Charles Batey, the man behind the trees, had an appreciation for the outdoors from a very early age. Climbing waterfalls on the Cumberland Plateau, spending summers camping in the woods of Tennessee, rafting down white waters--he just couldn’t stay away, thanks to his Father’ influence. As he matured in life, so did his skills of backpacking and rock climbing.
A native to Jefferson City, TN, well versed in the woods of Cherokee Lake, a University of Tennessee Alumni of geography and mapping techniques, a regular at the Devil’s Racetrack in Lake City...Charles is no stranger to the hills of East TN. This gave him insight into the landscape and environment.
There was always a love and appreciation for the Great Outdoors at the foundation of who Charles was. When the opportunity to travel abroad in South America presented itself, he took it. Utilizing the Patagonia field school by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Charles studied alpine rock and ice mountaineering, multi-pitch rock climbing and Leave No Trace wilderness ethics.
He would later make his way to the Redwoods, north of San Francisco where he studied traditional wilderness skills such as animal tracking, starting a fire without matches and understanding bird language. Shortly after, Portland, Oregon’s bicycle-centric urban life caught his eye for a period of time. It was in Portland where Charles pursued Environmental Studies at Portland State University.
He ventured into becoming a field mapping technician for the National Park Service in North Cascades National Park, a once in a lifetime opportunity. This allowed him to survey plant communities to test the accuracy of satellite imagery compiled into computer generated maps.
His last project for his degree involved an urban forestry project for the University District in the City of Portland. Charles was able to present this in-depth research as well as recommendations for future action and maintenance. Naturally, a passion for tree care and improving nature/urban interfaces was born, as a result.
Because of Tennessee’s intense forestry and his familiarity with that region, Charles set up shop back home. Landing a job at a local tree company, Charles worked his way up until he was running a bucket/climbing crew himself. This would eventually lead to him opening his own tree care business in the late summer of 2018, originally known as Valley and Ridge Tree Care.
Settled in East Tennessee, Charles finds himself volunteering twice a month at Ijams Nature Center leading field trips for school kids.
It’s with such a deep and rich foundation grounded in understanding nature, that Knox Tree Care values honorable tree removal and diagnoses. Always educating clients on whether there is an alternative to tree removal or not, such as a pruning solution.
When you do business with us, you’ll know from the start we are about your tree, it’s in our name.
As a bit of background for this post, I encourage you to check out treepeople.org/22-benefits-of-trees/ as well as treesaregood.org/treeowner/benefitsoftrees that way you can follow along with me as I work my way through their lists. I will not, however, be working my way through the lists numerically, so if you have a favorite benefit that you’d like me to elaborate upon, make sure to say so in the comments, and if you’re sufficiently convincing, I’ll do yours next.
As I write this, it’s August 24th, sooo close to the formal conclusion of the summer. Now, in East Tennessee, the seasons can be fickle, with spring weather showing up unexpectedly in June and fall peeking it’s head out in July. But you can bet we have our share of hot summer days left between now and September 21st. Still, it feels like October is just around the corner, so close you can reach out and touch it.
Full disclosure, October is my favorite month. Cool, crisp, dry days with cloudless blue skies. In the morning, the dense fog socks you in so tight that the world may as well not exist beyond the tip of your dripping nose. Then there’s the nights, when the stars finally begin to return from their summer vacation and the night sky reaches out beyond the edges of the imagination! And, at last, October brings respite from the oppressive heat of the summer and welcomes back another, more sociable source of heat, the fire pit.
Maybe you don’t work and live outside like I do, and maybe these intimate experiences I’m describing aren’t as readily available to you. That’s okay, there’s sure to be one thing about the onset of fall that you can’t miss, the changing of the leaves. I’m a big believer in the value of the urban forest for so many reasons, but this unavoidable reminder of our connection to the planet and the seasons is a benefit that stands on its own. Even in the most densely urban places in America, pretty much everyone sees trees. Whether its outside your window, or the window of your car, bus, or train on your commute, urban trees provide a splash of color and organic variety.
There’s a saying you’ve likely heard, that “variety is the spice of life”. I figure trees are like spices for the eyes, and while some of us have the luxury to live among many trees or in human built environments that are organically lush and interesting, even the blandest concrete mid rises begin to look palatable with a tree on the corner.
