Richard Kastanie

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since May 26, 2010
Missouri Ozarks
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Recent posts by Richard Kastanie

I can't see from that view whether the leaves are opposite or alternate. Milkweed and honeysuckle both have opposite leaves. I think what you have may be sprouts of American Persimmon. If so, the leaves will be alternate, and the patch of sprouts will most likely be coming from the same base. Persimmon spreads readily by suckers, but they tend to space themselves out a bit.
1 month ago
This is something I've thought about quite a bit too. I like the Ozarks where I'm at a lot, it has a lot of good features, but I am worried about how hot the summers will get in the future and increases in droughts and flooding in this place that's already a land of extremes in many ways.

I consider climate change a very real and serious issue, but I'm also skeptical of specific predictions regarding its effects because of how complex the climate system really is. However based on what's been happening so far and paleoclimate evidence of the far past during times when CO2 levels were higher, I think we can expect significantly higher sea levels (although much of that rise will likely happen even farther into the future than 2100), warming most pronounced at higher latitudes, overall warmer averages most everywhere (but erratic cold snaps as well in many places because of jet stream changes). The changes in rainfall patterns are even trickier than temperatures to try to forecast. Warmer overall means an intensified water cycle, and more average precipitation overall. However that extra precipitation will likely be very unevenly distributed both geographically and temporally, much of it falling in heavy downpour events, and increasing temperatures also means increasing evaporation rates and increasing chances of flash droughts.

Looking at the lower 48 states from a purely climate change perspective, I'd put my bets on the higher parts of Appalachia, the interior northeast, and the upper great lakes region, particularly around lake Superior. The reasons are summers that are cool enough currently that they could get a decent amount hotter without becoming too extreme, and reasonably high amounts of annual precipitation that is also well distributed through the year, including the summer months, and moisture from multiple sources. Of course there are other issues going on than just climate change, and everyone's situation is unique so some other area might be best for you.

The Olympic peninsula is probably a decent choice as well, possibly one of the best spots in the west if above sea level a bit. The issue I see with the Pacific northwest in general is with the lack of summer rain, the summer dry season likely getting longer, hotter and more intense. I'm wary of anywhere that depends highly on winter mountain snowpacks, as warmer winters mean that even if precipitation stays the same or even increases, there will be less snow in all but the highest elevations because more of it will be rain. Being near the North Cascades might actually be better than the Olympic Peninsula, as they are higher elevation and the snowpack will thus be resilient in the face of more warming. Oregon will be worse off than Washington, as the Oregon Cascades are mostly not that high except for a few volcanic peaks. I expect the Pacific Northwest climate to become increasingly more like California's climate is now. The issue is that the ecosystems currently there aren't adapted to that extent of heat and drought and there will probably be mass tree die-offs and huge fires there when California-type dry seasons start happening, although this could be mitigated in local areas by good management.

Areas of the west that get the summer monsoon such as Colorado are more of a wild card, some say the monsoon could get more intense, and the mountains there are high and cold enough the snowpack declines probably won't be as dramatic as many other western states. However, Colorado is pretty dry to start out with except in some really high-elevation, cold areas, so it wouldn't take too much to push it over the edge.

The Appalachians/interior northeast/ upper great lakes, on the other hand, all have relatively high summer precipitation. I do expect droughts to worsen a certain amount in those areas, but IMO they have more likelihood of staying moist enough that the ecosystems will transition more by warmer-climate-adapted species increasing and cooler climate species declining, rather than by massive fires and die-offs of whole ecosystems. I have spent some time in southern Appalachia, and it's amazing just how many different sorts of weather patterns can bring precipitaion to those mountains. Unlike the Northwest, where the wet on the west side/dry on the east is very dramatic, the Appalachians have moisture coming from many sources. Moisture can come from the west, from the south, and from the Atlantic to the east, even from the northwest behind a cold front that's dry in most areas but then hits the mountain ridges that run perpendicular the wind and squeezes out the moisture. Who knows what unpredictable effects climate change will have on rain patterns, but areas with many sources of moisture are more likely to still end up getting enough of it.

Another thing to consider is that looking at a map of the world, there are very few dry climates along and near east coasts of continents (presuming they're facing an actual ocean, not a smaller body of water such as the Red Sea). There are many deserts and semi-arid areas along west coasts of continents, by contrast, as well as some very wet climates. I suspect climate change will push deserts on west coasts northward into some areas that are now Mediterranean climates (southward in the southern hemisphere). Eastern North America is unlikely to dry out as dramatically, even if flash droughts get more common and the heat and humidity in many lowland areas gets more and more extreme.

