comfort to know that Andy Smith, owner of Golden Arrow Bonsai, was also blindsided by the drought and lost some trees.

I got this tree in May, in Andy's annual Burlap Bonanza. The  character of the lower trunk got my attention and was the deciding factor in my choice.

The tree as it arrived, minus the plastic that was also around the rootball for shipping. 
The rootball, complete with some sprigs of Black Hill grasses. Most of the native duff
is what has been called "compressed pine peat."
I've learned, when buying a yamadori tree, to prepare the growing box after I can see and measure the rootball. The box is made of "western red-cedar," Thuja plicata, which is fairly rot-resistant.

The drain holes are about 1 inch in diameter; there's a second row of them on the near side of the box. The eyelets
in the floor of the box are for tie-in wires, those on top of the uprights for guy wires.
 There's a single layer of 4.5-6 mm scoria particles in the very bottom. The rest of the substrate is a 7:1.5:1.5 mix of scoria, Turface, and chopped bark, all particles between 3 and 4.5 mm; and there is a 1/4-inch top dressing of 2-3 mm particles, scoria and Turface in equal proportions.

All potted up!
Here's the probable front of the tree. At this point I envision a bunjin design moving to the right.

The handles on the end of the box cost less than $2 apiece at a local DIY store, and have turned
out to be a better idea than I anticipated. All 4 fingers of one of my hands fit into one comfortably.
A closer view of the base and lower trunk. I expect to keep the left-pointing dead branchlet as a jin,
but the dead spur sticking up behind the shoots on the right will be removed.
The tree will spend the next two years, at least, recovering from collection and acclimating itself to its new home. Then I'll start thinking seriously about the design.

(By the way, many of my readers will be more familiar with annatto than they realize. Also called "achiote" in Spanish, it is used fairly widely as a condiment and as a food coloring: your cheddar cheese is probably colored with it.)

:-)  :-)  :-)