Good Deeds Delivered

June 4th, 2010

Over twenty years ago I met a great teacher.  Her main lesson was to do selfless service… to give to the needy, downtrodden and forgotten.  She explained that by giving without seeking any advantage from our gift is a form of doing the highest service for God.  When we act this way, we free ourselves from many of our petty problems and experience a taste of enlightenment.  My teacher is known as the “hugging saint”… her name is  Mata Amritanadamayi or Ammachi.  She visits annually and will be in NYC at the Manhattan Center July 4-6.

With my lesson of selfless service tried and tested, I started a community service foundation 13 years ago.  It started with a simple surf contest, the proceeds of which went to needy families with cancer on the East End.  The first year we raised over $10,000.  We have put on this contest annually since then (this year it is Aug. 7th at Ditch Plains beach in Montauk).  We also have used other venues such as dinners, art auctions, raffles and letters to raise over $300,000.  100% of the proceeds go to families in which a member has cancer and are getting behind in their bills.  None of our volunteers get reimbursed for gas, phone or stamps… anything.  They do it for the “aloha spirit” and the understanding that this money saves people from losing their homes.  On a few occasions, these gifts have literally been a life saver.  All recipients share how lost they felt before our help and how uplifted they were to be supported by their community.

The name is simply the East End Foundation.  If you would like to give a gift, we have non profit status and you will receive a tax deduction form from us.  The address is PO Box 1746, Montauk, NY 11954.

I’m a lucky guy to be a part of this foundation and see the good it creates.  I’m also lucky to have a business that works with nature organically where we create healthier and more beautiful environments.  In addition, I am grateful to have Paul Wagner as a new partner in Treewise.  His knowledge of soil biology, plant pathology and the fact that he is just a great guy makes going to work a pleasure.  I have peace knowing that we are always pushing to be ahead of the trade in the results we achieve.

This is the first time that I have sent you a letter like this.  Let me know your thoughts about it and thank you for being part of the solution to a greener, healthier world.

Enhancing nature’s beauty is our passion; enabling nature’s power is our profession.

Roger Feit

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Money Grows on Trees

March 12th, 2010


I never planned to be a “tree man.”  I used to climb trees as a kid, but only looked at them as some kind of jungle gym; not a living, breathing, life supporting entity.  My first knowledge of destructive insects in trees came when my father found some tent caterpillars in our apple tree.  He took a stick, wrapped the end of it with a towel, soaked the towel with gasoline, lit it and the burned the crap out of those caterpillars… as well as many limbs on the trees.  No light went off in my head… no thoughts of this will be my profession someday.  Oh, by the way, the few nests that didn’t burn well, my father tore out of the tree and brought to the street.  There, he poured more gasoline on them and lit them up.  These poor tortured insects wriggled to their death.  It’s no wonder that I was to go through therapy in my twenties.

Now I make a living keeping destructive critters and diseases off client’s trees.  Of course 90% of it is done not by the torch, but be feeding soil microbes that, in turn, recycle nutrients to the roots of the trees and shrubs that we care for.  A well fed, happy tree will actually repel many of the insects and diseases that would seek to harm it.  I kind of fell into this trade because of my discontent of working inside a stuffy, pretentious, back stabbing, apparel showroom in NYC.  I took a 70% pay cut and started working for a nationally known tree service.  My brother-in-law gifted me a money clip (I’ve lost it) that had a tree with money growing on its branches… an omen.

These days, we are pretty darn good at what we do and charge accordingly.  We just did a bid for a billionaire’s property in the Hamptons that priced out over $100,000.  We care for properties of world renowned celebrities and other prominent people and institutions.  Our business is growing, the trees are growing and so is our knowledge… it’s fun.  Who would have thunk that I would end up in the trees viewing life and liberty from a totally unique perspective?  At least I’m saving some caterpillars from a remake of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Roger Feit

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New Green Technologies

February 27th, 2010

I was in a business meeting this week with a couple of “green” business people, like me.  Green meaning geared toward sustainable methods of doing business, or in today’s world, business methods geared toward reducing the carbon footprint.  A few cool things came up.  A great water filtration system originally used by NASA but now available for homes and pools was discussed that eliminated the need for bottled water ( ).  We talked about the carbon footprint of a single bottle of water, from harvesting to purifying to bottling to shipping to the warehouse, then shipping to the consumer.  Mind-boggling when you think about the amount of work, fuel and carbon emissions for a bottle of water.  Also discussed was the recently introduced Bloombox ( ), which has great potential for solving some of our planets’ energy needs.

Some of the plant care tools we like to use to reduce carbon footprint are methods to add carbon back into the soil.  We encourage mulching grass clippings for one (which has many other benefits); allowing leaf litter to act as a mulch on the property instead of collecting and carting off site; adding compost, mulch (and other products high in carbon) into the soil.

