1 Fannie and I met up with Ralph Robbins in Aunt Martha's equipment shed. Here, the founder of SavATree, holds up the Doing It show's release form.
2 After leaving NPR and SiriusXM, Fannie founded her own production company called Stinky Productions.
3 This is Fannie getting the recording equipment in order. Thanks to modern technology, we're able to capture high quality audio on this tiny TASCAM flash recorder.
4 We started walking and briefing Ralph for the interview. It was a pretty chilly spring day!
5 Ralph has a great sense of humor and knows how to make people smile.
6 We decided to begin the interview by the crimson maple tree that Ralph and George Bridge of Acorn Farm planted in 2008 in honor of my grandmother, fondly known as Big Martha. Like her, this maple is strong and stately.
7 This beautiful plaque beneath the tree was part of Ralph and George's gift.
8 Before the official interview began, Ralph told us that the crimson maple is about 30-years-old and more than 35-feet tall. It will soon be covered in vibrant red leaves.
9 He mentioned that everything is late to bud this spring.
10 Fannie hit the record button to begin the interview.
11 You might be thinking that a lesson in arboriculture would be quite serious, however, Ralph is a highly effective teacher and he knows how to keep things on the light side.
12 Ralph explained how he became an arborist in the late 1970s, almost by accident. Faced with a horrible gypsy moth infestation, he and his wife, Carole, could find no one to help with this problem. After researching a bit, they started to treat their own trees and also their neighbors'. SavAtree was born and Ralph became educated in the field and acquired all the proper arboriculture licenses.
13 Ralph told us about how with a healthy tree, the span of the roots mirrors the span of the branches. This allows the tree to absorb the plentiful nutrients that drip off the outermost branches. SavATree knows where to feed a tree based upon this outer drip line.
14 All of SavATree's treatments are fully organic. It's important not to force too much growth in trees, as this can be detrimental in the long run.
15 From Big Martha's tree, we headed towards the Maple Avenue house. Ralph mentioned something called a girdling root. What's this? Read on...
16 Girdling roots are roots that wrap around the base of the trunk rather than growing outwards. They can be problematic, as they often restrict the flow of water and nutrients up and down the trunk. This can lead stunted growth and even death.
17 As you can see here, the root of this tree has started circling back around the tree. Fortunately, if caught early, a girdling root can be remedied with the help of an arborist. Ralph said to treat this tree, part of the root needs trimming.
18 Fannie was curious about how deep roots grow. As Ralph taught us, not so deep. By remaining close to the surface, roots, especially the tiny, absorbing root tips, are able to reach the most water and nutrients. The majority of large tree roots are in the upper 18"-24" of soil.
19 This has been a very chilly spring and on the day of this interview, Aunt Martha's spectacular daffodil border was just beginning to bloom.
20 As you can see, the portable recording equipment even makes it possible to walk and talk. We were happy to see some more signs of spring as we walked past the stable and through the linden allee.
21 The allee is bordered by long beds planted with thousands of blue-flowering bulbs.
22 Ramon was curious as we walked by.
23 During the summer months, even horses appreciate the shade of a leafy tree.
24 Ralph explained the different botanical operating systems of deciduous and evergreen trees. When a deciduous tree drops it's leaves, it's a process called abscission.
25 Fannie was curious to know how to care for trees that are very close to a house, such as the ones here. Ralph said that regular hedging is essential. Problems most often arise when the house was built next to the tree, rather than if the tree was planted next to the house. He said these trees are in good shape.
26 A tree's bark is essential for carrying nutrients up the trunk. Some trees, like this beautiful Betula papyrifera, or paper birch, have flakey bark.
27 This Betula nigra birch, or river birch tree, is indigenous to Eastern United States. It's recognized by its bark that exfoliates into curly, papery sheets.
28 I love these paper birch trees.
29 Sadly, during Superstorm Sandy last autumn, many large hardwood trees were ruined in this area of Martha's farm.
30 Ralph explained how fallen wood is recycled on Martha's property. Much of it is put through a large tub grinder and ground into mulch. Some is even milled into lumber for future use.
31 Fannie decided to count the rings to determine how old the tree was.
32 She had to get a closer look! Larger gaps between rings indicate a drought year, when the tree is denied water.
33 Fanny gave up counting every ring, but she determined that this tree was certainly quite old!
34 When we finished with Ralph, we left Martha's farm and drove to nearby Shanti Bithi Nursery in Stamford, CT. Shanti Bithi means ‘Path of Peace’ in Bengali. The name was given to the nursery by Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy.
