# Rick Shory

## Offering a little something you might not otherwise have

This is a “quadrat”, or measurement grid, to estimate percent cover in a one-meter area. You use it in vegetation surveys.

This design is improved from the instructions originally published March 2001. When helping users, I thought people would sometimes build the old design, which costs less. However, they always went for this new one, for ease of use.

What this veg quadrat frame is for (click picture to enlarge)

When put together, the frame makes a square 1 meter on each side.

The four sides (or “legs”) are marked in 1/10 meter (10 cm) increments. This makes it easy for you to mentally grid up the ground inside the square.

The pink dashed lines in the picture above are your imaginary lines. As you see, these divide the whole square into 100 small squares. Each small square is 1% of the whole square.

In this example you might estimate the tree trunk takes up about a quarter of the whole square, 25% (purple solid line), or a little less. The exact way you do this would depend on your protocol.

Now, this is not about the protocol. This post is about building the equipment, so you can go out and do your study.

In a day’s work, you may move the quadrat many times. You’re constantly taking it down and putting it back together. So the leg ends attach by Velcro. They come apart easily. To assemble, you just fish the legs through the brush, touch the ends, and they stick.

One end of each leg is visually distinct from the other, so you can see at a glance which ends will connect. You don’t have to fuss, trying them all different ways.

Legs one meter long may not seem like much in open space. However hiking with them through brush, hauling them around in a crowded rig, or putting them through airport checked baggage would be awkward.

In this design, the legs are collapsible. They are made of the same ultralight rods as dome tent poles. They fold up to about one third their length. The whole frame becomes a small lightweight bundle, easy to pack and carry.

The jointed frame also means that, if there is some obstruction on setup (like the tree trunk), you just fold part of a leg out of the way.

As you read this post, if you decide these instructions are too complicated to do yourself, I offer ordering information at the end.

The core of the design is the fiberglass tent pole sections. You can buy them from:

Tentpole Technologies (“TT”)

Explain that you want sections that will be one meter long, and will fold up in thirds. If TT can look up previous orders from me (rickshory.com) you can order the same thing.

If you’re really pinched for cash, ask if they will sell you the raw materials, the fiberglass pole sections and the shock cord. You can save some money by putting in the labor to assemble them yourself.

One “leg”

TT typically makes the poles with one white end, and the rest black. This is all to the good. It makes the two ends visually distinct. If you are assembling them yourself, note how they will finally fold up, to be most compact.

In order to apply the colored bands, mark the poles at 10 cm intervals. It is rather tedious to make the marks one at a time, each successively 10 cm from the last. Below is an easier technique.

Lay out a strip of tape, such as blue painter’s tape (as shown below), or masking tape. Use tape at least two inches wide, or improvise from narrower strips laid parallel. Two inches will give you enough width to arrange all four poles side by side.

Jig for marking poles

If you plan to do this a again, you can make a jig by applying the tape to a 4-foot-long board, as shown. Then you can put this arrangement away between uses. If you are only going to do this once, you can put the tape directly on a table and discard the tape when done.

Marks on tape

Now, you only need a short ruler to lay out marks on the tape at 10 cm intervals. (The tape saves marking up your table.)

Pole ends aligned

When you lay out your poles, the ends may not align exactly. However, having the whole meter length at once lets you get them as even as possible. The ends may go part of a centimeter beyond the furthest marks, but this is OK. It’s well within tolerance.

Mark all 4 poles at once

Now, you can mark all four poles at once. Where marks fall on the white and silver sections, you only need a tiny dot to find the location later.

Only a glint shows on black

However, on the black sections, the mark will only appear as a faint glint of a slightly different color quality (this is ink from a black Sharpie pen). Although you may have to hunt a bit for these marks, this is still quicker than, say, sticking temporary bits of tape to mark the places.

Below is an example of a pole after the color bands are on.

Color banded pole

I use two easily distinguished colors, the “main” color (red here) and a “tip” color (violet in this example). The widths of the bands help visualize percent cover, but the colors themselves help keep you from losing the poles in the woods.

The main color is most important because there’s more of it. I use a color that will stand out in the environment. In leafy green vegetation, a hot color like red, orange, or yellow would be good. However, in a red desert, I might use violet for the main color instead. You may not realized how easy it is to lose equipment like this until you are actually out in the field.

