Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Juniper. It's ubiquitous, it's thirsty and it makes many folks sneeze. Quite a tree, actually, especially if you admire survivors. I wouldn't say that we Central Oregonians are polarized by them.

In April the allergy prone would like to send a massive taser jolt through the desert so not one more grain of pollen would present itself. The rest of the time, ho hum. Until you talk about water conservation. How thirsty are they? There are multiple examples these days of ranchers selectively thinning the trees and finding, within a year, that springs that had dried up have returned.

According to Bruce Hemenway, "on average then, a 10 foot tall juniper tree will consume between 40 and 70 gallons of water a day." Left on their own they'll spread to about 50 trees per acre, he says. If they average 25 feet tall, then the water consumption, trees alone, not other vegetation, would be 5000 to 8750 gallons of water per day, every day of the year.

But there can be great beauty in the wood. I found and squirreled away two pieces which were clearly from the same tree and one day they spoke: front of a bass. That was several months ago. Patrick, New York State, has purchased this Barker Brio. It is a stunning beauty and sounds very clean and punchy. I could own that bass, but Patrick does.

One strives, as a luthier (or, as I prefer, instrument maker) to incorporate some standardization in production so that "the sound" of your instrument is predictable in all of them. Sure, there are surprises, but every now and then all the measurements come out right and the result is a bass that sings. This one makes a visual statement as compelling as its voice. One of a kind.

Congratulations Patrick!

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