We know the 4 seasons that we all learned in elementary school, but consider this, if you have 4 different trees, each with their own seasonal timing, then you’d have 4 distinct flowerings, 4 different shapes/shades of green of summer leaves, 4 different color palettes of fall foliage, and 4 distinct color/texture/shape combinations of bark, branch, and growth pattern visible in the leafless winter. That’s at least 16 different “flavors”. A Michelin star chef can make a world class meal with less than half that many spices. That makes trees a feast for your eyes!
In fact, 16 flavors are more than enough for folks to have favorites and even dislikes among them. I bring this up because I want to cast doubt upon the popular malignment of winter. I remember being a kid, growing up out in the country and wandering the woods of East Tennessee. In the wintertime, I always thought the trees were so dull. I thought everything was the same boring, drab color. But the older I got, and the closer I paid attention, the more I appreciated the winter woods. The first thing I learned to notice was the beautiful contrast in early winter between the freshly fallen leaves on the ground, a brightly varied mix of yellow, orange, and red, and the ghostly grey-to-black trunks of the trees. Add the garnish of a rare early winter rain, and the colors pop out even more dramatically. Then I learned to notice that with all the undergrowth taking up so much less visual space, I could see the terrain. Suddenly all the hidden folds and furrows in the land were so obvious, when just a month or two prior, that variety had been hidden by a wall of shapeless green. Makes you wonder what critters may have been hiding there watching from the cool shade as you busily hiked or worked all summer.
Perhaps you, Dear Reader, don’t have access to proper woods like what I’m describing, but you do have trees on your block. Here’s something unique you can see in wintertime. When all the leaves fall off, take a close look at the trunk and branches of the trees near your home. Look at the infinitely unique angles of the branch attachments or the patterns in the bark. --- Lay down on the ground with your head pointing toward the trunk as though you’re the spoke on a wheel and look straight up. Look at the patterns the branches impose upon the sky, nature’s abstract art, all full of erratic geometry and fractal repetition. The winter may seem cold and bleak at first glance, but with a little curiosity, you’ll find there’s life hiding under the snow.
And then there’s the spring, the obvious child, the popular kid, the one everyone can’t help but love (except those with allergies, a camp I’m fortunate not to inhabit). First, we have the flowering cherries with their waterfalls of frothy flowers and the much-maligned Bradford pears dotting the hillsides like the purest clouds descended from the heavens. And then come the magnolias, if flying saucers looked like these dinner plate sized flowers, perhaps folks wouldn’t fear them. And then the red buds with their vibrant purple blossoms, racing to catch up, and so excited to make their impact on the world that in their rush, they flower from the trunks of their trees as well as the tips. Alas, their impatience is our blessing for their beauty is multiplied. The list goes on, too long to count here. But the spring affords us another chance to connect with nature by having our very own favorite flowering tree.
Finally, we come back around to where we are now. A year older. Maybe wiser. Maybe grayer, stiffer, tired-er. Back to the hot, dirty summer full of labors for the active steward of the land. Some times, in some places, the steward might let nature run her course, but not all places, that’s where the summer’s labors come in. The summer is the time of growth and the subsequent “management-of-growth” for the harvest or other purpose. Sometimes that means watering when the sun is hot but the rain is nowhere to be found. Other times that management means pruning. After all, in East Tennessee, the summer is the time of wild growth. Some species of trees grow feet per year given the right conditions. They must have some grasses in their family tree.
Now, I wouldn’t be a proper East Tennessean if I didn’t hand you the obligatory line about crops needing rain, etc… as though I’m some sort of farmer, living off the land (hobby farming with a few grapes and chickens, as is my case, hardly counts, and if anyone is the farmer, it’s wife. She’s far more legit than me). So, forgive me for perpetuating the trope. But now that I’ve spun it, I can say there’s one key thing missing from that summer narrative above. If you’ve ever worked outside, you’ve surely already worked it out.
That’s right. Shade. Always rest in the shade, those are words to live by if I’ve ever heard them. If there’s one marker of the summer season that can’t be missed its shade. Many of us love to soak up the sun after its long sojourn away from us in winter, but I don’t care how tan you are, that sucker is hot, and shade inevitably becomes a necessity. An umbrella, or a picnic shelter may be nice, and they can get the job done in a pinch, but they’re paltry substitutes for lying in the shade, on the soft grass, being lulled to sleep by the whispering of branches in the breeze.