I haven't mentioned Alaska. I do wonder if at some point parts of Alaska will become desirable places to live. I've never been there and don't know enough specifics to have a strong opinion, but I imagine the more extreme rate of temperature change there will lead to convulsions in the ecosystem, and things like melting permafrost will wreak havoc in the places that have it.
1 month ago
A few more thoughts after a few more years of working with these swales,

I have noticed wildly varying rates of water infiltration on various spots on our land, as the layers of bedrock vary from very porous to pretty solid. The soil above the bedrock matters too. Some swales that I put in a while back drained very rapidly, out of reach of the plants. I've mostly filled those in with organic matter, creating a sponge for moisture which has proved useful, but some of them aren't really doing that much for all the time and energy I put into them. Others are very helpful, it all depends on the placement. On the particular area I'm working with, there just isn't much runoff from ground that's in good vegetative cover unless the soil is really saturated, even then I think much of the water getting into the swales is coming through the soil, a temporary water table that drains down pretty quickly once the deluge ends. So, the swales in areas with good vegetative cover uphill aren't really doing much.

The swales that I do consider very helpful are the ones that are collecting runoff from impervious or compacted areas such as gravel roads. I have a couple of swales that collect water, nutrients and organic matter coming off of a low-traffic gravel road, and that keeps the area near them noticeably lusher during dry summers as long as we get a few of the types of occasional showers and thunderstorms that are common here, Even if they don't bring enough rain to make much of a difference in most places, the runoff that concentrates in the swales will moisten the area around them significantly.

Water retention is tricky in karst. If there's evidence of runoff or erosion swales may help. I could suggest digging some test holes and filling them with water to see how fast they drain, but the thing is a hole may not drain too excessively, but then when expanded into a swale may hit a spot where the water can get through cracks in the bedrock and drain fast.
2 months ago
Southern Missouri is definitely one of the harder climates to design a building for, as it has to deal both with tropical-like heat and humidity in the summer, and also winters that, while mild compared to the northern US, are still cold enough to need to incorporate heat-retention strategies for.

As has been mentioned before, mold is one of the major problems in this climate. I'm not a building expert, but I have been in a lot of different styles of buildings in this and similar climates, and heard plenty of other people's experiences, and a few things stand out, namely good airflow and being up above the ground. I have lived without air conditioning here without any major issues with mold while others I know have been severely affected some of those same years. My situation isn't ideal, but the airflow is good enough with cross breezes and it's not in contact with the ground. Besides the obvious matter of having a roof that doesn't leak, having a raised floor seems to make a big difference. I know of many buildings without a raised floor, whether it be on a concrete slab or earthen floor, that struggle with mold, and earth-bermed houses tend to be even worse. There may be ways to do an earth-bermed house here that doesn't have mold issues, but you'd have to really know what you're doing. In my experience, buildings with crawlspaces tend to have much less mold issues.

I love living in the woods, but too many trees and shrubs too close to the building reduces airflow and can also lead to too much moisture/mold. Some trees to provide shade from the heat are nice, but I'd keep branches trimmed a ways away from windows. i know of a place that had mold get bad when some tall shrubs were planted and grew in front of several windows.
2 months ago
I'm in 6b and have some muscadines. I enjoy the flavor and their disease resistance (I have trouble getting much out of most other grape varieties here). I do have winter damage in cold years though. It got down to  minus 5 last winter, and some of them are okay and some may not have made it, I don't know for sure because some are just starting to grow, extremely late. Even the ones that look the best have some tip dieback. The ones that seem hardiest are on an arbor make of cedar rather than the wire trellising or fencing the others I have are, and are also near some trees (but still get a good 6-8 hours of sunshine during the growing season). I have done nothing special to protect any of them.

Another thing I've noticed with muscadines here is that pruning too early is very bad for them, I've pruned dormant plants that looked like they had healthy cambium only to have the stems split later during a relatively minor cold spell (low/mid 20s) and the plants die back severely, or even die completely. At this point I'm waiting to prune them until well into April just before growth begins. i know that's different from what the literature says about optimal pruning time, but it works better for me.
3 months ago
This is some of the best news I've heard in a while.
3 months ago

If all humans were to somehow abruptly vanish, the ecosystems in North America and the majority of the world would not revert to their pre-human state. The North American ecosystems before humans arrived were dominated by many species of megafauna that are now extinct and must have shaped the ecosystem in ways that we will never fully understand. Having certain areas be as undisturbed as possible is good to have a point of comparison with areas managed in various other ways in the same ecosystem, and since so much land is currently managed so badly, preserved areas are generally much healthier, but as Allan Savory has demonstrated, some brittle ecosystems need quite a bit of disturbance (his examples come from the actions of herds of animals) to thrive and will degrade from over-rest. Preserved areas in many regions of the country have no animals larger than a deer around, even in areas where wolves, bear, elk and buffalo still roam, that ecosystem developed alongside the native peoples of North America after the megafauna went extinct.
5 months ago
It is known that islands that are closer to other land where species disperse from end up with higher biodiversity, other factors being equal. This website on island biogeography sums it up with this quote,