Vinyl electrical tape

The material to make the color bands is vinyl electrical tape. Various colors are available at most hardware stores. Bright fluorescent “DayGlo®” tape would be better, but I have never found it in a field-durable form. There is a product called “gaffer’s tape” in fluorescent colors, but this is much like masking tape, and would not last long in field work.

I put the tip colors on first, to avoid mixups. You want the two ends of each pole readily distinguishable from each other, but all four poles the same. It’s easy to get confused if you start applying the color bands at random. To make the two ends most visually distinct, put the tip color at the white end of the pole.

In all the banding, wrap the tape onto the pole tightly enough that it stretches. There are a few details that will increase field durability.

Tape tip angled

At the start and end of each wrap, you overlap the tape somewhat. If you start with the tape tip torn at an angle (as shown), the overlap will not bulge out so much, and will abrade less. (This example wrap will go up to the next mark on the silver section, above and to the right.)

Tear tape at the end of a wrap

At the end of the wrap, if you tear the tape at an angle, this end also will be more neat.

Tape breaks at an angle

The tape will then naturally break leaving an angled tear, ready to start the next wrap.

For pole junctions that will not need to pull apart, you can just continue the tape up or down from fiberglass pole sections to aluminum ferrule. However, at junctions that do need to pull apart, make two tape wraps, one on each side of the junction.

Don’t tape across pull-apart junctions

If you want to add a label, now is the time, before putting on the Velcro ends. In this example, I show my web domain. You may want to put a barcode for inventory, or some contact information so lost equipment can be returned if found.

Example label

You want your label to still be readable, even after years out in the weather. Otherwise, it’s not worth taking the trouble. In field conditions, a label just stuck on would soon be damaged or gone from moisture, abrasion and dirt.

Weatherproof labels

A paper label would quickly degrade. I use these weatherproof labels, item number OL1825LP, from onlinelabels.com. Note that these are very small labels. You do not have much room on a slim tent pole.

Shrink tubing

Even these tough labels would break down or wear off if left exposed. I cover the labels with transparent “heat shrink tubing”, often used in electronics to insulate wires. The size is 0.375″ (9.53mm) diameter. It is available from DigiKey, part number A038C-4-ND. It come in four-foot lengths, which you cut into short pieces to cover the labels. A piece about 2.4″ long is good for covering each label. You can cut 20 of these out of each four-foot length.

Tubing in place

Apply a label and slide the shrink tubing over it.

Heat shrinking

Heat the tubing to shrink it in place. Using a candle, as shown here, you can “roll” the pole as you gradually feed it past the flame. Start from the larger aluminum ferrule end to avoid trapping any air bubbles. If you take care to keep the tubing above the tip of the flame, you will not have any black soot.

I use two different colors of sticky-back Velcro, to accentuate visual contrast.

Sticky back Velcro

The hook Velcro of one color goes on one end of each pole, and the pile Velcro of the other color goes on the other end. It does’t matter which goes on the “tip” end, as long as you are consistent for all four legs. That way, you know at a glace “opposite” ends will always stick together.

Length of Velcro

If you cut one length of Velcro 5.5 inches long, this will supply all four pieces you need for the legs.

Divide into 4.

You can fold this and cut it in half, then cut each of those in half again.

Prep cable ties

The Velcro backing is pretty sticky. However, in the dirt and wet of field work, it would come loose. Hold it on with small 4-inch cable ties. It is convenient to prepare these by partially inserting the tail, to make small loops. Then, they will be ready to use when you stick on the Velcro.

Stick Velcro on

Wrap the Velcro sections around the ends of the poles. The Velcro will overlap slightly. Note that the exact point of one-meter length on the pole is about a centimeter in from the end. This lines up with the center of the width of the Velcro.

Finish

Slip on a cable tie, pull it tight, and cut off the tail.

Finished bundle

The finished set is convenient to be bundled up with a rubber band.

Band stowage

While you’re using the frame, you can put the rubber band around a leg end. There, it will be handy when you pack up.

Bundle is light in weight

The entire set weighs only about 275 grams, less than 10 ounces.

I developed this while working on federally funded research grants, so the design is in the public domain. You can build a set for about \$35 in parts.