It’s been a bit of a journey, so let’s remind ourselves why we are here. Tree benefit #13: Trees Mark The Seasons. No matter where you live, whether it’s a forest full of towering trees, a desert scattered about with compact bushes, or an urban block with only one tree, the next time your life needs some variety, look to your trees. If you keep your eyes and your mind open, you’ll quickly see trees as a portal that connects you to the movement and change of the world around you. And if you’re like me, you’ll find that this connection opens your heart.
When my husband first told me of the chestnut trees planted at Panther Creek State Park, I hadn’t realized it was part of a much larger movement. Still, I was curious about the new trees, so we took our kids to see them and read the plaque near the freshly planted grove.
Later, I discovered that the six trees are one of five demonstration groves in state parks across Tennessee as part of a decades-long project to restore the American Chestnut Tree. These groves have two each of pure American Chestnut, Chinese Chestnut, and a crossbreed between the two.
Restoration Chestnuts, as they’ve been dubbed, took years to breed. Starting with a 50/50 crossbreed between American and Chinese Chestnuts, researchers bred that combination with the pure American Chestnut. This process was repeated until they got a tree that is 15/16 American Chestnut and 1/16 Chinese Chestnut. The hope is that the small amount of Chinese Chestnut bred in will give the crossbreed immunity to the Chestnut blight, enabling them to flourish while retaining the characteristics of the American Chestnut.
It will still be several years before we know how successful the Restoration Chestnuts are. Fortunately, there’s another project being worked on to help fight the blight. When Chestnut Blight attacks a tree, infected cankers form on the trunk. At the edge of these cankers, the blight produces high amounts of oxalate, which kills the tree’s tissues. This enables the infection to expand through the weakened tree.
Several other plants are known for being attacked with oxalate. Wheat, one of these plants, has developed a defensive enzyme called oxalate oxidase. This gene takes oxalic acid, released by the oxalate, and converts it into carbon dioxide and hydrogen peroxide. Scientists are working on inserting that gene into the American Chestnut to help it fight off damage from the blight.
This method has some bonuses. First, while the trees will be able to mitigate the damage caused by the blight, the blight will still be able to infect them and spread. That sounds like a massive negative, right? Well, it’s actually beneficial because since the survival of the blight won’t be put in jeopardy, it won’t need to evolve to survive. This means that the risk of the blight becoming more damaging and in return undoing years of work, is relatively low.
Secondly, the hydrogen peroxide by-product has the potential to strengthen the lignin inside the cell walls of the trunk, raising its chances of surviving infection even more. And, lastly, the chestnut that grows will be completely genetically American Chestnut, instead of a crossbreed.
Still, if it means the return of such a mighty tree, does it matter if it is “only” 96% American Chestnut?
Stress and anxiety levels seem to be constantly on the rise these days. With all the circumstances that add to daily stress, it’s important to find ways to alleviate the tension build-up. In short bursts, stress is beneficial for your body, but over time it actually causes damage to your immune system, weakening your defense against disease and illness. Preventative steps like meditation, yoga, or behavioral therapy help to offset the damage, however.
Drought stress works the same way in trees. There are many ailments that target trees, some of which target specific species. With healthy trees, these afflictions have a hard time taking hold. On the other hand, once drought stress has caused enough damage, trees become unable to fight them off.
A regular watering regimen is essential for lowering the risk of drought stress, and for helping trees recover. Watering won’t help as much, however, if it’s all being gulped up by grass too close to the thirsty roots. Grass has a multitude of small roots, and will selfishly absorb high amounts of water quickly.
Luckily, there are solutions that provide more benefits than just keeping the grass at bay. An island of sheet mulching, alternating between different soil enriching materials, out to the drip line is a fantastic option. It enables the creation of quality soil while keeping away grass. The layers also keep the water from evaporating quickly.
If plain mulch doesn’t satisfy your aesthetic desires, mix in shrubs and herbaceous plants; non-woody perennials such as Oriental poppies, Mayapples, and Peonies. These will not only look nice but also provide natural fertilizer over time, without hogging all the water.
