Today seemed to be the day in which things I never knew could happen while coring happened. We got cores stuck in all sorts of interesting ways, and I was peed on (yes, urinated upon – there is no more accurate way to describe this) by a tree.
But let me begin at the beginning.
Site 3: Simonson Biological Field Station, Arkansas
Since it’s the weekend, we didn’t see anyone at either site, and in both cases had to leave the car at a locked gate and hike into our site (I use the term ‘hike’ loosely). Coring was nearly uneventful at Simonson, except that one of the cores got stuck in the borer. We got the corer into the tree, but couldn’t even get the extractor into the corer to pull out the core. This happens sometimes, and is a bit of a pain, but a solvable problem. We pulled the corer out (with the core still inside) and finagled the core in every way possible. I even brought a narrow metal rod used for cleaning guns, which fits nicely into the core and thought I could use it to push the core out of the corer. I succeeded only in snapping the rod clean in two…. I’m not sure why this happened. Sometimes when it’s cold, cores will expand once removed from the tree, but it wasn’t cold, and expansion usually only occurs after you remove the core from the corer. I’m not totally sure how we’ll get it out of the corer, so for the meantime (potentially the rest of the trip), we are minus a corer.
In other news, Kendra had recommended I bring bike gloves because apparently all the cool dendro kids core with bike gloves to protect their palms. I brought a pair of Anthony’s weight lifting gloves, and they were surprisingly helpful! I think weight lifting gloves are way cooler than bike gloves, so maybe I’ll start a new dendro trend…
We also made friends with a dog that lived across the street from the station. I love dogs.
Site 4: Ole Miss Field Station, Mississippi
Much like Simonson, this site would have been uneventful, if it weren’t for a couple super odd occurrences. First of all, we got another core stuck in a corer. But even more strangely, this one was poking out the end of the corer. In theory, when you core into a tree, the core stays in the center of the corer, and you use the extractor to pull it out. Sometimes, when that fails, the core just stays in the corer (see above), but I’ve never seen it get yanked out the end. I assume that it didn’t fully break off from the rest of the tree, and as I twisted off the corer, the core was pulled out from the middle. Fortunately, it was an oak (a hardwood), so I was able to yank it out of the corer. Still, weird.
But that was NOTHING compared to the next tree I cored. This was also an oak. I twisted the corer in like normal, and as I was about to reach for the extractor, IT PEED ON ME. I’m not joking – liquid water started pouring out of the corer (photos below). I’ve seen trees out-gas if the center is rotted (it’s kind of cute – sounds halfway between moaning and farting and is very un-treelike, trees generally being stately and majestic individuals). I also know that you can tap into trees (like maples) and extract sap. Sap is thick and slowly oozes out of a tree over days/weeks/months at a time. This was LIQUID water, POURING out of the tree. And it STANK. Emily (coring at the next tree) was at first amused by my shouts of “Ack! What is this!” and “Oh god, it smells!” and then eventually could smell it herself…. I waited for over a full minute and the stream never slowed. I finally worried about leaving the corer unmoving for much longer (at the risk of the tree sealing around it) and so just sucked it up and extracted the core and removed the corer, all within a stream of tree pee. I used two alcohol-based hand wipes, washed my hands four times, SHOWERED, and used scented hand lotion, and my hands still smell like tree pee. Also, the tree continued leaking (or whatever it should be called) for several minutes after I removed the core (see picture below). It was weird and disgusting, and I have no idea what caused it or if it affects the usability of the core. But ugh, it was gross.
Our only real problems came from the driving itself. There was a ton of construction, so at one point, we tried to re-navigate on our own (sorry, Vicky), which went ok, but slowed us down (though probably less so than the construction). Fortunately, Emily is good with the road atlas. I can also say that there is at least one young and rather handsome state trooper with an endearing southern accent in Arkansas who is willing to let two young ladies go with just a warning and not a speeding ticket. How I came by that particular piece of information is not strictly relevant to this post… Regardless, today took longer than I expected, so we won’t be sleeping in as much tomorrow. I have tentatively promised Emily no more 4 am days, which I will try really hard to keep 🙂