Tree-friendly Holiday Celebrations


Former holiday trees continue on for future generations.

If you celebrate the holiday season with a conifer tree, consider using a live tree instead of a fresh-cut or artificial. While they should only remain indoors for a short period of time (no more than 10 days, watered sparingly), using a living tree is the most environmentally friendly method when employing them in holiday decor.

If you live in an area that experiences true Winter weather, after the celebrations are finished move the tree to a protected outdoor area that receives some Sun. A porch or near a building offering a wind block is perfect. Water lightly then insulate the root ball in straw, snow, blankets, or other suitable material. (Note – if the tree is kept on a porch, check the root ball for dryness during any thawing period. If completely dried out, water very lightly then re-insulate.)

Once the ground is workable in Spring, the tree should be planted in a suitable location for its future growth. No room to plant a tree on your property? Then donate it to a school, park, neighbor or friend.

We’ve planted many holiday trees over the years. One is now nearly 30 feet tall and a focal fixture in the landscape of a former home, providing much-needed shade in Summer and an energy-saving wind break in Winter. A real sense of accomplishment and joy surges through me whenever I drive past that house.

The photo above shows some of the holiday Spruces from the last dozen years that were all just a mere 3 feet tall when planted. These have provided nests for several generations of American Robins along with important weather and predation protection for many critters.

Go “live” this holiday season and consider employing such “seventh generation” concepts in your celebrations. The warm feeling it generates certainly will add to the festive nature of early Winter.


White Pine – sacred tree of the Hodinöhšönih Confederacy



Our leaders were instructed to be men of vision
and to make every decision on behalf of
the seventh generation to come
to have compassion and love for
those generations yet unborn.”

Oren Lyons (Faithkeeper)
Onondaga – Hodinöhšönih

Caring About Nature is… Depressing

In reading reviews submitted by students in the Field Ecology course I teach, it is humbling yet somewhat euphoric to discover how much they enjoy the class and their instructor. One remark oft-repeated is how they appreciate my enthusiasm for the material. Motivating students has to be a top priority for any teacher and the best way to do that is to have passion for your work. But some days (even weeks) can be so difficult, at least for me. Perhaps I’ve become too connected to the natural world? Its “pain” becomes my pain.

Oil Sands mining at Ft. McMurray, Alberta (Associated Press)

Oil Sands mining at Ft. McMurray, Alberta (AP)

In isolation, watching only the “wild” beings, there is such wisdom imparted. I hesitate to put the human good/bad spin on Nature, but even in the most “difficult” moments, like predation, enormous sagacity is imparted as we gain understanding of the processes at play. These important perspectives have allowed me to abandon many fears, particularly that of death, because Nature clearly demonstrates all is cyclical – nothing ends, it simply changes form.

However, one of the most significant lessons Nature shares is, for me, the most burdensome to internalize – living in the moment. All the wild creatures have this innate skill. Even the most socialized recognize and experience grief but, at the same time, let go of it enough to continue on. Elephants are an excellent example of this behavior. But the continual exposure to humankind’s assault on Nature and the inevitable helplessness one can experience in combating the onslaught often can be overwhelming. Concern about the future of the planet and all its wild inhabitants is inevitable for those of us who live in close relationship with the natural world.

Consider these headlines from just the past year:

“Snipers” in Britain Target Fox
Most Americans Support Keystone Pipeline
Bill to Force Intelligent Design Instruction
Governor Devotes $2 Million to Kill 500 Wolves
Invertebrate Species Populations Plummet
Wildlife Devastated by Sudanese War

Photo courtesy of Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Photo courtesy of Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Ugh… But one must trudge on, particularly with students who look up to you for guidance and knowledge.

So how does one cope with the seemingly endless parade of travesties perpetuated by humans? I’ve no firm answers other than to continue to practice a lifestyle as sustainable as possible (dietary choices are most profound), teach these concepts to all who will heed the message, and spend more time in Nature if for nothing else than its ability to heal. Also, distancing oneself from social media might be helpful, particularly those hot button issues where derogatory commentary from both the pro and con sides can be quite demoralizing.

Please feel free to share your coping mechanisms in the comments below. As the adage says, misery loves company!

Gift-Giving in the Roycroft Tradition

We are pleased to present this hands-on demonstration
at the historic Roycroft Campus in East Aurora.
(rescheduled from original date)


Herbal Crafts for Gift-GIving at the Roycroft Campus, Sunday, December 7th.


SNOWvember (Ah, Lake Effect 2014)

Snow covered greenhouse

Small greenhouse slowly being buried in West Falls, NY.

The southern portion of the City of Buffalo, NY and the towns that fall ~20 miles to its south and 10 miles southeast have been enduring a Lake Effect Snow event that started on Tuesday, November 18th and, except for a brief lull on Wednesday afternoon, continues today at the time of this writing. Driving bans are in place on thousands of miles of roads, including nearly a 200 mile stretch of Interstate 190. Hundreds of cars and 16-wheelers have been stuck and many abandoned leaving a nightmare for the road crews attempting to remove the snow.