People also request to buy the complete sets from me. I charge \$192 per set, plus \$21 shipping. Two or more sets get free shipping. Ordering details are at rickshory.com.

## Germinating fruit tree seeds

There is a huge amount of disinformation out there about how to grow fruit tree seeds. Rather than going into all that, this post is about how to do it.

This is not even an experiment. I’ve been growing tree seeds for decades, and I know how it will turn out. This is more a test, to demonstrate the techniques.

I saved a handful of apple seeds, from some random apples I used to make applesauce. Later, I’ll discuss differences in species and varieties, but ordinary apple seeds make a good demonstration.

I divided the seeds into three approximately equal batches, of about 23 seeds.

The first batch was the “control”, or no treatment. I planted these in a pot of dirt, same as you might plant flower seeds.

This was on January 22, 2016.

I kept the pot moist, in normal warm room temperature. At the end of the test, May 4, 2016, there was no difference. Not one had grown.

If you try this with a large number of seeds, you may have one or two random seeds sprout, but this is not the way .

Next, the “freeze” batch, I put overnight in the freezer.

The next day, I put them in a small ziplock bag with damp sawdust, and stored them in the refrigerator.

I checked on them periodically. In this check on April 1, 2016, none have grown.

At the end of the test, May 4, 2016, none had grown.

Looking close, the moisture around the seeds is becoming milky. The seeds are starting to rot. They are dead, and have been since they were frozen.

This is one of the misunderstandings. People hear that seeds need cold to germinate, so they freeze them. As if freezing will “break” dormancy, like shattering ice. No.

If seeds are completely dried, some species can survive deep cold, but it only holds them in suspended animation. It does nothing to make them germinate. Usually, it just kills them, as you see here.

For the “chill” batch, I put them in a ziplock sandwich bag with a little damp sawdust. I put this bag in the refrigerator. These seeds need moisture and oxygen to germinate. Polyethylene, the plastic most ordinary plastic bags are made of, is permeable enough to oxygen that this works fine. You can zip the bag closed so the seeds don’t dry out. You do not need to leave the bag open.

In this check, on April 1, 2016, you can see that some seeds are starting to germinate.

Germination is a gradual thing. I judged that a seed had “germinated” if the root tip coming out was longer than it was wide. So, on this date, I counted 3.

In the next check on April 15, 2016, more had germinated. I replaced the sawdust with a damp paper towel, to make things easier to see. This works just as well as sawdust. If you don’t need the see the seeds, you can use peat moss, sand, soil, crumbled up autumn leaves, etc. If you’re doing a lot of seeds, you can mix them in the bag, and then plant the whole mix once the seeds are germinating.

If you count the seeds, you will notice I did not put back the 3 that had already sprouted. The purpose was to demonstrate germination, not to grow the seeds. If you want to grow the seeds, you can plant them as soon as they sprout. They don’t need cold any more. In fact, cold only slows them down. This is natures way of easing the seedlings into springtime. Chill breaks their dormancy, but then the cold temperatures keep them growing slowly, so they don’t pop up and get hit by late frosts.

Going by my criteria, I did not count the seed in the lower right corner to have “germinated” yet, as its root was not long enough. So I counted 5 more germinated on this date, for a total of 8 so far. But as you will see, it makes little difference in the final tally.

By May 4, 2016, all the rest of the seeds had germinated.

Here’s the numbers on this test. None of the seeds grew except those in the “chill” treatment.

The magic is holding the seeds at a temperature above freezing, but below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Your ordinary home refrigerator is the correct temperature range. How do you know? If it were too cold things would freeze and if it were too warm your food would go bad. If your refrigerator is working normally, it’s perfect to cold-treat seeds. This is what has happened when you cut open and apple and find seeds sprouting inside. The apple was kept in cold storage, and the period of refrigerator temperature satisfied the seeds’ chill requirement.

The seeds need to be imbibed with water, but not under water. Immersed in water, they would not get enough oxygen.

These are like the conditions a seed would find, buried in the surface layer of soil, through the winter. Even in continental climates, where air temperatures go extremely low, the soil a short distance below the surface seldom freezes so cold.

