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Travis Cranmer Blog - A Selection of Interesting Articles

Birdhouse Video Stream Birdhouse Video Stream Project
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/12/02 @ 07:22
In the planning stages of a project I hope to complete over the Christmas break. The objective is to create a live video stream of birds nesting and living in a hexagonal birdhouse sometime this upcoming spring. Contained in the lid/roof, it will be a surveillance system set up to watch birds make a nest, lay eggs and hatch out young ones. To do this, I'm currently planning on using a Raspberry Pi with a Wi-Fi attachment and power source. The 5v power source will likely come from rechargeable batteries being charged from a solar panel. It's uncertain what birdhouses will be occupied from year to year, so the unit needs to be mobile. If you have any suggestions or comments please E-mail me!
Raspberry Pi
Thumbnail Apple Tree Results
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/11/03 @ 10:13
The results are in! The apples on the tree that was started 18 years ago ended up being quite small. The largest apples were around 8 cm in diameter with a red-green striped skin. The apple was yellow fleshed and mealy with a low amount of sugar.

Interestingly, there was no apple scab found on the entire tree, even though four other apple trees nearby had large amounts of disease. Apple scab is the #1 pathogen for apples in the world and often over ten fungicide applications per year are required to keep fruit disease-free. The small fruit may have been because the tree was pruned late in the season or the apples may have been picked too early.

Next challenge: grafting!
Travis Cranmer Apple Tree from Seed
Investigating Canola and Clubroot Breeding Tolerant Chestnuts
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/10/03 @ 21:58
The American Chestnut, Castanea dentata was a large prolific tree that could reach 30m high and had a trunk diameter of 3m. Since the 1920s, large chestnut trees have been killed by chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) throughout North America. Currently chestnut trees are often suckers that live long enough to produce nuts before they become infected with the fungus again.

The tree produces edible nuts that can be eaten raw or roasted. Until the nuts are mature, spiny seedpods (seen below) protect them from many animal species including deer, turkeys, black bears and the extinct passenger pigeon. Surviving chestnut trees are being bred for resistance by the American Chestnut Foundation and Canadian Chestnut Council with the aim to reintroduce a blight-tolerant variety back to its original range within the next few decades.
Seeding Date Trial Holland Marsh
The fungus produces a canker on branches or trunks by entering the space between the bark and cork cambium through wounds or cracks. Yellow to orange pycnidia (seen below) are produced. Spores from an infected tree can be carried to healthy trees by wind, rain or even insects.
Chestnut Blight pycnidia
More pictures: Native Trees of South-western Ontario Database
Visit Online: Canadian Chestnut Council
Fair November University of Guelph Queenston Shale and the Badlands
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/09/29 @ 07:13
The Cheltenham Badlands are located near Caledon, Ontario and show a great example of eroded soil and exposed queenston shale. Due to farming practices in the past most, if not all, of the soil has been lost. With no soil it is difficult for plant species to re-colonize. Rills and gullies have formed as an increasing amount of erosion has occured. The Ontario Heritage Foundation owns the badlands and it is managed by the Bruce Trail. The location can be found on google maps - Cheltenham Badlands.
Sara Stricker Burnt Design Native Species Birdhouses
Visit Online: Bruce Trail Cheltenham Badlands
Investigating Canola and Clubroot Investigating Canola and Clubroot
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/08/30 @ 12:20
Here's one of the field trials I'm working on at the Muck Crops Research Station, Holland Marsh, Ontario. The soil is naturally infested with Plasmodiophora brassicae the causal agent of clubroot. Four canola plots were planted every two weeks for a total of eight seeding dates. Fifty plants are harvested every two weeks and assessed for disease severity.
Seeding Date Trial Holland Marsh
Currently the first seeding date has an average of 75% plants infected with clubroot with the other seeding dates quickly catching up. Temperature, rainfall and soil moisture are recorded daily and the data will be used to create a prediction of disease based past weather conditions.
Seeding Date Trial Holland Marsh Disease Severity
Fair November University of Guelph Wood Burning with Sara Stricker
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/08/14 @ 18:02
Over the last year Sara has burnt pictures of native species in almost 30 birdhouses. Some of her other work can be found in another post. Some of the birdhouses below are available for sale on the Online Store page. Once again, if you're looking for something in particular or have any comments please E-mail More of Sara's work can be found here.
Sara Stricker Burnt Design Native Species Birdhouses
Visit Online: Sara's Art on Tumblr
Thumbnail Earth Design Branding Iron
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/08/09 @ 17:31
There's been a few upgrades in the workshop and one of them was a brass electric branding iron. It's 3"x1" and takes 3-4 seconds to accurately burn 'Cranmer Earth Design' into softwoods such as pine. The adjustable temperature control makes it easy to turn down the heat depending on what type of wood you're working with.
Cranmer Earth Design Branding Iron
GM Orange Juice The future of GM Orange Juice
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/07/26 @ 9:25
An article was written by Orange juice in supermarkets may be a rare commodity without the help of GM technology in the near future. A bacterium known as Liberibacter asiaticus causes 'huanglongbing' (a.k.a. citrus greening) once its vectored by the insect species citrus psyllid or Diaphorina citri. This bacterium causes the fruit to sour and leaves them half green. The idea is to incorporate a gene of a virus that destroys bacteria as it replicates itself. This virus is a bacteriophage that have no scientific evidence that they cause harm to humans.

