Summer on a Shoestring

The Man, The Myth, Christian Riese Lassen
November 4, 2013, 12:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Eric MacPherson

When someone thinks of forest ecology the logical next thought is puzzles. While thinking about puzzles two names come to mind, the guy who invented the jigsaw, and Christian Riese Lassen.

Adam picked up a box of 12 puzzles from a yard sale for 25 cents, a price that I’m sure Tony would have said is too much. One particular rainy weekend that box was opened and what resulted was a love affair with the spectacular work of Christian “The Dolphin Whisperer” Reise Lassen.

The resulting 12 puzzles created a sort of competition as to who can do the puzzles the fastest, and also how fast all of them can get done. Needless to say the end of the weekend resulted in the completion of all 12, ranging from easy 100 piece ones to hard 500 piece ones.  Our entire tabletop became a shrine to Christian Riese Lassen.  At dinnertime I would look down at my plate of “Tony’s famous chicken legs” and see the head of a sea turtle peaking out from underneath my plate.



After a few weeks of a colorful tabletop, we realized they had to go. The puzzles thought otherwise and some were stuck to the table. After loosening all the pieces we knew we couldn’t destroy them. There’s only one logical thing that can be done. Preserve the puzzles with glue and duct tape for all future Shoe stringers to enjoy. And where does one construct a Christian Riese Lassen shrine? Well in the boring white bathroom of course, because nothing says “good morning, hope that was a good shower” like a unicorn gracefully aside a lake, or a giant tiger head.

Hopefully the shower has a Christian Riese Lassen shower curtain soon, which he makes, or a CRL soap dispenser, or even CRL soap, which I’m almost positive he makes.   The guy has his designs on everything. CRL 2 CRL 3

(Notice the man himself, in the black and white photo in the lower right corner. Yep he is riding a white horse, no biggie)


Now one might expect the Christian Riese Lassen fad to die out with the last of the 12 puzzles was hung on the wall. However, you’d be wrong. Megan could not contain herself and so before long we had a 1000 piece 3 ft wide masterpiece. I only use that word because I can think of a word better than masterpiece. With some help form Hongzhang’s son who is 3 by the way, I finished that puppy in no time.



Nothing says Northern Hardwood Forest like a 3 foot ocean panorama.



Strawberry Fields Forever!
October 9, 2013, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Cooking in the white house, Recreation

By Cleo Warner

One of the greatest things I’ve found about summer in the Bartlett area has been the berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, service berries; they are all here once the warm weather rolls through. The greatest part is that you can get them for free if you know where to look. So far we have collected blueberries on the side of 302, raspberries from various bushes behind the white house, service berries from second iron, and the smallest strawberries I’ve ever seen from the grass by the dorm back door.  Little did I know that the berry lottery was waiting for us at the very end of strawberry season.


It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when I was able to convince the group to drive down to the strawberry stand off Westside Road, promising them I heard that the price for picking had gone down as the season was coming to a close soon. I was of course only able to do this by reminding them how great jumping in the river would feel after we spent a little while in the sun. So we piled into two cars and set off on the adventure, only to find that the stand appeared to be all but abandoned upon our arrival.

My heart sank. After our outing to the terribly disappointing Conway strawberry festival (which, yes, was also upon my insistence), I had promised that this experience today would make up for the let down of the last. Yet when we pulled up to the stand, we were met only by an unenthusiastic teenage boy most likely set up by his parents to sell what appeared to be some store bought blueberries and the remaining of their homemade jams. I leaned out to ask if we could still go pick berries from the field and was answered with the information that strawberry season was “officially over”. The situation was looking increasingly bleak by the moment, and everyone knew it. But with our Shoestring crew tenacity we pushed further.

“Can we go look? Just check if there’s anything?”

“I mean, there’s nothing there, the season is over, but I guess you can go look if you want”

After a minute or two of debating amongst ourselves, Adam decided that was all the permission we needed, and that it was at least worth the look. Within about a minute of stepping out of the car and into the fields, we were sure glad we took this opportunity. Strawberries could be seen from nearly right off the road. End of the season? No more left? Had these people been blind? Some of the rows towards the back appeared to never have even been picked this season. We hit strawberry a secret heaven and it was all ours!

