Road-trip and some work

head_cutterAugust 18, 2010

This trip snowballed. I do some work for 2 different Agent Orange NGO's here, one from the US and another from Vietnam. The brat and I were asked to go 50 km north to a small village/commune and get pictures of a victim and family showing living conditions because we're working on building a new house for them...they live in a mud over bamboo mat shack.

We were also asked to visit a very poor school and check to see what they need and if we could help in any way.

So...after treating us to dinner we had to find a place to stay...that's where fate stepped in. We could backtrack 6-8 km along the rough back road then make an after-dark-20km-suicide run on highway 1 or stay at a small back-road mini-hotel (individual little bungelows)...we chose door number 2. When we pulled into the yard, even at dusk, I was impressed.

The area behind the place was lined with rows of huge ficus and a few other tropicals...all overgrown and obviously healthy as hell!!

I roamed a little and didn't get to see much until we had breakfast with the owner the next morning. He has a little E and, with my V and a built in translator, we could talk about the trees. He admitted that, although he loves Bonsai, he has no idea where to start with these big ones and that's all he has!!!!

This is one of the 'little' ones...

With fruit...

Drinking coffee and eating breakfast was torture, I wanted to tear into that beauty!!!

I told him I would be glad to help begin the styling of a number of the trees...he loved the idea. There are 3 that are the size of a VW and these are all collected trees from that area.

It's only an hour away by motorbike, we have a place to stay with food and beer. We can check the progress of the house and school, the 'brat' can mess with the kids and I can work on some really big tropicals...could it be any better?? I can't think of a better way to spend a few?? weekends.


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You're going to take home a VW on a motorbike? Well, I guess leaving it for him to learn on is not a bad idea either - if he spreads the word, and you go back in a year, you could find a whole village of bonsai'd figs and a whole new crop of 'teachers'! Just think, you could be responsible for rejuvenating half the country:-).

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 5:44AM
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I don't think I'll be hauling one home on the moto. I have 2 reasons to be there so it will make a nice little weekend retreat once in a while. There are quite a few in here with an interest in tropicals so I'll post some pics of the trees as they are worked on.

It isn't often that you see any progression of work on large collected trees posted in here so there may be some interest.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 6:36PM
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We went back up last weekend but I wound up sick on Sunday morning so we only got to work Friday night -- doing some looking and sketching -- and most of Saturday.

I didn't realize that there were some large 'cuttings' arriving Sat. morning. This is one, actually the best of the two. Other then a beautiful buttress there isn't much here, it will take years to get something. We did talk about cutting it way back and establishing a big broad crown off to the right...he sort of liked that idea.

It arrived strapped across the back of a motorbike...

Doing the old heave-ho -- the base was surrounded by large stones then everything was covered with old sacks, plastic sheeting and palm leaves...

The 'warm-up' tree we started working on, it turned into an all day work/discussion/styling session as is shown in the next pics...

After about 2 hours of sketching, looking and some major cutting. Reduced from 6' to about 5' and a new top...
We did agree that the first branch had to come down, it was at about a 30 degree angle. I made 5 saw cuts about half way through the primary and secondary branches...

Attatched some heavy wire then spent time working and slowly pulling them down into position. Spanish windless works great for this...

The end of the first day, about 6 hours of work. It could be cut off at the level of the pot and put in a proper one, he understands this but, it needs a lot more work...

These are only a few of the trees he has, the ficus in the forground 'is' the size of a Volkeswagen.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 12:11AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Great pics, Bob!

That new tree is a ridiculously large 'cutting'....hahaha!

How's the weather?


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 2:29PM
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Yes, that's the way they 'collect' trees here. It would be nice if they would cut the surface roots off parallel to the ground instead of making those damned vertical cuts. I tried to talk to them about it -- finesse in the collecting -- but there wasn't any understanding. Son had an idea of what I was talking about but it was too late for this tree.

This has been a very hot year, we're just now beginning to get some rain here on the coast. It did start raining up in the mountains pretty good last month so the hydro lakes are filling up. It's nice to have full days/weeks of power instead of the scheduled and unscheduled power cuts. It was getting a little old to only have power 3-4 days a week to be sure !!
We not only made friends up there but now have a reason to visit pretty often because of the AO house and the school. There will be more weekends of work on his trees and more pics to be sure.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:35PM
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Going back up this weekend, we have to meet with the guys from the AO group here and check on the house then meet with the chairman of the school and give them the first payment for the new benches and desks...but...of course also do some work on a tree or two with Son ;))

We found this one alongside Highway 1 and I didn't mention it before. It's a small-leaved fukien tea. I should have had the 'brat' pose beside it but she was busy BSing with the woman. The tree is a little over 5' (above the pot) and, not only does it have a massive base but has grown around 2 large stones. This happened before it was collected.

The woman said she'd been offered 1.5 million for it but turned it down...I somehow doubt that. It could be, with some very enjoyable work, be an interesting tree. We're going to stop on the way back and see if she'll take a million for it -- yes, we can haul it on the moto if we have to.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 7:39PM
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Man that is a beautiful tree. Let us know if you get that thing home!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 9:14AM
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paul3636(6a Ma.)

You have access to some beautiful trees. Will you be able to take them to the states or are there restrictions???

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 8:05AM
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I'm a resident here so I won't be trying to do that, from what I've read it's almost impossible to get them through USDA quarentine anyway. Most of my personal trees are 4' and under, makes moving a lot easier if I have to.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 6:21PM
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This was the tree we worked on Friday and Saturday. I'd done some sketching and we'd pretty much agreed on the direction it was going to go. It was grown-on in the ground for about 3 years after being 'collected' and it's been in the pot for 5 years.

He did tie up a few branches but pretty much did nothing but cut back some of the longest growing branches over the years. It was a matter of just not having any idea of where to begin. What we did during the time we worked on the tree was just getting it started for the design in the future, it has a long way to go.

This was about 3 hours into working the tree, there's as much foliage laying behind us as there is left on the tree. There was still the one area (on the lower right) which we were discussing. Son was having trouble seeing the design I had in mind.

Son getting a little 'sporty' with the tree...he'd been doing some looking as we cleaned up the major areas of foliage then finally saw the idea I had. He just began cutting like crazy.

The bad news is that the work we did exposed some very bad (but normal for here) pruning scars. We talked about that and I think he understands that, to look like anything, the problems have to be handled.

No problem, I have a die grinder. In future trips we can handle most of the problem areas.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 7:56PM
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Can't believe what you ended up with (amazing!) from that big mess! And can't believe the patience you must need to go through with it (starting is hard, but endurance harder). I can't even believe the Fukien and I'm so envious of it - so much to work with - that I'm practically on my way now to find my own (well, I can dream, no?). So fed up with where I live now (recent move) because not only is there no one who knows or cares anything about bonsai, and very little at all to buy, but I can't even find my usual Aug. treat of longan here - the two 'Oriental" stores don't get them either... really, really wish I was back in Toronto!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 4:53AM
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Thanks Larke but it wasn't hard at all, when you love doing something it's just a pleasure to work. I did a lot of sketching and the hardest part was convincing Son to go with the natural flow of the tree and not fight it.
He was the one who finally agreed/decided that the one lower set of branches was a distraction and started doing the cutting there.

There is still a lot of work needed, mostly grinding and wiring to really finish it over time. That will come.
These are just huge tree weekend workshops.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 7:18PM
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