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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ongoing Travel Project - Searching for Lagged Lookout Trees in Arizona

In 1998, I published a story in High Country News titled, Lagged not Logged. The piece was written about lagged lookout trees from the early 1900's - fire lookout trees in Arizona and other states.
I am currently working on a project which involves traveling to see the remaining trees in Arizona. This piece will contain:
·      Historical trees that died or fell, including the Overgaard tree, which succumbed in 2002 to the Rodeo-Chedisky Fire.
·      I have been in touch with the USFS, the US Parks Service and the National Register of Historical Places. Paul and I have the coordinates on several lagged trees in the Coconino, Kaibab. Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto Forests in Arizona. We will be traveling and visiting these sites as soon as roads and travel is permitted and I plan to take photos, update GPS coordinates and search for lagged platform trees. Information I search for includes:
* How lagged trees were designed and used. These important wonders of history, tell stories of firefighters that located fires in the early 1900’s by sitting like birds for hours in the tops of these trees. 

* Specific information for Arizona visitors and explorers about the lagged trees still accessible to backpackers, hikers, photographers and natural history enthusiasts. These amazing old trees have many stories to tell. Their historical value, condition and location is important – before they all fall to the ground. 

In case you are interested, here is my original piece from 1998 in Lagged Not Logged

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bean Poles with a Southwest Flair

Christine Haese
Copyright 2015

Bean Poles with a Southwest Flair
            Here's a creative way to support pole beans, using native materials that are functional and beautiful! Dried Agave blooms provide the secret ingredient!
Southwest Pole Bean Stakes
            Every year, as we plan our garden, we look for better (and less expensive) ways to design and improve. We always plant the Three Sisters: beans, corn and squash. Bush bean varieties are easy to harvest, but a couple of our heirloom favorites still demand climbing space. Our much loved pole beans are: Kentucky Wonder, Scarlet Runner, Painted Lady, and a 1930 Ozark purple pole bean. We plant these for the flavorful beans that can be processed or frozen - and their colorful flowers. The red, white, pink and yellow flowers attract hummingbirds and other nectar loving birds and insects.
A Creative Pole Bean Structure
            When you want to create structures for sprawling beans, you can be challenged and construction can be expensive. Winter is hard on untreated wooden stakes. Metal posts can detract from natural, garden and woodland settings and pre-built climbing cages can be costly.
            A couple of years ago we found the perfect material for constructing poles and cages for pole beans and other climbing vines and plants. The dried blooms from a Southwest succulent called Agave (a-gaw-vee) are now our building material choice.
What is Agave?
            Agaves have been used by native people for food, fiber, and ornamentation for hundreds of years. Today, they have become a favorite of landscapers and gardeners in warm climates. Gardeners like to use agave in low water gardens – which adds stunning color, texture and beautiful style to any landscape design.
            When the agave completes its blooming season, the tall candelabra-like branch or mast (sometimes up to 15 feet high) collapses on the ground. In our mountainous area of New Mexico, heavy snowfall in the mountains can also cause the blooms to topple. We gather the tall spikes and trim off part of the seed pods and dead leaves. The result is a lightweight pole which is very fibrous and strong – one that serves as an ideal garden structure. We also like to leave just a little top bloom to add design in our garden.
Another Good Way to Recycle in the Garden
            Since the agave poles are made of dried, natural fiber and wood, they create tall, elegant displays – even before the plants climb to the top. They also provide excellent perches for insect eating birds. I’ve attracted flycatchers and bluebirds which dive and hunt in my garden from these lookouts. Children have fun in the bean teepees, playing hide-and-seek, while searching for beans to pick. It’s a great way to build a natural “fort” for the kids.
            When you’re done with the bean poles, simply fold for re-use the next year. Mother Nature and I love to recycle in the garden and these agave poles help the process. After about 3-5 years (depending on your snowfall and rain) they recycle nicely in the compost bin!
How to Harvest Agave Poles
  1. Find an area where agave grows abundantly.
  2. Wear a long sleeved shirt and heavy gloves - watch for the plant’s heavily armed spears on the ends of each agave leaf.
  3. Use a serrated saw or pruning loppers to harvest and trim the dead blooms.
  4. Shake dirt, seeds and other debris from the poles before removing from its original site.
  5. Since the poles are lightweight, secure them with twine in a truck bed. Remember, they are long and usually won’t fit in a car.
How to Make Agave Bean Poles
  1. Divide the agave stakes in piles of similar lengths.
  2. Choose 4-6 poles that are approximately the same length and lay on the ground together.
  3. Join them loosely together with a piece of wire or jute string at the top, just below the lowest bloom.
  4. Slowly stand and open the teepee of poles in the garden location you choose and tighten the wire securely at the top.
  5. Bury each pole several inches into the ground.
  6. Plant beans in a circle around the base of each pole (about 2” apart).
  7. Create a basin or well around the bean poles to allow the seeds and plants to soak up water as they grow.
  8. Train the beans to grow against the poles with loose fitting jute string. After they reach the top, the plants will grow easily on their own – climbing around the poles to form bean teepees.
  9. When the pole beans have taken “hold” - plant squash, cucumber, pumpkin, or even lettuce in the middle of the teepee. These will grow outward from the middle and you can protect new plants with the teepee of bean plants.
  10. The bean teepees can be folded and stored in a dry place after growing season.
Laws & Regulations for Gathering Agave Poles
            It’s important to check with your State Forestry or the USDA – Forest Service to see if a permit is required in your area to gather the dead (and fallen) agave wood. In Arizona and New Mexico, it is usually free-use or one similar to obtaining a permit for gathering pine cones, seeds or branches. The cost should be minimal (usually around $20) to harvest the dead masts. These permits may only be valid for 30 days, so plan ahead.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Elk Proof Fence for Gardens