We grabbed any container we could find. Whether it be stray cups from the car, an old tote bag, our shirt ends folded over to double as a sack, or left over picking containers strewn through the fields. We filled them all. Everywhere you turned you were met by berries even bigger and more abundant than the last you grabbed. We continued like this for over an hour, scouring row after row until our fingers were died red and our stomachs began to ache. I won’t lie, a few of us may have gone a little strawberry mad.


In the end though, our berry insanity paid off big time. We sorted the loot into categories of strawberries that could be eaten in the next few days, those that needed to be used immediately, and those that we would freeze to save. This, believe me, was no easy task, but well worth it when we had enough strawberry pie, strawberry shortcake, and strawberry smoothies to last us to the end of the summer. Moral of the story: strawberry season isn’t over until the Shoestring crew says it’s over.

October 9, 2013, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Recreation

By Joe Kendrick


The heat wave that has lingered for the past two weeks finally broke on Saturday night. I’ll certainly be sleeping easier, and field work will be a lot more pleasant, but I’m sad to say that the cooler temperatures might make tubing a bit less attractive. This past Saturday and the one before, every crew member who was around grabbed a cheap, colorful plastic inner tube and eagerly jumped into the Saco River. Both times we put in just above the Second Iron railroad bridge and floated down past the slabs until we felt like getting out. The ride takes somewhere between two and three hours, but you hardly notice the time going by.

The effects of Irene on the riverbank are still pretty obvious. In many places the river follows a channel in the middle of a barren field of boulders. The rapids here can be a bit shallow, and a couple of us definitely hit our butts pretty hard on the rocks. If it hadn’t been such a wet summer I don’t know what we would have done at these spots, but as it was we were able to make the entire run without getting out of our tubes.

None of the rapids on this stretch of the river are at all dangerous, but a few do feel pretty intense while you’re going down them in a tube. Just after second iron, five minutes into the trip there’s a spot where you shoot down the river and get flung around a bunch of big rocks, which is always a blast. At the slabs, the water rushes over a smooth sheet of granite, and you slide right on down into a big splash at the bottom. We’ve become experts at running the rapids, but it’s really a wonder that no one’s tube has snagged on a rock and popped. So far there’s only been one wipe out; at the very end of our last run, Craig was going down a rapid backwards and flipped completely over. His tube was spotted floating empty down the river and retrieved. A minute later he was spotted a hundred yards upstream stumbling towards the bank looking dazed but otherwise unscathed.

Bump Set Shoestring!
August 8, 2013, 6:50 pm
Filed under: Recreation

By Megan McLin

It was a hot scorching Fourth of July at the BEF. The sun was in full effect and the food preparations were underway, but what fun activity could possibly seize the day? Kickball came to mind however, we didn’t have an actual kickball. Subsequently, horseshoe came to the mind but, we needed a fun fast pacing sport that could have everyone involved to play at the same time. Aha! An epiphany came to mind. A lonely volleyball that sat in the dorm was waiting to be spiked. Everyone had agreed that volleyball would be the BEF’s recreational activity for the shoestring crew. However, it was fun to bump the ball back and forth to each other but a net was needed in order to get the full excitement of the game.


A net for the volleyball game could not be funded in the budget this year however, that didn’t stop Adam and I from constructing a net on our own. Except what could we possibly use for a net? The only possible solution that came to my head when thinking about a net was the MELNHE plots. I know your thinking, trampling the MELNHE plot that’s forbidden! However, what I was thinking specifically was the snow fence that surrounds the plots.


The snow fence is very sturdy yet flexible and behaves like volleyball net. So, in search Adam and I went to the garage to find our supplies for the volleyball net. By Adam being more construction savvy than I, he found the other needed supplies to support the volleyball net.

To begin setting up the net, we cut the snow fence into three equal pieces that would stretch across the two poles that we found. We then set both poles and anchored them by ropes staked to the ground. Image

Moreover with hard effort our volleyball net was complete and ready for action! Everyone was in awe about how we legitimately made the volleyball net looked (in which I give more credit to Adam’s construction knowledge). Moreover, when everyone was done staring at the beautiful masterpiece, it was finally time to play volleyball. Everyone seemed to get the hang  of the sport even though there were funny mistakes here and there. Volleyball at the BEF has become a huge fun recreational activity that everyone has enjoyed. I hope that this activity stays as a new tradition for years to come at the BEF.

