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Oak Work Update

March 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

About five years ago I decided to do some work on a Chinkapin oak in my front yard. My yard has two Chinkapin oaks, both apparently planted at the same time, before I bought the house in 2002. The one on the north side of the driveway was growing significantly faster than the one on the south side, which seemed to be languishing. Upon investigation, I realized it had some significant issues, relating to errors that occurred at the time of planting. Roots were extending east and west, but not north and south, with the result that the tree rocked back and forth in the wind. Excavating the roots revealed some other issues.

This post revisits the work I did and includes updated pictures showing progress.

Quercus muehlenbergii from northQuercus muehlenbergii from northThis tree came with the house I bought in 2002. Unfortunately, there were some issues with this tree, and I set about diagnosing the problem. Last year I concluded it was planted too low and had potentially strangling roots. Here you see the result of my efforts to jack it up last year. The tree has responded by thickening, especially where it is in contact with the brick. The boards will eventually rot. I will periodically monitor activity around the brick, and remove it when the tree has grown enough to not need its support. I may also leave it. I can't think of a reason it would be harmful to the tree there.

This picture shows the tree about a year after I jacked it up. I had placed wood and bricks under the jacked up tree.

Nearly 5 years later, the brick is still there but the wood has rotted away.

View from SouthView from SouthThis southerly view shows clearly the section I excised from the wrap-around root. There are new roots growing toward the east and toward the south. I will nurture that small root heading south. It may eventually turn into a major root for this tree.

You can't really see this very well, but the cut root closest to the camera has built up a callus where it is in contact with the brick. This helps to firm up the tree's anchorage. Unfortunately, there are no new roots growing from this cut root.

To the left is a picture showing where a section of root was excised. The two roots going to the right are on the east side of the tree. The nearer one is actually the root that was severed. It had grown over a lower root and grafted to it. My plan in 2011 was to take out that section of root and graft a seedling to the stub on the left, the south side. The problem the tree had was that there were no roots growing to the north or south. Grafting the seedling was intended to remedy this problem. In retrospect, I should have used an older plant with a longer root, but I didn't have one at the time.

The brick you see here is opposite the one seen in the picture above. I jacked up the tree by using the trunk as a lever, rocking it back and forth, each time scooting the bricks further under their side of the tree. In all, I think I elevated the tree 5-6 inches this way.

Southeasterly view of graftSoutheasterly view of graftAnother view of the graft -- also a good view of the callus on both sections of severed root.

The seedling is approach grafted. For the first attempt, shown here, I simply wrapped the join with tape. That did not actually work, I suspect mainly because of the tree rocking back and forth from the wind.

Here you see the graft a couple years later. I redid the graft by first making fresh cuts, then nailing the seedling in place and wrapping in parafilm. Another issue with the tree involves the roots on the far side. They are crossing each other, which is not a good thing. It's not as bad as it could be because they're fairly far apart. That top root arches completely out of the ground now that the tree is jacked up. It was underground before I jacked up the tree. I'm thinking that in a year or to I may switch those roots' positions, severing them both and reattaching them so that they don't cross. I'm not doing that now because the tree is actually finally solid, and it looks like that arching root is primarily responsible for the tree's stability.

South view of approach graftSouth view of approach graftUsing a gouge blade on my Exacto knife, I removed a section of wood from the cut root. I also removed a thin layer of bark from the adjoining portion of the sapling. I tied it securely with green tape and then wrapped that with parafilm (not pictured).

Front view of the graft. The small right to the right of the cut came from another plant and was removed.

Several years later, the seedling has grown up and branched out. I expect that as it continues to grow, it will thicken substantially more below the graft than above it. We already see a hint of this, but on the other hand, seedlings also show the same feature as you can see in the left picture.

View from EastView from EastFrom this view you can see how the roots are really parallel to each other, offering very little north/south support. You can see bricks under the tree both on the north side and the south side, and a board on the east side.

Side view of the graft site before the graft was made. This view is interesting because it shows more clearly than other views how much the tree has grown. Note the thickness of the roots compared to the size of the space between them.

To stabilize the tree I pounded a steel stake into the ground and held the tree with a wire. The tree grew over the wire, and when the wire broke, I added a rope. Today I removed the rope and cut off the wire. The tree is very solid now.

Tile Rotation Part 2

March 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

In my previous post, I describe a tile rotation app and a couple of ideas for implementation of a stone moving game. This post describes another possibility. 

The players take turns adding stones to the board. Only one stone is allowed on a tile at a time. After all stones are placed, each player is allowed to rotate tiles in order to create the maximum scoring possible. Points are awarded based on number of stones that are mutually touching. Following are some screen shots that illustrate.

