Expedition: June 2012

Basil, Garlic, Calendula

June 2012 IMG_3434
At Patriarch Grove
June 2012 IMG_3453
Bristlecone pine with spiral grain
June 2012 IMG_3472
Garlic in the cold frame
June 2012 IMG_3465
The team at work
June 2012 First Green
First green on our artificial hypolith
June 2012 quantum radiometer
Using the quantum radiometer

One of the first things we did was to go back to the Cottonwood Basin Overlook Trail and double-check seventeen bristlecone pines to see if last year’s team had recorded the spiral grain (right handed vs. left handed) backwards. They had. It’s easy to make mistakes at this altitude. The data from this section of this trail looked very different from the other 500+ trees we measured, and we had our suspicions. Now we know that the pattern of right handed, left handed and straight trees is remarkabley consistent everywhere on the mountain.

We are now ready to publish this research, in either of two journals: “Trees”, or “The Canadian Journal of Forest Research.”


A surprise awaited us when we got to the cold frame – who planted this? It seems the Barcroft caretaker, Dori Cann, had planted some cloves of garlic last October when she was cleaning out the kitchen for the season. The garlic cloves wintered over in the cold fame and sprouted this spring. We watered them and let them stay. We also fixed the irrigation system with a new bilge pump and planted sweet basil, salad greens, radishes and calendula.
The battery voltage was still +14.1 volts!


We found our old arrray of artificial hypoliths. A marmot or some other animal had flipped a lot of the tiles. We are getting used to this sort of thing from the rodents. We photographed the bottoms of 16 tiles that were still in position and replaced the rest. One of the tiles has some green on it!

While everyone else climbed 14,000′ White Mountain Peak, Anthony and Mike measured the transmittance of natural sunlight through 24 natural hypoliths. These cells can grow here with only 0.07% of the natural direct sunlight! We also placed six smaller arrays of artificial hypoliths down the mountainside, at elevations of 8,000 – 12,500 feet.

Our work done, we enjoyed toasting marshmallows around the fire and even did some blacksmithing and woodworking projects. Anna made a wooden spoon, burning out the bowl. A few of us also played pool on the continent’s highest pool table at Barcroft.
first green radiometer

What we learned:

  • Garlic can over-winter in our cold frame, which probably means that onions and flower bulbs can too. We will consider these for a fall 2012 planting.
  • Our electrical system is still good, and we have high hopes for our irrigation system this year.
  • The anamolously twisted trees on the Cottonwood Basin Overlook Trail were really just bad data. The proportion of spiral grain that is left handed (< 20%), straight (~ 70%) or right-handed ( < 10%) is very consistent in every part of every grove.
  • Al least one marble tile has a bit of green film after just one year.
  • Marmots/rodents always disturb a densely spaced 6 x 10 array of artificial hypoliths. We need to use smaller arrays, with the tiles spaced a few feet apart from each other.
  • About 0.05% of direct White Mountain sunlight is the cut-off for hypolithic cell growth. This is similar to but slightly less than hypoliths in Namibia (0.08% – 0.10%). It makes sense, because White Mountain is higher in elevation, brighter, wetter and cooler than the Namib desert.