The other option is to find resistance in another citrus species and back cross the two species until you have the favourable traits of the commercial orange as well as the resistance from the wild species. Unfortunately, no resistance has been found to the bacterium in any cultivated varieties, and it is still unknown if any 'wild' citrus species contain a resistance gene. So currently the main options are to continue to look for natural resistance in another citrus species, burn and spray insecticides on any contaminated trees and possibly develop a GM cultivar which could take a decade and cost as much as $20 million.
Bacterium causing Citrus Green
Visit Online: The New York Times
Thumbnail My First Step into Horticulture
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/08/14 @ 07:21
When I was six years old my dad explained the concept of a seed to me when we were planting an amaryllis bulb my grandmother had given me. My reply was simple, "So if I take an apple seed, I'll get an apple tree?". Eighteen years later we have a tree which finally had flowers for the first time this year.

It may have taken this long due to the fact that it wasn't grafted on a dwarfing rootstock. Now, the fruit is still bitter and not mature, but it'll be interesting to see how good the apples taste come harvest time. There's probably a better chance at winning the lottery than there is getting a desirable apple from a sexually propagated tree!
Travis Cranmer Apple Tree from Seed
Native Tree Database is Online Native Tree Database is Online!
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/07/04 @ 08:11
It's been three years in the making and the database for native trees of southern Ontario is almost complete. The light requirements, preferred soil type, mature size and several pictures are listed for over 70 tree species that were originally found as far south as Pelee Island and as far north as Toronto. At this time 12 tress needing pictures remain. In the future there is potential to expand to native shrubs and perrenials!
Native Tree Database for Southern Ontario Paw Paw sample
Visit Online: Southern Ontario Native Tree Database
Price Per Milligram of Caffeine Price Per Milligram of Caffeine
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/04/13 @ 11:59
An article was written by Canadian Business on what major coffee retailer in Canada has the highest caffeine content in their coffee. The results were surprizing. They compared four major companies in Ontario, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Second Cup and Timothy's by their price per mg of caffeine. If you are a coffee drinker who's sole interest is in the amount of caffeine in your brew, your most cost effective choice is a Large 24 ounce cup from Second Cup. While Tim Hortons is generally associated with being one of the cheaper coffees to pick up on the run, it is not when it comes to caffeine. This is definately something to consider the next time you need a jolt on the run and the primary thing that matters is caffeine!
Caffeine Content - Price Per Milligram of Caffeine
Visit Online: Canadian Business
Nicol Maple Syrup Boiling Sap To Maple Syrup
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/03/30 @ 10:20
Last weekend not only did we boil sap to make maple syrup, but we also experienced what's it's like to camp outside in -8 degree weather. The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) & the black maple (Acer saccharum spp. nigrum) have the highest sugar concentration in their sap making them the most desirable tree to collect sap from. It is also possible to make syrup out of birch trees, but it already takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup!
Boiling sap to make maple syrup by Justin Nicol
The sugar maple can live to be 300 years old and maple syrup production one of the most sustainable farming practices in the world. The sap runs best when the temperature is below freezing at night and is above freezing during the day. Canada produces 80% of the worlds supply of maple syrup and most is produced in Quebec.
Justin Nicol's maple syrup
If you're near Sarnia and interested in obtaining some local maple syrup contact Justin!
Contact: Justin Nicol
              519 312 0006
Wooden Snow Shovel Wooden Snow Blade
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/03/24 @ 14:55
Compared to last winter, this winter provided the old snow shovel with a lot of use. When I moved and didn't have the luxury of using my parents' shovel I had a look at what was available in stores around Guelph and realized that a quality snow shovel was hard to find. Most shovels are made of plastic or aluminum and have the tendency to crack or bend over time. I've used some snow shovels where their handles aren't attached to the shovel blade as well as they should be and after a few years of use they become insecure and unbalanced. The shovel that is shown below was built from a design my grandparent's neighbour used around 60 years ago. It has an oak running board, ash handle and exterior plywood for the blade. After use the bottom board becomes rounded but still moves snow effectively. Unlike aluminum shovels that pick up stones on gravel driveways, this wooden blade leaves stones on the driveway and off your lawn!
Wooden Snow Shovel built by Travis Cranmer of Cranmer Earth Design
This shovel was built around three years ago. Hopefully I'll be able to get 20+ years out of it before I build a new one. I've thought about building a few to sell but the materials cost around $40 and it takes a few hours to build. While the initial investment would be greater than a shovel from the hardware store, this will definitely be a cheaper alternative in the long run. If you're interested in a custom wooden blade for next winter please E-mail!
Guelph Green Roof Research Guelph Green Roof Research
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/03/01 @ 18:32
Installation of green roofs over the past ten years has greatly increased in North America. When installed properly they can reduce energy consumption as well as reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. Green roofs have been reported to last up to twice as long as regular asphalt roofs and offer the potential for food production and habitat for birds and invertebrates. If interested, check out the website below led by Dr. Youbin Zheng at the University of Guelph as more research is conducted on plant species that can be installed on green roofs in Southwestern Ontario.
Visit Online: Guelph Green Roof Research
Read here: pdfGreen Roof Survey
Wooden Percolating Coffee Maker Wooden Percolating Coffee Maker
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/02/12 @ 10:35
I've been in search for a quality percolating coffee maker ever since my old coffee maker broke down 5 years ago. I received a new coffee maker as a gift and found that even after pre-running the maker over 10 times with new water each time the end result was water that smelt of burnt plastic. Looking for alternatives I realized that there is no coffee maker on the market that:
     ● is easy to clean
     ● uses a paper filter to remove coffee grinds and
     ● does not include plastic