Here are the numbers on the “chill” treatment, with the dates translated into elapsed time. Chill requirements for plants are often expressed in hours, so I’ve included the elapsed time expressed as hours as well as days.

Notice that nothing visible occurred for more than a month! It’s as if the seed has a little hourglass inside, which runs down while the chill conditions are met.  If it’s too warm, the hourglass stops. If it freezes, the hourglass stops. But after enough accumulated hours, the seed grows.

Notice that this is not abrupt, but in most batches of seeds, once it starts it goes pretty quick. This is how nature hedges her bets. If some seeds came up too early and got killed, there would be stragglers to take their place. On the other hand, if the early ones got a good head start and took over more space, the next generation would drift towards lower chill. In tree species that have a substantial north-south range, local populations have adjusted themselves to the best chill requirement for their conditions.

Plants use the same chill mechanism to “know” when to leaf out. It correlates with seed chill. That is, for two of the same kind of plant, except with different chill requirements, the one that needs less chill to germinate from seed will need less chill to start leafing out each spring. All else being equal, it will bloom earlier too.

This explains why certain fruits are notorious for getting their blooms frosted. Peaches have a low chill requirement, and apricots even less. Evidently they originated in parts of the world with cold winters, hot summers, and not much transition (chill) in between. Brought to North America, where the weather has all sorts of wild swings, they get their chill requirement at the first breath of spring. They bloom out, then get snapped by late frost.

Why haven’t they adapted? They never needed to. If you grow these seeds, you will find them very “easy” to germinate. Everyone who ever cultivated them did too. The grower planted a bunch of seeds, and the first sprouts to pop up tended to get planted out in the orchard. This, of course, selected for low chill. The trees did well enough, and if the blooms got frosted too often, well, that region would not be known for apricot production.

If you wanted to develop, say, a late-blooming apricot, you could use this approach. Plant a lot of seeds. Say you want ten trees. As the seeds germinate, pot them up, but when the eleventh one germinates, pull up the first one and plant the eleventh one in its place. Keep on doing this. Eventually, you will end up with the slowest to germinate, high-chill individuals. It might take generations, but finally you would have a late-blooming apricot.

This chill technique for germinating seeds works for most mid-latitude tree crops: apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries, plums, persimmons, almonds, chestnuts, walnuts, hickories, etc. It may be hard to believe a tender root tip can break its way out of a rock-hard seed like a peach pit or a walnut, but it does.

Most trees that ripen their seeds in the fall need chill. These include ashes, beeches, and some maples such as sugar maple, Norway maple, bigleaf maple, and vine maple. Tree seeds that ripen in the spring tend to have no chill requirement. They are ready to germinate as soon as they fall. These include elms and certain other maples like silver maple, and red maple. A number of leguminous (bean family) trees, such as locusts and mimosa (Albizia), have no chill requirement. Instead, their germination is inhibited by a water-impervious seed coat.

This chill technique is sometimes called “stratification”. This is from a traditional method of putting layers (“strata”) of sand and seeds in flowerpots or lath-bottom boxes, and leaving these sunk in the ground over winter. You can see why it works. Winter moisture keeps the seeds imbibed. The upper layers of soil maintain the proper chill temperatures. The sand makes it easy to separate out the sprouting seeds when it’s time to plant them in nursery rows. If you do it this way, put bricks or something on top of your flowerpots, to keep squirrels from messing with your seeds.

Seeds that need chill will, of course, germinate just fine planted directly outdoors in the fall. However, there is liable to be a lot of grass and weeds also growing by spring when they come up. You may have a hard time spotting the seedlings, or remembering where they were.

If you want to grow a lot of seeds this way, plastic bags may be easier than pots. Collect up your seeds as they come along, and keep them so they do not completely dry out. For example, cherries ripen in early summer. As you use the cherries, put the pits in some loosely lidded container or a plastic bag with something to keep them a little damp, such as moist sand, soil, peat moss, dead leaves, or sawdust.

If you put them in the refrigerator in the summer, they are likely to have their chill requirement met by fall, and germinate as winter is coming on. If this is what you want, growing them indoors all winter, go for it. But for a more natural cycle, put your seeds in a plastic bag and bury it a little below the ground surface, or under some dead leaves or sawdust. Then, the seeds will stay at ambient summer temperatures until autumn, and their timers will not start running down yet.

