[Tweeters] Hangin' With The Coneheads

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Sep 10 12:50:13 PDT 2014


Here in Port Townsend, hangin' with the Conehead's - my elderly parents.
I should mention that my parents don't have conical craniums. By "Conehead" I mean that these people are cone enthusiasts. You know, like Pine cones, etc. Both have spent years picking up cones for various reasons. Cones are cool. My mother has made many fine cone wreaths in her day, and dad has a bag of Western White Pine cones near the wood stove - the pitch encrusted things make a good firestarter.
This summer, sitting at the kitchen table, with good views of many Douglas fir trees, my parents have been excited."Will you look at all those cones, never seen so many!" they've cheerfully been noting. It's a good cone year.
Well, this Cone hasn't fallen too far from the family Fir - I like cones too. Nature, or Nurture? Maybe both. Anyway, I have especially enjoyed Doug fir watching around the town. Douglas fir is a very genetically diverse tree, a beautiful thing (not really appreciated by corporate tree farmers with their uber-fir clones) to see in the field.
It's easy to see the diversity of Doug firs even in the same wild patch. Some have ascending branch form, other descend, or even strongly droop. Some are green green, and some almost spruce (sitka) blue. Many different forms. That got me thinking of those other Coneheads - Red Crossbills. Last I read, there are about 8 or more types of Crossbills now recognized, the various types typically specializing in one , or several, species of conifer. For the Doug fir specialist's I wondered, if in all this tree diversity, there was any variations in seed tastes in the different forms - kind of like Baskin Robbins of firs. The Crossbills might be talking about it up there in the treetops:"Hey Chris, what's your favorite fir flavor?"" I like 'Sprucey Blue', on a good year", Chris said. " How 'bout you, Christine?"" Oh, 'Droopy Green' is my fave!" Christine replied.
Is that far-fetched? Well, Nature can throw farther than we can fetch, so who knows...
One Conehead we could use here around 'Alzheimer's Acre', would be a Clark's Nutcracker. You see, nobody around here can remember anything anymore, now including me. But the Clark's Nutcracker has a great spatial memory - great for finding stuff. Nutcrackers have been the focus of a number of studies about their memory abilities, as they are capable of caching Pine nuts in 5000+ different spots, and, even after 7 or nine months, are able to find 70% of them, or so. The Nutcrackers also use this memory quite well in staking-out other birds nests over the breeding season, waiting until the young birds are the biggest mouth-full, then coming back to eat 'em. I saw this as I watched bird nests myself, all one summer, in the Sierra Nevada's. The Nutcrackers were better nest finders than I was, that's for sure.
I imagine having a trained Nutcracker here at the Acre, for Memory Support Services."Hey Nathan", I'll call, " could you please find my Coulter Pine cone, it's missing." ( I lost it on my last house move, along with my California abalone shells!)" Hey, you lost it, you find it!" Nathan squawked. I guess even if he could find it, he couldn't pick it up - the Coulter Pine has the largest cone of any pine - up to over 12" long, and weighing up to 8 lbs green. One of these gnarly things could really put a dent in your Cone.
Sometimes Coneheads can be irritating. Many years ago my family was at a campground in Eastern Washington, where all the RV's were parked under the shade of a Ponderosa Pine grove. Coneheads - Red Squirrels - were cutting big ponderous pine cones, which loudly bashed on the RV rooftops like rocks. After ongoing major artillery attacks, people started leaving the place! It was kinda funny though, I thought. Those darn Coneheads, again.
Jeff Gibsonwatching cones, inPort Townsend Wa


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