35 Owned by Jerome and Gayathri Carole Rocherolle, Shanti Bithi Nursery has one of the most extensive collections of bonsai trees available for sale on the East Coast.
36 We were awed by this place! Jerome and Gayathri started their bonsai nursery in late 1978.
37 Jerome taught us about some of the exquisite Japanese maple bonsai forests he creates.
38 Here's a fine example. Jerome told us that this is a more contemporary planting method of bonsai.
39 And another! What's so incredible is that bonsai are not dwarf varieties of trees, but meticulously manicured full-size trees.
40 Part of the art is creating a harmonious relationship with the tree and vessel is sits in, or upon.
41 Many of these specimens are imported from Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan. Others have been created by the nursery's gifted bonsai specialist, Saeko Oshiro. Saeko learned the art and techniques of bonsai from her grandfather in Japan when she was a young girl.
42 These Japanese maples are just coming into bloom. The Rocherolle's were amazed how spring was so far behind this year!
43 Another stunning Japanese red maple. Shanti Bithi also offers both group and private Bonsai classes, usually led by Bonsai specialist, Saeko Oshiro. You can find out about upcoming classes here: http://www.shantibithi.com/bonsai.htm
44 Much of what we discussed during our interview was man's historical relationship with trees throughout history.
45 The habit of dwarfing trees in pots began in China around 200 AD and it wasn't until centuries later that these techniques were introduced to Japan and the term Bonsai came into being. Bonsai can be translated as "planting on a tray."
46 The foliage of the bonsai trees is kept in proportion by continual pinching and regular pruning of new growth.
47 Interesting shapes are achieved by bending branches with the use of wire.
48 We also got to step inside the greenhouse, which felt wonderful on a chilly spring day! This is where the tropical bonsai live. Look at this full-sized lemon growing on a bonsai!
49 A larger bonsai tree in a decorative pot
50 Being around bonsai can have a very calming effect. Even owning a dwarfed tree in a big city can transport one back to nature.
51 As already stated, what the bonsai grows in, or upon, is part of the art. There are many vessels to choose from at Shanti Bithi!
52 Look at the stoic trunks and roots on these evergreen bonsai trees. You feel like you're in a miniature forest.
53 A collection of evergreen bonsai - If properly cared for, bonsais can live for many, many years.
54 We liked the contrast between the bonsai and the regular evergreens growing on the other side of the fence.
55 Another one of the forests Shanti Bithi has created - This one is a beech forest.
56 These unique rocks are used for Bonsai planting. One manipulates the roots around the rocks within a pot. Hearty amounts of skill and patience are required!
57 This tree is a personal favorite of Gayathri and Jerome. They brought it back from Japan several years ago. The tree was grown from seed and was always intended to be a bonsai. Many are formed by a method called grafting.
58 This is an example of a grafted tree. See how the base of the trunk is much larger than the Bonsai grown from seed?
59 Another expressive Bonsai. The Rocherolle often lend their trees to the New York Botanical Gardens and other events.
60 Most of the trees in their collection are for sale.
61 A miniature world
62 There are lovely buddha's sitting throughout the nursery. I liked these little pagodas, too.
63 Gayathri and Jerome's son, Durdam, was visiting from the West Coast. A decathlete, Durdam has visited 76 countries and is currently working on a documentary about an Indian woman surfer in South India.
64 The Rocherolle can't imagine how different their lives would be if not for their relationship with trees and plants.
65 It was really inspiring to hear Gayathri, Jerome, and Durdam's stories. Please tune in to hear these interviews and others.
66 Our next field piece took place a few days later. We got to the Department of Sanitation in New York City very early in the morning! This photo was taken around 5:15am.
67 The Hudson River and New Jersey across the way starting to wake up!
68 We loved that DSNY drives eco-friendly Priuses around town.
69 At 5:50am, the daily roll call takes place. The sanitation workers are briefed and then head out on their routes.
70 Keith Mellis, who's a chief for DSNY and an incredibly nice guy, took us out on the garbage route. See the lit-up truck just in front?
71 We tagged along with Bryan and Kevin. The two work very hard to keep the streets of New York City clean. After their shift, they drive the truck to a transfer station in New Jersey. They're really nice guys, too!
72 I even tried my hand tossing some garbage into the truck.