chicago_second nature.JPGA report in the Atlantic has a great article on how the city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.

[Thank you to Sylvia Sukop for the tip and great conversation!]

Squirrel Relocation Service


An interview with Michael E Beran, who is a Master Falconer at Wildlife Command Center, has provided some expertise and inspiration for our Squirrel Relocation Service to help squirrels find their new habitats after the pin oak trees are gone.

Pin oak trees are seasonal food resource for squirrels for a short period. Urban squirrels do not generally like to live in trees, but they also like to live in people’s houses and other built environment very well. They like to chase, run and fight with each other, so they are active all over the spaces, such as on the roof top and in the tree cavities.

Pin oaks are part of the habitat and they do provide a significant amount of food. Removing these habitats will definitely have impacts on squirrels’ life. However, taking them to an unfamiliar habitat is going to put them in danger, as they need to find food and water resources, and get themselves exposed to hawks, and other predators. More than 60% of relocated animals to unfamiliar habitats can’t survive. But, there are two potential options that can be done:

  1. Providing artificial habitat, such as squirrel boxes, to make them blend in the environment, the disadvantages would be the when squirrels do the bark stripping activities, these boxes won’t heal themselves like the trees do, so certain maintenance is needed.
  2. Providing other food resources, that could be sunflowers, apple trees, sweet potatoes or other oak trees. That needs another type of maintenance to keep those trees well to provide a supplementary good food resource. The disadvantage is that human intervention would also alter the squirrel generation.


Tree Analysis by Julius von Bismarck

In an 8 hour durational video performance, artist Julius von Bismarck cuts down a tree with a pocket knife. The work consists of the artists encircling the tree in a slow and relentless unbuilding of the tree’s rings.

The title, Tree Analysis, seems to me to be a take on the sort of intimacy and distancing that such a durational piece might induce. A dismembering that fully implicates the executioner in both body and time. With the knife edge finding each layer of the tree’s growth, its undoing is rewritten in the wrist of the artist.

[Special thanks to the always amazing Amanda Bowles for this reference. Endless respect!]


IMG_5713.JPGThe first iteration of the tree enclosure has been dismantled, but not without leaving its mark.

Keep an eye open for the next iteration.


Tree Rule

“For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides—William H. Jackson”

The text engraved into a stone plaque that sits at the base of ‘The Tree that Owns Itself’. A tree in Athens, Georgia, that is accepted by the city as proprietor to its own land. Whether there is an actual deed in the tree’s name is unclear, however, this white oak has unprecedented autonomy in an age of exhaustive human ownership.

How can it be that trees, the largest organisms on earth have no sovereignty in our cities? At what point was this deemed necessary? How can we move on beyond the tourist attraction of a tree that owns itself to a re-prioritized chain of beings where trees are no longer considered entities of ownership, but instead an invaluable system of independent, life-giving organisms?

One way to remind one another of the significance of the tree is through the introduction of treeness; to encounter the tree and tree’s systems through a one to one experience. In relation with human body and tree body, we can begin to find sameness and variance. With connection, comes respect. With respect, comes prioritization and ultimately emancipation.

Making Iron Gall Ink

Iron gall ink is prepared by adding iron salts to tannic acids that from oak galls. These are pictures of bleaching process of pin oak galls that gathered from our trees. The steps are listed below:

1. measure 2Ozs of raw galls from the tree

2. crush and dice them into small piecesThe

3. bake the gall pieces in oven so that we can grind the pieces into smaller parts

4. grind them

5. put the materials in a jar and add 8Ozs of hot water and seal the jar

The final product is after 4 days of soaking and on the 4th day night I boiled the mixture and waited for another day. The color is pretty stable after 2 days of soaking, and it didn’t change a lot after the boiling.


Adding 0.5Ozs of Iron Sulfate and Gum Arabic into the solution is the last step of Ink Making. The color of the solution would change immediately after adding the Iron Sulfate in.

add iron sulfate

Gum Arabic serves as a binding material for the ink.

Angle grinding | tree time

images_sanding process_cropped
I start to apply the angle grinder on C-6 to reveal its rings, its history, its tree time.

When I apply the dense matrix of the grinding head, I feel its tight pull against the wood grain. The deep furrows of this mature part of the tree tug the grinder unevenly, threaten to pull me out of the diameter of the chalked outline I have drawn—like my head in size, but evenly circular. When a woodpecker penetrates the bark of a tree, it has chosen a thin-barked tree, or the younger upper reaches of a mature one. Its strikes are repetitive, accurate: a hole is cast. My work on the tree looks haphazard at first, bumbling, of little skill or grace. It is by a law of averages, an evening out of increasingly smooth passes, that the bowl hollows and incrementally takes form. My mental ambition is to scoop. The grinder wants to take off in a nefarious line, grind a deep burning wedge, fall to kick in circles at my feet. 

IMG_4398The rings come up quickly, like interstate signs in the rain, postings of new information that arrive and pass as I whip by them. The scale of the grinding action is too much to control a relationship to the rings, this fast intrusion more a break-in than a neighborly visit. Then, the quick smell of vinegar, and the heartwood is shredding wetly under the grinding head beneath my hands.

From A Squirrel’s View – The Energetic Abruptness Protected by the Shades of Pin Oaks

squirrel view

According to the research published in Journal of Comparative Physiology A, gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) can differentiate green, red with other colors but not able to distinguish green with red. This symptom is called dichromatic color vision. (Reference: Are Squirrels Able to Enjoy the Changing Colors of the Fall?  C. Claiborne Ray, The New York Times)

That being said, the squirrels can not enjoy the fall colors of trees but can differentiate the trees with the environment. 

From our observation, the most active time for the gray squirrels around and on our pin oak trees are early morning (before 8 a.m.) and late afternoon (4-5 p.m.), when the sunlight is not that strong. On cloudy days, they will more likely to show up than very sunny days, which further proves their resistance to strong sunlight.

However, our pin oaks would prefer a full sun environment to grow, which means at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sun,  according to the tree guide by Arbor Day Foundation.

As we all know, the pin oaks can provide great sun shading, that blocks the sun for the gray squirrels. This is one of the reasons why these two are good friends in addition to the squirrels’ needs of collecting acorns from the trees.