Over the last few years I've resorted to putting a canning funnel with paper filter over a coffee mug and pouring small amounts of water through the filter until the cup was full. This weekend I got creative. Modifying a sauce pan, cutting some pine and using a bunch of woodworking tools the finish product met all the requirements. Once the kettle is near boiling the top reservoir is filled up to an etched line and approximately two minutes later there's a perfect cup of coffee.
Wooden and Stainless Steel Percolating Coffee Maker built by Travis Cranmer of Cranmer Earth Design
The funnel can be removed easily to discard the filter and the reservoir can also be removed, though it's not necessary between every use. All parts are food-grade stainless steel and the wood which does not come into contact with the water is coated with non-toxic tung oil. I'm debating making a few more to sell; if you're interested please E-mail as well as if you have any other comments or suggestions!
Guelph Culture Mapping Project Guelph Culture Mapping Project
Travis Cranmer Posted:13/01/28 @ 09:51
The Guelph Culture Map is an online directory of Guelph's cultural assets. Everything from public art, organizations, festivals, and people can be added to the directory. Currently the database has around 600 entries and it plans to go online mid-March 2013. The City of Guelph is working in partnership with the Guelph Arts Council and Guelph Chamber of Commerce to make it happen. If you know of a culture asset specific to Guelph click here!
Visit Online: The Guelph Culture Mapping Project
The Benefits of Coffee Consumption Benefits of Coffee Consumption
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/12/11 @ 10:25
Some believe that coffee has more negative health benefits than positive, and before reading these papers I would've agreed. Since the 1980's many studies have been conducted with very large sample sizes showing that daily coffee consumption has many health benefits. The Vanderbilt Institute for Coffee Studies in Tennessee has created the first institute in the world specifically to study the health benefits linked to coffee consumption.
Visit Online: Vanderbilt Institute for Coffee Studies
Fair November University of Guelph Wood Burning with Sara Stricker
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/11/22 @ 18:33
Sara started the art of wood burning in August this past year and since has completed designs on over 20 birdhouses as well as some trunk cross sections. Not only did she put designs of native plant and animal species on the birdhouses she worked on, but also included the Latin name of the species on the bottom of each birdhouse. One of her most recent works is pictured below. If you're looking for something in particular or have any comments please E-mail More of Sara's work can be found here.
Sara Stricker 's Wood Burning Artwork
Visit Online: Sara's Art on Tumblr
Fair November University of Guelph Third Place at Fair November
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/11/18 @ 20:12
Out of the 83 artisans that were accepted, the Cranmer Earth Design display came in third place for 'excellence in craftmanship, presentation and display'! On top of that, I was the first student in the thirty-eight year history of the art show. Saturday was the busiest day with Thursday being the slowest. The local Rogers station as well as the Weather Network conducted interviews and took some videos of the birdhouses. To read more in general about the show, check out this article found in The Ontarion.
Travis Cranmer - Cranmer Earth Design Fair November Setup 2012 Travis Cranmer - Cranmer Earth Design Fair November Setup 2012
Visit Online: Fair November Homepage
Thumbnail Coffee and Climate Change
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/11/12 @ 11:09