A modified version of the classical island biogeography model proposed by MacArthur and Wilson (1963) is depicted above. The model considers the interaction of two main parameters, colonization and extinction, and then considers island size and distance from mainland as predictors of the species richness found on each island. Both colonization and extinction can be thought of in terms of rates or probabilities, and the size and isolation of islands impacts the probability of colonization and of extinction. Simply, Islands close to the mainland will more readily receive colonists from that mainland and, similarly, probability of colonization of large islands will be higher than that of small islands. Thus the larger the island and closer to the mainland, the more potential species will arrive. Species will also more readily go extinct on small islands than large, due to factors such as smaller population sizes and less available habitat. These parameters go hand in hand predicting that species richness will peak in large islands near mainlands, and be lowest in small islands far away from the mainland.

I have seen a few aggressive invasive species that do decrease biodiversity in the patches they take over, although oftentimes the claims are exaggerated (I've seen areas labeled monocultures of an exotic species that I can see quite a few other species growing in). However, we are glimpsing a very small period of time, as well as one with a lot of other human-induced factors that are changing the environment, so its no surprise that different species are thriving in the changed conditions. Humans have greatly accelerated the movement of species around the world, but there has always been a certain amount of movement, and I think the above example of island biogeography shows that more migration tends to increase biodiversity overall. That doesn't mean that none of the new species caused the extinction of species that were previously present, but the number driven extinct must end up fewer than the number of arrivals.

I've heard from some nativists the idea that certain exotic species will never find a balance and simply take over and leave much of the planet as near monocultures. If that were true, I'd think the islands with more migrating species would end up with less biodiversity, as periodically an aggressive species would come through and wipe out most of the others. Herbicide companies do love it when people have this view of exotic species, and have been known to support native plant groups and push them toward chemical use to eradicate exotics.

There was a time in early American history when peach trees were aggressive enough on parts of the east coast that some people worried they were taking over the landscape in places. That was before pests and diseases caught up with them, some imported themselves but others adapting from native wild stone fruits. Now there are occasional naturalized peaches but they don't appear on any invasive species list. I imagine the same will happen eventually to the invasives of most concern today, more pests and diseases will come after them and balance the populations out, how long that will take is the big question, my guess is that species that have native relatives will have more pests/diseases move to the new species more quickly.

While I'm generally not in the nativist camp, there are certain aggressive species that I would never spread to new areas, because even if they will eventually come into balance, in the meantime I wouldn't want to chance it by adding one more stress to all the others going on in this era.
6 months ago
I'm in zone 6B, and as far as blueberries go I've had the best luck with rabbiteye varieties and a few southern highbush types. Northern highbush types are more fickle in these hotter summer climates. The ph does need to be acidic for them as has been mentioned. Hidden Springs Nursery is in your area, I've had good luck with their plants and they aren't too expensive either, they don't have all that wide a selection of varieties but the ones they do have tend to be good for organic growing in our zones.
6 months ago
I'm in MO just north of the AR border. I ordered and planted twelve from Foxgreen Farms in 2015. Only 3 survived the first year, although they were a bit neglected. Those three grew well in 2016, after I cleared and mulched around them. Since the Foxgreen plants are unsexed I wanted to get more to ensure we had both male and female for pollination, so I planted two more last spring (2017) from Indiana Berry. They started to grow and then unfortunately  died shortly thereafter, shortly after a period of torrential rains, the soil is well drained where they are but maybe all that water weas still too much for them to handle at that vulnerable a stage. The three older plants looked good through the spring and were 3-4 feet high by summer, but then in late summer what had been the biggest, healthiest looking one suddenly had half its growth die off, and the rest not look so great. The other two plants didn't look that well in the late summer/fall either. There was plenty of moisture at that time (it got dry later in the fall) but not excessive, and the summer was cooler than that of 2016 which the same plant thrived in, so I'm not sure what caused that. I'll see if any of them still look good next year, if they don't then I doubt I'll try them again unless I can find some that have thrived in a climate similar to or hotter than ours, everyone who I've heard has success with them seems to be in cooler climates. I'd love to try the fruit if any of them ever get big enough to produce.
6 months ago