Setting aside time for yourself is essential. Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting still, in fact, there are several tasks that become a type of moving meditation. For many, gardening and caring for their land gives them the same benefits as others get from sitting still. Taking the steps to protect your trees from stress may also improve your own health at the same time. What are you waiting for?
The Knoxville, Tennessee of today is much different than the one of seventy years ago. That can be said of most places, it’s true, but there’s more to the story with Knoxville. See, in 1947, John Gunther, a well-known journalist and travel writer, visited Knoxville while researching a book and returned home to write the paragraph that became a catalyst of change:
“Knoxville is the ugliest city I ever saw in America,
with the possible exception of some mill towns in New England.”
— John Gunther, “Inside U.S.A.” (1946)
His review didn’t end there, continuing with several scathing remarks about the city. It wasn’t the first time Knoxville’s looks had been insulted, but it was the one with the highest views. As you can imagine, especially if you know any Southerners, Knoxvillians did not take kindly to his review of their home.
Good ol’ Southern pride sparked up among the dwellers of the city, and in 1955 the Dogwood Trails initiative began. Over the years, they’ve planted numerous trees, including Tennessee’s state tree; the Dogwood. Twelve paths that are enjoyable by foot, bike, or car have also been created.
With their progress in their beautification goals, they started throwing festivals to celebrate art and culture. There are many different ones throughout the year, but their biggest and most popular annual event is coming up.
On April 24-26, the 59th annual Dogwood Arts Festival will take over the streets of Downtown Knoxville. In celebration of Spring and the blooming Dogwoods, there will be live music, art displays, and activities for adults and kids alike to enjoy. Driving lanes will be marked for appreciating nature’s art, Dogwood trees in full bloom.
*Update* As I was getting ready to post this, I saw that all events for April have been postponed until further notice.
Over the years since the creation of Dogwood Arts, Knoxville has shifted from “the ugliest city” to a hub of artistic splendor. Sadly, he never made it back to see any of the changes made, but if John Gunther were alive today he’d have a hard time even recognizing the city Knoxville has become.
It’s not big news that the Smoky Mountain area of today is much different than it was in the 1800s. Much has changed, but an overwhelming factor of that was the decline of the American Chestnut tree. Once, the region was ruled by the mighty Chestnut, which grew up to almost 100 feet tall, towering over most of the other trees around.
When it comes to building materials, it’s hard to beat the American Chestnut. They grow incredibly fast, especially for such a large tree. The wood is naturally rot-resistant, and incredibly hard. It also grows straighter than many other trees, making it easier to use for larger builds like houses and barns.
The American Chestnut tree wasn’t just a high-quality building material, however. It played a crucial role in everyday life. Each tree grew several pounds of chestnuts, starting at only 7 or 8 years old. With around 4 billion trees spanning most of the eastern United States, there were plenty of nuts to go around. The nuts that fell were an important food source for animals and people alike. They could also be gathered and traded for other staples, like shoes or clothes. In fact, they were such an integral part of life that roasting chestnuts became synonymous with the holiday season.
Then, in the 1900s, everything changed. The Chestnut blight, a fungus; Cryphonectria parasitica, made its way to North America through trees imported from Japan. The blight damages the inner bark and trunk of the trees, leaving them unable to repair themselves and recover. Since it doesn’t damage the roots, sometimes new shoots will grow from them, but they rarely get to 20 feet tall before being struck by the blight and dying again.
As fungi are known to do, the blight spread like wildfire, attacking the giant trees. While Chinese Chestnut trees had built up an immunity to the blight, the American Chestnut was defenseless. In a matter of years, an estimated 4 billion trees were decimated by the fungus, completely changing the landscape and economy of the Smoky Mountain area.
All hope is not completely gone, though. In remote areas where the American Chestnut tree was not originally dominant, like Michigan, there are trees that grow free of the blight. American Chestnut trees are no longer dominant in Eastern North America, but they’re not completely extinct, either. It’s possible they’ll even make a comeback.
You may have noticed, we have a shiny new logo, website, and name. (Not to mention the super cool new chip truck that you may have seen in our Facebook videos.) We haven't had a change of ownership, nor did the Valley and Ridge name get dragged through the mud. Frankly, all the newness is a sign of the success of 2019.
The new name does a better job of showing who we are and what we are about. In the beginning, the company was called Valley and Ridge Forestry, but that was misleading because folks thought we were a timber company, not an urban forestry company, which, turns out, is a too-fancy term for residential tree service.