Using three emission scenarios over three time frames intervals (2020, 2050, 2080), scientists predict that there will be a 65% (most favourable outcome) to 100% reduction in the number of bioclimatically suitable locations for Arabica coffee to be grown. Arabica coffee is a climate senstive species and bioclimatic unsuitability would place populations at a high risk of extinction. These scientists categorize areas that are predicted to be under threat from climate change now and in the near future so varieties can be moved to areas that can withstand climate change untill 2080.
Visit Online: Davis et al. 2012
Guelph Farmer's Market - Be sure to stop by if you're available! -especially if you're unable to make the Saturday market! Wednesday Farmer's Market
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/06/18 @ 14:25
The Guelph Farmer's Market is starting a Wednesday market for the first time in over 11 years starting on June 20th from 3-7pm. So far 50 vendors have committed to the first Wednesday which includes some vendors that aren't normally present during the Saturday morning. Cranmer Earth Design will have a table inside at the North end. Be sure to stop by if you're available! -especially if you're unable to make the Saturday market!
Visit Online: Guelph Tribune
Thumbnail Black Walnut Toxicity
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/06/13 @ 15:22
The roots of black walnut (Juglans nigra) and butternut (Juglans cinerea) trees leach a chemical called juglone, which can cause many species planted nearby to show symptoms of stunted growth, wilting and even death. It has been noted that plant species found growing naturally among walnut trees in North America have evolved to withstand the allopathic effects of the trees. If a flower or vegetable garden is to be planted near a walnut tree it is crucial that you know what species are sensitive to the chemical juglone. A deeper discussion can be found on the OMAFRA website below along with a list of susceptible and tolerable plant species. With this trait in mind, walnut can be a favourable addition to ones yard. Many invasive weed species have problems growing around walnut trees and the trees themselves have few pathogens that they are susceptible to. Butternut trees however, have a fungus known as Butternut Canker (Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum) that is detrimental to the tree once infected.
Visit Online: OMAFRA List of Tolerant Plant Species
Thumbnail HOPE Stream Water Bottles
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/06/09 @ 16:40
Why is the HOPE Stream the best water bottle I've ever come across? Because it corrects every flaw found in a traditional water bottle. After many uses with many different liquids the bottle does not leach the taste of the container material or past liquids, (such as coffee). These bottles are composed of borosilicate glass made in the Czech Republic that naturally has more thermal shock resistance than normal glass. With a neoprene cover not only is the glass protected from shattering when dropped, but it helps to keep the liquid hot or cold longer. The lid is BPA free and plasticisers (found within normal plastic) are extremely low. On top of all this, it comes with a convenient handle that can be used as a shoulder strap. I have been using this water bottle for several months and I am quite pleased with the results. Bottles can be purchased on select dates at the Guelph Farmer's Market as well as many other locations found here.
Read here: pdfHOPE Stream Water Bottle Fact Sheet
Visit Online: HOPE Stream Website
Travis Cranmer - Sarnia Artwalk - Cranmer Earth Design Sarnia's Artwalk A Success
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/06/04 @ 13:58
An estimated 20,000 people came to Sarnia's Artwalk on June 2nd & 3rd despite the rain and wind. The event saw a large increase with 180 vendors present this year compared to the 115 in 2011. We had a great time selling birdhouses despite the weather and we would like to thank everyone who dropped by to say hi!