Be sure you have your seeds buried before things freeze hard. One time, I had a bag of peach pits out on top of the ground, and a November cold snap went to single digits. All these seeds were killed, but the ones buried just a few inches were fine.

As autumn comes, the temperatures will start dipping into the chill range at night, and the seeds’ timers will start ticking. As the weather gets cooler, the seeds will accumulate more chill hours each day. In midwinter, the seeds may go slightly below freezing, and their timers will stop. But as spring comes, they will resume. As each seed germinates, it will start to put out a root. Keep checking them. If left too long, the roots will be all tangled together, and the seeds will be hard to separate out to plant.

## Video plant ID with your smartphone

Since what-you-see-is-what-you-get through a smartphone camera, you get the view through any lens you put over it.

However it’s hard to keep everything steady while taking pictures.

You can hold your botanical hand lens in place with a rubber band or two, like this.

Here’s an example of the results.

Of course, you can also shoot video. If it’s a video call, like Skype, you can ask the person at the other end of the line about the plant as you pan and zoom around it.

A simple example like this, (Oxalis corniculata L.) you would naturally identify yourself, without any help. However, suppose it were something outside your experience, such as:

Here’s the real value of video plant ID. You can draw on expertise anywhere in the world you have connectivity.

## The Good Cowboy

Looks like the Good Cowboy

“How come it’s better to be the good cowboy than the evil cowboy?”

“I don’t know,” they always say, expecting the punchline.

Because, out on the range it’s usually bright and sunny.  It would be too hot wearing black.

When I work out on the prairie, I have this light tan cowboy hat to keep the sun off.

My standard field shirt is light khaki.  (Blue attracts more mosquitoes.)

And I have these faded old Carharts.

This afternoon, I realized, I’m dressed like the good cowboy.

If you saw me in an old black-and-white movie, you’d think I was all in white.

I couldn’t handle being the evil cowboy.  At least not till the weather cools off.

## Sphinx Junction Bridge

After dinner I went down to the bridge to watch the evening come in.  In the wilderness, you always have to keep wary for bears.  As I chose which railing to look over, upstream or downstream, I thought about a bear’s mental map of these woods.  A bear would know about this bridge.  This bridge would be the easiest way to get from the north bank to the south.  As I settled on the downstream view, I made a mental note to keep aware.

Bubbs Creek tumbled below, a roiling cataract.  Lying back I watched mayflies hover in the air above.  They are such abstract little living mechanisms.  They would seem as edgy as wasps if we didn’t know they were harmless.

Beyond the railing, and the lofting mayflies, the trees towered up.  There were cottonwoods, red and white fir, Jeffrey pine and sugar pine.  Behind the trees, swooping upward on either side, were the high white walls of Sierra granite.  It’s the same fabric Yosemite is cut from.  Above it all a few mares’ tails of cloud twisted through the blue evening sky.

A little squirrel came out on the south end of the bridge.  He evidently intended to cross.  Of course this would be easier, I thought, than finding a fallen log, or leaping tree branches above the noisy torrent.

I turned to look at him.

He saw me and froze.

He could easily rush past me and get across.  I would never be quick enough to catch him.  I knew this.   He knew no such thing.  The squirrel way is caution.  He can’t do much to fight.

To him, I controlled this six-foot-wide causeway.  I eyed him lazily, mentally inviting him to go.  I only wanted to watch.

The squirrel stood taut in his nervous standoff half a minute.  Then he ducked under the upstream edge of the bridge, the opposite side from where I was.  In that lazy evening, it took me awhile to realize he might be trying a route beneath the planks.  I wanted to see.  I swung around and looked under the edge.

Two sturdy steel I-beams ran the length of the bridge, supporting the planks.  The I-beam in view was on the downstream side so, of course, no squirrel. Casually I rolled over and peered beneath the upstream edge.

The squirrel was there.  He was clambering towards me along the flat that formed the bottom of the outward channel of the I-beam. At his size, it was like a sidewalk. He was not 6 feet away.  He froze.

I intended him no harm, just curious.

By and by, I tried a little clucking sound with my tongue.  I hoped to be encouraging.

From a creature a thousand times his size, it didn’t come across that way.