Christine Haese
Copyright 2013

Elk Proof Fence For Your Garden
Traditional Elk Fencing
Most elk fencing used in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and throughout the West measures 7‘-8’ tall. Past experience stipulated that going to greater heights or electrifying the fence was the best way to elk and deer proof an area. This is usually the recommended choice by government agencies to protect highway frontage, pastures and acreage. But this fencing can be expensive, time consuming, difficult to install and may not be ascetically appealing for homeowners.
Elk Proof with Double Fence
We have another fence design that is simple, well designed, environmentally friendly, long lasting and attractive. It is fencing offers another path toward elk and deer proofing your precious landscaping and gardens. It is not taller fencing, but smarter fencing. Simply, it consists of two fences – four feet tall and four feet apart.
Our first attempt to create a garden for our family gave us plenty of wildlife experiences - but no vegetables. The rabbits, gophers and especially deer and elk destroyed the plants before they ripened. Sometimes the elk would just walk around in the garden, tasting, never eating anything - but trampling everything. The first attempt at garden fencing was a 4 ft tall vintage, looped wire design. It was beautiful, but useless when it came to elk.
Our bedroom overlooked the flower and vegetable garden, so we kept our window slightly ajar and listened for the invaders throughout the night. Using this technique, we harvested plenty of sleep deprivation, and gained an education into the nocturnal habits of Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni).
Observing these large, horse-sized creatures trying to enter the garden always followed a precise well-learned process, and was usually instigated by cow (female) elk. Below are the methods they use:
1.    Sizing up the fence. First the elk push against the fence. This tells the elk how tall and how sturdy the fence is built. Elk prefer to enter a garden or yard by simply muscling their way into the structure. It's safer for them and they aren't as likely to get tangled in wire or fencing material. If the fence is not extremely strong (which many are not) this is a fastest way for elk to get to food.
2.    Jump the fence. If the elk are unsuccessful at pushing down a fence, they then attempt to jump from a standing position. The jump is usually easy for them, even at heights of 6 feet or more. Watching them jump a fence looks quite effortless. In reality, they jump only after careful consideration and sizing up the height and width, or if they have jumped the fence in the past. Elk almost always tap the top of the fence with their hind feet, which we always noted as well. Experts believe they “remember” each fence and store its height for reference when fleeing predators.
3.    Repeated process. Each night, the elk start all over: pushing, bumping, leaning, and finally jumping into the forbidden area. The elk would enter and exit the garden on the same side, always away from the house.
Think Outside the Fence
After reading a pioneer Alaskan’s advice on moose fencing and watching the elk purge our garden night after night, we decided to add another fence outside of the original garden fence. We made the fence four feet away from the first one. It was made from juniper poles and rails, and about the same height – 4 feet.
The results were immediate and unfailing. We have only had one elk in the garden in five years (we left the gate open).
Size Does Matter. Elk do not like being restrained in small spaces. They will enter a small area if they can quickly escape - but as prey animals, if they cannot flee, they do not feel safe. This game animal behavior is the basis for the double fence design. Our specifications are below.
2.    Install the 48” high inside fence first. This fence works best if it is made of wire and garden was 25 feet square (25’ x 25’ x 25’ x 25’). This size works well when purchasing a 100 foot roll of fencing. Remember to plan ahead for a gate and leave tops of posts up to 72” tall. Tall posts allow good space for bird houses, gathering baskets and other garden d├ęcor.
3.    Measure 4 feet from inside fence, and then install the outside fence. (We determined this measurement using our horse as a model, and standing her between the proposed outside and inside fences. Since four feet was tight for her – we used these dimensions for our fence separation).
4.    Use split cedar, three-rail or wooden slats for outside fence. This fence should be 48” tall. The tops of posts should be set at 50” high and at about 28” deep. The sturdiness of the posts is crucial.  Elk will not jump into the alleyway that is created between the two fences and therefore do not get into your garden.
5.    Note: if each fence is a different style or type, the elk pay better attention to the fences – viewing them as two obstacles instead of one.
Popular Wire Fence
Vintage style, double looped garden wire is once again becoming popular. Gardeners are re-stretching the old wire and buying reproduction wire from new manufacturers. The double loop design can be important because the bottom half of the wire is smaller and will discourage rabbits and large rodents.