Travis Cranmer - Sarnia's Artwalk 2012
Visit Online: Sarnia's Artwalk
Thumbnail Elm Tree Survivor Cloned
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/04/11 @ 23:21
Many surviving American elm trees, (Ulmus americana) exist in scattered pockets throughout Canada. Cuttings from 17 surviving trees in Ontario have been used to establish the first known routine to use in vitro culture technology to clone buds of mature American elm trees. Micropropagating allows many plants to be grown quickly when compared to growing out seedlings and other traditional propagating methods. Surviving trees will be tested for resistance to Dutch Elm Disease by testing the micropropagated specimens in a lab. This research has been led by University of Guelph professors Alan Sullivan and Praveen Saxena and the first set of results have been published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research. "This research has the potential to bring back the beloved American elm population to North America," -Prof. Praveen Saxena.

There are several surviving American elm trees found in the Guelph area. The largest I have come across is just north of the Guelph Lake Conservation Area. 1 The map below shows the location of this tree.

View Larger Map
Visit Online: U of G Scientists Clone American Elm Trees
Thumbnail Website Updates
Travis Cranmer Posted:12/03/01 @ 11:49
Throughout the last week a bunch of pages and features have been added to the Cranmer Earth Design website:
  • Store Page
  • Payment & Shipping Page
  • Sitemap Page
  • Rouen Duck Page
  • Hexagonal Birdhouse Page
  • Please recommend us on google search and 'like' us on Facebook if you have an account with either. (Both links are on the contact page) E-mail me if you have any improvements that you think could be implemented!
    Thumbnail Dangers of Cooking Materials
    Travis Cranmer Posted:12/02/21 @ 10:32
    Although non-stick pots and pans are easier to clean, research shows many cooking materials should be avoided for fear of the compound leeching into the food being cooked and consumed. There is still a lot of uncertainty in scientific literature about how much of a particular compound can be ingested daily, however, glass, iron and silicon are considered safe. Other metals, such as aluminum and even stainless steel, carry warnings and other uncertainties. This Health Canada website gives a helpful, easy to understand overview on this topic and is a great background for those who are new to the topic.
    Read here: pdfThe Safe Use of Cookware
    Visit Online: Health Canada
    Thumbnail Never Over/Under Water Again
    Travis Cranmer Posted:12/02/07 @ 18:53
    Electronic sensors hooked up to a computer network will be able to notify the grower if plants in certain areas are over watered or dry. Growers could be notified through a text message if either one of these problems occur using an app on an Android smart phone. I've always preferred doing other things rather than having to water, but would this type of system be worth the hassle?
    Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (2012, February 7). An electronic green thumb. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 7, 2012
    Visit Online: The Electronic Green Thumb
    Thumbnail Harvard Introduces Food Guide
    Travis Cranmer Posted:11/01/23 @ 20:01
    The Harvard School of Public Health published a food guide in September 2011 that removes dairy from the food guide. They claim that there have been flaws in past USDA food guides and that this guide is 'unaffected by businesses and organizations with a stake in their messages'.
    Read here: pdfHealthy Eating Plate
    Visit Online: The Nutrition Source
    Thumbnail Garlic & Cancer Prevention
    Travis Cranmer Posted:11/01/22 @ 21:23
    Many recent studies have shown that garlic can be used as a preventative against many types of cancers. A study by John Milner provides a literature review of 10 years of evidence that links garlic intake and its associated sulfur compounds as an important deterrent to cancer.
    Read here: pdfMilner - 2010


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