2013 Summer Budgets in Shoestring Project
August 8, 2013, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Cooking in the white house

By Tony Dong

It is not easy to manage the budget. Craig said this is the worst job in this world. In the past, Kikang used to be the person who took charge of the living expenses of the shoestring crew. This year, Tony took the job from Kikang because he thought if this was the worst job in the world, then all the other jobs he is going to do in the future must be better ones.

This summer, we still charge each person $6 dollars per day. Usually, people who own cars could go to North Conway and buy the food (Fig. 1) for crews. There are several large food stores in the town (i.e. Hannaford, Walmart, Grant’s). Also, we could also do the grocery shopping at Price Chopper in Lincoln if we get a chance to do some field work in Hubbard Brook or Jeffers Brook.  Later, all the receipts (Fig.2) were handed to Tony for organizing budget sheet. This year, we are doing a good job. Though the summer is closing in the corner, we still have some leftover money! Maybe we can buy ice cream (Fig. 3) or beer (Fig.4) in the end!

Grocery Star: Eric     Record:  $203.14 at one time in PriceChopper

Fig. 1


Fig. 2


Fig. 3Image

Fig. 4Image

Soil core installation, summer 2013
July 23, 2013, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Roots

By Brannon Barr


Question:  How do you determine if a particular soil component has an effect on root growth?

Answer: Soil coring.


After working under the direction of Melany Fisk and Shinjini Goswami, I got all the inside dirt on this procedure.  It is done by removing and amending a column of soil, reinserting it, waiting a specified length of time, and re-extracting the column to evaluate whether the amendment encouraged root growth.  We are interested in the conditions under which a mineral called apatite (Ca5(PO4)3(OH,F,Cl)) may serve as a source of calcium and/or phosphorus to plants, and so our amendment was the addition of apatite.  For the materials in apatite to be accessible to plants it must be chemically weathered, which plants cannot do on their own.  This task is performed by symbiotic fungi that colonize plant roots (known as mycorrhizal fungi).  In addition to being able to chemically weather rock, these fungi increase the water and mineral absorption capabilities of the plant roots.  In exchange for these services, plants supply the fungi with photosynthetically derived carbohydrates such as glucose and sucrose.  It may be predicted that when calcium and phosphorus are scarce in mineral soil plants will put more effort into mechanisms for acquiring these nutrients, such as the production of enzymes that break down phosphorus containing compounds in the soil and the growth of root structures to provide more area for mycorrhizal fungi to colonize.  If calcium and phosphorus are freely available in the soil, it is more advantageous for plants to invest their effort elsewhere.

Melany installing a soil core using a high tech "pusher outer."

Melany installing a soil core using a high tech “pusher outer.”

We collected soil by driving PVC pipes 20 centimeters into the mineral soil and then pulling them back out.  The soil was then pushed out of the PVC pipe with a smaller piece of PVC pipe (an “extruder,” to use the fancy term, or a “pusher-outer,” to use the really fancy term).  Forest floor was collected off the top, and the 0-10 and 10-20 centimeter depth portions were separated.  These were then sifted to remove rocks and roots.  In order to assure that the cores were all the same except for the addition of apatite, for each experimental plot all the 10-20 cm soil was combined and homogenized, as was all of the 0-10 cm soil and all of the forest floor.  The soil was reinstalled by adding 5 cm of the 10-20 fraction, lightly pressing with the extruder and adding a little water, another 5 cm, another light pressing and adding a little water, repeating with the 0-10 cm fraction, and topping it off with some forest floor.

Freshly extracted forest soil.  The upper half of the sample is noticeably darker due to higher organic matter content.

Freshly extracted forest soil. The upper half of the sample is noticeably darker due to higher organic matter content.