He turned tail and rocketed back the way he’d come.  He scurried so fast it was comical.  He did not even slow down till he was safely among the logs and granite boulders on the bank, thirty feet away.

I guess sometimes I might be the bear.

## Backpack

R:  This backpack is so comfortable I almost forget I’m wearing it.

C: The only thing that could make me forget I’m wearing a backpack is blunt head trauma.

## Big back yard

I’ve been going up to Wyoming and back since the end of May.  Spring there is slow in coming.  This past week it was cold.  Frosty at night.  But then Pinedale is nearly 8,000 feet elevation.

I looked on the weather map, and to the south it was 70s, 80s, 90s (93F in Denver).  Color coded yellows, oranges, and reds.  But where we were, it was a patch of blue.  It was cool colors to the north too.

The sky spit sleety snow most days, and the cold wind was relentless.  Until Friday when it was suddenly sunny and still.  New snow was on the Wind River Range, to where it looked like January.

I had heard the Rainbow Gathering was going to be near Pinedale.  The rumor was at Boulder Lake.  So Friday a week ago, on the way back down to Colorado I went up there.  It was about 10 miles off the road I take home.

I found just 3 guys, camped out with a lean-to tarp and a campfire, in a drizzly rain that felt like Scotland, or winter in the Northwest.  They were nice-looking bearded hippie types, and very friendly.  The greeting, when you arrive, is “Welcome home!”.

I hung out with them awhile.  They said the final site was going to be decided in the next few days.

So, Thursday night I checked, and directions were online.  On the way home yesterday, I followed them and found the incipient gathering.  It had only “started” a day or two before but there were probably a couple hundred people already.

On the way in, I couldn’t imagine where a big gathering would camp. The landscape was all wide barren valleys, and steep slopes.  But when I got there, it was in the timber, a sort of broad bowl in the mountains.  There were lots of meadows and open woods.  Sighingly beautiful.

A lot of the men were really beautiful too.  Nice full beards.  But so many of them smoked.  If I were uncharitable, I would have thought, “just a bunch of derelicts”.

I don’t know how I would have enjoyed it if I had been free to stay and camp there.  I don’t know how I would have resonated with the vibe of smoke, drink, dope, and general debauchery in the woods.

Probably better than at the big gay gathering that happens in SE Wyoming every summer, called Rendezvous.  It’s a huge disco scene, transplanted to the woods.  The time I went, I had to camp about a mile away, to find enough quiet to sleep.  The mainstage tent blasted amped-up music till all hours.

As it was, I hung out with the guys at the Rainbow Gathering front gate, maybe 20 minutes.  I talked to them while I ate my lunch.  I was at the gathering only about an hour total.  I was antsy to get going.  It’s a good six-hour drive from Pinedale to Fort Collins, even without any detours.

It ended up being considerably longer than that.  Pinedale is to the east of the Wind River Range, which runs generally NW to SE.  Normally, I shoot south on the main highway, through the Green River basin, to the freeway east.  But detouring to the gathering site, I’d gone around to the southern toe of the range.  Driving out, I checked my map and saw it would not be a lot farther to continue on east around the Winds and take another highway.

So I ended up going home through the Sweetwater country.  It’s a beautiful, broad valley, the route of the old Oregon Trail.  The Sweetwater river winds slowly among sculptured granite hills, the tips of weathered and buried mountains.  For the pioneers, there was grass and water for livestock.  It’s the only easy wagon route across the Continental Divide north of New Mexico.  In fact, the dirt road I’d taken from the gathering site to highway 26 partly ran along top of the divide, which was just a low ridge.

I didn’t get home till nearly midnight, but it was worth it for the scenery.  It’s funny how Wyoming, which once seemed so huge and trackless, is now feeling so homey.  Partly, it’s from following my Roadside Geology book. Every little so often I see something know about.

But, strangely, it’s because the views are so vast, it gives the feel of just a big back yard.  For example the mountains I would see thirty miles to the north from the I-80 route, I now recognize as the same ranges to the south of the Sweetwater.  And there’s a gap through the hills near Tie Siding, not too far from Laramie, where you glimpse the lights of Fort Collins, nearly an hours drive before you drop down through the valleys to get there.