Then we change to Valley and Ridge Tree Care to show that we were less about cutting down trees for timber and more about trimming and removing residential trees, with a particular emphasis on caring for those trees as best we are able. But that proved to be cumbersome and long. You wouldn't believe how often the name of the company was mispronounced or misspelled. Heck, even I get a little mush mouth from time to time and blur all those words together. Some folks thought I was saying "Valiant Ridge" ... which may not actually be a bad name
We settled on Knox Tree Care because its simple, clean, easy to remember and it says who we are and what we are about better than any of the previous names, by a long shot. We're really excited about the new look and the new name. So we promise to stop changing things up on you. But rest assured, we are still the same caring company you know and trust.
We still offer the same great services as before.
This is still our favorite way to do things. Wherever possible, we offer pruning and trimming based solutions to problem trees. Our specialty is valuable trees close to houses (keep an eye out for future posts about strategies for managing these)
As much as we love to keep trees, the homeowner has to live with them. If the likelihood of property damage is too high, or if the tree is too unhealthy or storm damaged, or simply isn't playing well with the property, then we can definitely remove it.
Those big, valuable, hundred-plus year old trees are definitely lightning rods, and if you want them to stay healthy for the long run, you should seriously consider installing a lightning protection system. Check out this link for more information. A300 Lightning Protection for Trees
In case you didn't already guess. This is a big key to how we manage trees close to houses. A support cable in the canopy can provide extra insurance against breakage, and when properly installed can last for the life of the tree (which is typically longer than that of a human)
Due to popular demand, we are now able to fulfill the following services.
Big, beautiful ball and burlap trees are a great way to jump start an ornamental garden or a shady lawn. We can install trees up to 3 inches in diameter.
We are moving beyond simply pruning trees, and are now offering soil amendment prescriptions for trees in order further improve their beauty and vitality. Did you know, in many ornamental and fruiting varieties, different nutrients are needed for leaf and vegetative growth versus fruit and flower growth. Ask about a soil test to see what nutrients your tree needs to be its healthiest and most beautiful.
With today’s technology, we have limitless information at our fingertips and getting an answer to your burning questions is as simple as opening up your phone and typing in your favorite search engine. It’s so simple, we hardly even think about it.
Ecosia is a search engine that uses Bing’s technology, but their own algorithms. Like other search engines, Ecosia utilizes advertising to generate income. However, they are the first search engine to dedicate 80% of their profits to planting trees. What doesn’t go toward planting trees gets set aside to plan for bigger projects with higher amounts of necessary capital.
While the exact output of CO2 caused by search engines isn’t known, it’s estimated to range from 10-20g per search. This relatively small number adds up quickly, especially with an average of over 40,000 searches per second on Google alone. Joana Moll created a site that calculates the emissions from Google in the amount of time you’ve had the page open. Watching how quickly the number rises is sobering, given that a quick internet search is not something we normally consider a pollutant.
There have been several posts going around spreading the idea that Ecosia is a scam or worse; a virus. There is no evidence to support this, however, and it seems to come from a desire to generate views rather than a desire to find out the truth. While the Google Chrome extension does have permissions that are apt to make people wary, like the ability to see login information on websites, the truth is their permissions don’t differ much from those of other search engines.
As for whether or not they’re a scam we need to delve into their credentials. Ecosia is a certified class B corporation, a business that balances profit and charitable works, their financial data is published monthly, and they work with local groups and known charities such as the Jane Goodall Institute. If they weren’t actually doing what they say, I believe they wouldn’t be as forthcoming.
Working with local groups, Ecosia helps plant trees in 15 different countries. There are 35 known biodiversity hotspots; a location with a high amount of unique species. These places face extreme threats, but they’re vital to the ecosystem due to the fact that even though they only consist of less than 3% of the Earth’s surface, they are home to over 40% of animal species not found in any other area. Despite their importance, these hotspots have declined by 70% over the years, therefore, one of Ecosia’s big missions involves restoring them to their former glory.
Really, the answer to this question remains solely a personal choice. Ecosia has definite shortcomings, such as, search results that aren’t as rich, and unlike Google, results aren’t often displayed directly on the search page. As more people use their platform, however, they’ve been able to make improvements; one being the new shortcuts for searches. For example, if you’d like to go straight to map results, just type #m at the end of your search and you’ll be automatically be brought to Google maps.