For every site in which we installed cores, two were enriched with apatite and two were left untreated to give us a baseline for root growth.  We installed cores in our calcium treated plots and their corresponding control plots (no treatment).  We will re-extract the cores in a year to evaluate the extent to which new roots colonized the soil we inserted.  Using a full factorial design, Melany and Shinjini will attempt to tease out to what extent and under what conditions apatite serves as a source of calcium, phosphorus, or both together.

Shinjini giving the soil a thorough mixing.

Shinjini giving the soil a thorough mixing.

This process was certainly not without its challenges.  I’m glad I did this before joining the rest of the crew with fertilizing, because fertilizing was a breeze in comparison.  It requires finding just the right spot; sometimes we would drive the PVC pipe in part way and it would come up against a root or a rock that is a complete impasse, so we would have to use the extruder to push it back into place, find another spot, and try again.  Of course, a power corer could cut right through these impediments, but for this study we would not want to cut through rock because it could alter the mineral content of the soil.  So we had to just do it manually, by pounding the PVC pipe corers into the ground with mallets.  About half the time, the pipes were very difficult to pull back out.  We could only twist them to loosen; side to side action would have distorted the hole.  At times I felt like I was trying to pull Excalibur out of the stone.  Also, there was no consistency with how much force it took to push the soil out.  If it was rather loose, the soil was liable to fly out into a big pile and getting all mixed up.  More often, though, it was very hard to push out, and sometimes we had to pound on the end of the extruder with a mallet, taking care to keep the other end still.  Great pains had to be taken to disturb the forest floor as little as possible, or we risked drawing Melany’s wrath (JK Melanie, you were quite pleasant to work with).  The humidity was intense on those days, and the mosquitoes were so awful it was like getting attacked by flying piranhas.  I’ve experienced some vicious mosquitoes in my life, but only in our C8 plot have I encountered mosquitoes that can bite me right through my jeans.  No joke, I had bites all over my lower half.  So I came out of the field feeling like I needed a transfusion, and I could have stuck my clothes to the wall.  The things we do for science!  I look forward to seeing the results.




Sweet Times in Shoestring Plots
July 23, 2013, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Winter

By Adam Wild


*View from Bear Notch Road in the winter

As winter temperatures begin to warm  and the first signs of winter drawing  to a close appear, if you listen very carefully you can hear something mysterious happening in the Shoestring plots.  Drip…….drip…..drip.    Blanketed in over a meter of snow and no rustling leaves, the woods are eerily silent except for an occasional snowmobile tourist or dog sled team on Bear Notch Road and drip…..drip.  The sound penetrates throughout the forest stand,  drip……..drip.  The sound is sweet to the ears, drip…..drip.  What is the sound?  It comes from the sugar maples trees releasing their sweet maple sap.


*Maple sap dripping into one of my test tubes for analysis


* Shoestring Stand C8, plot 1 in the winter

After spending a summer in the Shoestring plots where ther e is a lot of hustle and bustle it is strange to be in the shoestring plots in the winter all alone.  The woods open up into new views  not visible during the summer months.   The forest is peaceful in the winter as the trees are enjoying a nice long rest from all the Shoestring Interns. However, near the end of winter they starts to wake up in anticipation of a new group of awesome young scientist who will come and feed them either N, P, N&P or Ca (the control trees are not quite as happy as they get nothing) and who will come asses how well they’re performing.  The trees like to think of us as doctors or even officials in a fierce competition where each one is trying to prove they are better. Image

*Bear Notch Road is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter


* I was only able to access a couple of the stands by skiing in with all my gear

Freezing temperatures at night and day time temperatures above freezing allow the magnificent sugar maples to draw up their sweet sap into their branches at night and release back down into the roots when it thaws.  The sap can be collected as it drops back down the tree and boiled down to make maple syrup, yum! No pancake is complete without tasty maple syrup.  My project is to go around to the Shoestring sugar maples and test the sweetness of their sap and see whether the nutrient additions increase the sweetness of the sap.  Sweeter sap allows you to make more maple syrup from the same amount of sap.  More maple syrup, more pancakes!


* Fresh Maple Syrup I Made


* The White House in The WinterImage

*Testing the Sweetness of Maple Sap with a Digital Refractometer


*Enjoying Fresh Maple Sap



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