Immediate family members living in South Buffalo have had upwards of five feet of snow fall in about a 36 hour period. Meanwhile, about 10 miles south of the city, my daughter contended with 3+ feet and here in West Falls, 5 miles further south, we “enjoyed” the same. However, since 2:00am this morning, another 3 feet have fallen at my home and nearly as much at my daughter’s place. Complicating the situation are sustained winds running between 20 and 30 miles per hour accompanied by temps ranging from 15 to 25F. I’ve lived in this region for several decades and only once recall a lake effect snow event of this scale but the area effected was much more narrow – about 10 by 10 miles – where 7 feet of snow fell over 3 days.

Lake effect is common in the Great Lakes region and in the Western New York area its effects historically most often have been reserved to towns that are 10 or more miles south of the City of Buffalo (we call this more southerly region the “Snow Belt”). But each year, the most paralyzing of storms increasingly have been creeping northward affecting much more populated places where the results are more difficult to address.

The science of lake effect is very well documented (see Ah, Lake Effect for details)  but climate change is altering the typical patterns of weather in North America and it’s being reflected in the lake effect precipitation of Western New York. The northward movement of Western New York’s “snow belt” indicates a change in the wind patterns that come across Lake Erie in late Autumn and early Winter, prime lake effect season. Winds at this time of year most often come from the west or northwest, driving the moisture picked up from Lake Erie about 10 or more miles south of the City of Buffalo where it is drops in the form of rain or snow upon reaching land. But these wind patterns are changing and more frequently are coming out of the southwest, crossing a larger area of the lake picking up even more moisture. The resulting precipitation, therefore, is landing on the extreme south end of the city and its immediate southern and eastern suburbs and in far greater amounts than the traditional “snow belt” usually experiences.

We’re hanging in there currently and weather forecasters believe this massive snow event will finally shift to the more traditional snow belt regions sometime tonight. The relief is definitely needed but there is an ominous prediction in the next few days. Temperatures will be increasing by 20 to 30 degrees and a two-day rain event is said to begin on Sunday. With up to 6 or 7 feet of snow on the ground, this rapid warming and rain can easily create some severe flooding and roof collapses. Some roofs have already buckled and people rescued. Any damage that might occur in the next few days is also a major economic concern considering that most people under the gun of this storm do not have flood insurance as they are not in flood zones. We’ll keep you updated as well as we can.

Meanwhile, check out this visual of Lake Effect in action. This time-lapse video taken during the first wave lake effect snow earlier this week shows how cold air passing over Lake Erie causes moisture to literally be sucked up into the clouds which will then fall once it begins to pass over land. Nature’s most awesome power in action.

Ah, Lake Effect

Oakmoss Education:

As the Buffalo Southtowns deals with the first Lake Effect snow event of the season, thought I would re-share an overview of the science behind lake effect precipitation we blogged about during one of the more memorable events last year. First, however, are some visuals of the “L.E.S.” storm occurring at the time of this writing.

Here’s some pretty wild photos of the quite visible “wall of snow” that can occur during lake effect storms.


A view of today’s major “L.E.S.” event (2 to 4 inches an hour) – view is from Downtown Buffalo looking south along Lake Erie (photo credit Michael T. Branden).

Another shot looking east-northeast from Downtown Buffalo, this showing the abrupt end to the line of clouds and resulting blue skies north of the City and the mammoth wall of snow in South Buffalo which continues about 20 miles further south.


And why not one more showing the “Wall of Snow” just south of Downtown along Lake Erie near the mouth of the Buffalo River.


Originally posted on Oakmoss Education:

Living near the shores of the Great Lakes in the United States and Canada means having weather a bit more different from those who live further inland. These large bodies of water moderate the climate making it cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter. How pleasant!

Well, there is a catch. In late Autumn and early Winter, often the lake waters are warmer than the surrounding air mass. This results in increased precipitation as the cold air picks up moisture when it crosses the warmer lakes then releases it unceremoniously upon reaching land. When the air temperature is above freezing, it rains; below freezing, it snows. This precipitation tends to occur in narrow bands so depending on wind direction, some nearby localities are affected more than others.  One can literally drive or walk through a wall of precipitation with these bands.

Today here in Western New York, there is a…

View original 385 more words

Remembering Peace

WBattlefield Poppieshile in modern times, November 11th rightly is a celebration of those who have served in the military, it was originally set aside in the United States to commemorate peace and named Armistice Day. It was dedicated to remember that at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the treaty that closed the “war to end all wars” was signed (World War I).

While we recognize past sacrifices, let us strive as we go forward to celebrate peace every day. Then, perhaps, one day we will know the end of all war on this beautiful planet. Namaste.