So. how should points be counted? One possibility is to simply count the number of connected stones. So in the above illustration, black gets 6 points, and white gets 7 points (but maybe only two touching shouldn't count, in which case it would be 4 and 5, respectively.

Another possibility is to count the number of touches each stone has. For black, each stone touches 2 others in the square and 1 other on the left, so the total point count would be 8 for the square and 2 for the others, for a total of 10. For white, 3 stones touch 2 others and 4 stones touch one other making the total 3*2 + 4 = 10 points.

Or maybe the longer the string, the higher the reward should be. Powers of 2 would be the obvious choice, but powers of 10 would be easier for most users, so I'll describe that. Essentially, one 0 is added for each additional stone in the chain. 

So for white, there is a 5 stone chain (100,000 points) and a 2 stone chain (100 points) for a total of 100,100 points.

And for black, there is a 4 stone group (10,000 points) and a 2 stone chain (100 points) for a total of 10,100 points. 

Now let's look at a screen that has been completely filled with stones (note only one stone is allowed on each tile).

In the above illustration, the tiles have been rotated to form a checkerboard pattern. No attempt has been made to optimize score. Using powers of ten scoring, the score is:

Black: 10,000 * 2 + 1,000 * 5 + 100 * 6 = 25,600 points.

White: 10,000 * 3 + 1,000 * 2 + 100 * 10 = 33,000 points (note the 3rd white triangle at the top joins the third white triangle at the bottom forming a 3 stone grouping).


Here the tiles have been rotated in order to cause more stones to touch each other. I won't add up the total score, but I will point out the highest scoring grouping of each color, which likely determines the winner.

Black: 9 stones: 1000,000,000 points (the string of black at the top continues with the string of stones at the bottom.

White: 8 stones: 100,000,000 points.

Here black has a 7 stone string. White has a 6 stone string.


Here white has a 10 stone string.


Here black has an 11 stone string.



Tile Rotation

March 04, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This blog post is a departure from previous posts because it doesn't include any photographs. Instead, it includes screen shots of an app I'm working on. The app, for now, is called Tile Rotation. The basic operation of the app is described on the app's website.

I've decided to start brainstorming for a board game based upon the second phase of that app using stone movements in addition to tile rotations. Here are some sample screens to show possibilities.

Here stones have been added to all the tiles that are on either end of the board. Black stones are on one end. White stones on the other end. Players can move stones and/or rotate tiles. To move a stone, it is dragged to the new location. White stones always sit on the white portions of the tiles they sit on. Black stones sit on the black portion. To rotate tiles, the user taps once to rotate it clockwise or double-taps to rotate it counterclockwise. In either case, either a whole column or tiles or a whole row of tiles is rotated in order to keep neighboring tiles touching with the same color.

Here is an example of what the screen looks like after each player has moved one stone and tapped one tile to do a rotation. At this point, I need to decide what moves should be legal. There are many possibilities. Perhaps stones should move only by one tile at a time. Perhaps they should be able to move multiple tiles, as long as they go in a straight line. That's what's shown, above. Perhaps captures should be allowed.

Here, each player has made several moves, and white has just placed a stone on the same tile that's already occupied by a black stone. Does this constitute a capture?

Anyway, the rules are not set yet. If you have an iOS device and would like to join the test team to help decide on what rules should apply, let me know, and I'll add you and give you additional instructions.

Here is a sample tic-tac-toe-like game. The board starts out with no stones. Players take turns adding a stone and optionally doing one rotation. First person to get 5 stones in a row along the same color wins.

Bluebonnet Update

December 02, 2012  •  3 Comments

Maroon Bluebonnet December Bloom I have an update to my previous blog entry about the bluebonnet with the strange inflorescence, where it looked like the flowers were turning out to be leaves. Now it is producing actual flowers.

The plant is in a bed where I planted maroon bluebonnet seeds in the fall of 2011. This particular plant sprouted almost exactly a year ago. Perhaps I'll search for older photos of this plant.

It bloomed for the first time in the spring of 2012. It survived the summer, and now it's blooming again in December.


Unusual Bluebonnet

November 11, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Odd Bluebonnet Bluebonnets usually sprout from seed some time in autumn and then grow throughout the winter. This gives them plenty of energy to burst into bloom in spring. After blooming, it makes seeds and dies. The plant lives less than a year, but is sometimes considered to be a biennial because it crosses the calendar year boundary.

This particular plant is unusual in that it is still flourishing in November. Maybe flourishing is not the right word. It already bloomed this spring, but instead of dying, the plant continued growing as a small plant throughout the summer. Earlier this fall, I noticed an inflorescence and wrote about it to friends and relatives. I figured I'd take pictures when the flowers were more fully formed.

Well, they never did. Instead, the plant is turning into a tall vegetative plant with no flowers. What appears at first to be flower buds is actually leaf buds.

Closeup of buds

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