When compared side by side next to Google, Ecosia doubtlessly is the weaker search engine, however, they give people an opportunity for passively effecting change without even having to put much thought into it. How often do you have the chance to say that?
Leaves falling off trees in August and throughout the rest of fall always seem to bring a bundle of mixed emotions with them. Children become excited about jumping in leaf piles, but for adults, leaves may bring dread of lawn care tasks to come. This often involves a laborious effort of stuffing them into garbage bags to be discarded at the side of the road with garbage pickup, however, there are more efficient and environmentally friendly options.
Allowing leaves to break down and fertilize the soil is a great way to deal with them. Unfortunately, if just left alone, they’ll create a moisture barrier where mold grows easily and other damage to your lawn is likely. The best solution for this is to use a lawnmower to run over the fallen leaves, which works best if you have a lawnmower with a chop setting. This will allow them to break down and nourish your lawn without the risk of causing damage.
Does cold weather drive you to snuggle up and working on something crafty? Bring fall indoors with a seemingly endless variety of leaf art possibilities. Also, if this is right up your alley, you could kill two birds with one stone: lower the number of leaves in your yard and get ahead on gift planning.
Adding compost into your soil is a great way to improve the amount of nutrients in it and provide for your plants better. Fallen leaves are a fantastic addition to your compost pile. If you don’t already have one, starting up a compost pile is as simple as creating a pile out of leaves and other plant matter. Turn it every 3-4 weeks and by the time planting season begins, it should be ready to use. Using the lawnmower method mentioned above before adding the leaves into your compost pile helps them decompose faster.
Big fires outside are banned in several areas, due to the harmful air contaminants they release. Allergens, mold, and soot are just waiting to be dispensed into the air once lit. If you have a wood stove, however, some of the leaves in your yard can be used as kindling to warm your home. This keeps the harmful aspects contained while putting the leaves to use.
Although they might seem unsightly, leaf piles become protective homes for several different creatures. Consider leaving some small piles around the edge of your yard, or where they’d do the least damage to your lawn, for sheltering frogs, mice, birds, and other small creatures seeking warmth.
Whether you’re excited about fall or dreading dealing with a yard full of leaves, disposing of your leaves in an environmentally friendly way is important.
Transylvania: the land of vampires and Count Dracula. Except, is it? Most locals disregard the vampire tales, and while Dracula’s castle is indeed impressive, it’s not solely homage to a mythical beast. The castle is full of historical significance.
While vampires aren’t a favored tale in Transylvania, they do have a spot rumored to be full of demons and spirits, possibly even aliens. It’s said to be the most haunted forest in the world. Even the trees, desperately in need of a tree care specialist, seem haunted, with their gnarled, mangled trunks and branches that twist and reach out as if to grasp you.
For many, the suspense starts before even entering the forest, with orbs of unidentified light hovering just inside the tree line, as if daring them to enter. No one knows where the lights come from, or what causes them.
If they accept the dare and enter the woods, they might just experience strange occurrences. Technology has a tendency to just stop working, and people have reported feeling high amounts of anxiety, developing random unexplained rashes, migraines, burns, and vomiting. And of course, the feeling that someone; or something, is watching them. Often called the Bermuda Triangle of Romania, the Hoia-Baciu forest is known for people entering, never to be seen again.
Deep in the forest, is a clearing said to be at the center of all the paranormal activity. It’s an almost perfect circle, and scientists have been unable to explain why trees won’t grow in it. This has caused many to believe it’s some sort of portal to a demonic realm. Pictures that are taken in the clearing often have shadowy figures or faces in them. People of all persuasions flock to the clearing, some trying to harness the supposed power it holds, others trying to get rid of it.
A picture from the 1960s, taken by Alexandru Sift, a biologist, is what started all the intrigue surrounding the forest. In it, a bright disk is hovering above the forest. This sparked tales of aliens in the woods, and over the next few years, many witnesses stepped forward saying they had seen UFOs.
Over the years, the tales moved away from aliens a bit, and more toward demons and uneasy spirits. Still, the legend of the Hoia-Baciu forest lives on just as strong. Do you believe the Hoia-Baciu forest is haunted? Would you accept the dare to step into its shadows?