A somewhat newer technology to add carbon into the soil is a product called BIO-CHAR.  This BIO-CHAR is the by-product of pyrolysis, a carbon negative source of energy production.  The amazing thing about this material is the amount of time this form of organic matter will stay in the soil, potentially hundreds of years.  Compared to compost and mulch, which are generally in the soil closer to 5 years before they are for the most part broken down.  As with most new technologies, availability and affordability are hurdles, but integrating the product into soil care even in low amounts can have many positives.  Just like other high carbon soil amendments, this material can be treated with beneficial soil organisms and become part of a highly productive matrix of soil that can keep your plants healthy without chemical inputs.  The process that makes the BIO-CHAR produces little or no carbon emissions, and yields this high carbon material that can be used to improve soil quality.  As wonderful as composting and mulching are (and I would encourage as many people as possible to promote the prudent use of high quality compost and mulch) there are still carbon dioxide emissions from both.  A friend of mine says “I love technology when it works”.  I’m always on the lookout for new technologies that work for plants and soils.

Paul Wagner – The Soil Geek

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If Architects knew!

February 26th, 2010

Before any construction starts, “Tree Preservation” needs to be planned.

Home owners are not pleased when their important trees unnecessarily die because of construction damage.  Tens of thousands of trees die every year because of this.  Sometimes it takes up to 8 years for damaged trees to go into decline or die.  Soil compaction (oxygen is squeezed out and beneficial soil microbiology, responsible for nutrient transfer to the roots, is crushed) and root damage are the main culprits.  These injuries can be avoided or remedied.  Of course, it is better to plan to prevent the damage, but damaged trees can survive if aggressively treated post-injuries.  Scientifically-based tree preservation and remediation techniques, when intelligently and carefully performed, can make the difference between a healthy tree and a dead one.  It is best to start with a site evaluation by an arborist (preservation specialist).  He marks where the construction excavation is to occur and spots which trees are going to be affected by the digging and compaction.  Then a tree preservation plan is designed to protect and boost the vigor of the affected trees.  Dates of coordinated protection actions can be included.

There are many ecological tree preservation techniques available, yet hardly any architects know about them.  The architect makes a beautiful house plan that includes and highlights the beauty of the existing trees and then sends in the construction team to start the process that begins the assault and decline of these trees.  Very few tree care companies pay attention to planned tree protection and preservation, so it is understandable (but mind blowing) why architects are not informed.

Even a simple renovation or pool installation can do incredible damage to the trees, their soil and their roots.  Our trees need us to go to bat for them. I am happy to speak to any architects, anywhere to help.

Our trees help bring us beauty, good health and happiness. We surely can look out to protect them.

Roger Feit

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Soil Geek talks about root damage

February 19th, 2010

Soil Geek

Just last week I found myself at a clients’ home where several trees had been damaged during a construction project.  As a person that takes care of trees for a living, I have a tendency to think that everybody is aware of how delicate trees are despite their rugged appearance.  This is very rarely the case though.  Interestingly enough, a very reputable landscape firm had been trusted to protect the trees during construction, and were under the impression they had done exactly that.  The homeowner was actually the party that was thinking that there might be damage to these big beautiful trees.  I love clients that love trees, by the way! The representative of the landscape firm (who was comfortable throwing around his credentials) assessed the site with me and was sure there would be minimal damage.

We both (along with the concerned client) looked on as a 10-wheel dump truck, loaded with soil, drove over the roots of two 50+ foot tall trees.  One tree with a trunk not 4 feet away from the tire of the truck that weighed easily in excess of 15 tons.  This was one of a few hundred trips driven over the badly crushed roots of these trees.  I cringed as I watched this knowing it would take a tremendous effort, and a very carefully crafted plan (and some good karma) to save these trees.  My counterpart shrugged it off and said the trees should be fine.  Over 50% of the roots of these trees had been impacted by construction, how could he say that?!  Especially since he holds some of the same credentials I hold!  I couldn’t believe we didn’t see the same thing.

This was only one of several insults trees had been subjected to during this project. Although I love a challenge, it would have been so much better for the trees (and the client) to prep for construction and steward the trees through the project, rather than have to put on my Superman cape and come to the rescue!  Trees are rugged and delicate simultaneously.  This is kind of like football players.  They all have that rough and tumble appearance until they are at the podium announcing retirement.  The delicate side shows up when they are a bit vulnerable.

Paul Wagner….Soil Geek

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The evolution of plant health care.

February 18th, 2010

Way back in the early 1990’s, the use of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) methods were taking hold in the landscape trade.  That meant we would target pests instead of blanket spray properties.

Following that, some companies decided to use less toxic materials to control insect and disease problems on trees and shrubs.  We were one of the first companies to use Bacillus thuringiensis to control Gypsy Moth caterpillars.  We just thought that dead was dead and the less toxic the material we used to get the job done, the better.  Also, we felt better that our crews had less exposure to toxins.

One by one we replaced harsh chemicals with their organic substitutes.  It was a learning curve; finding out which materials actually worked and under what conditions.  Today, compost teas are home brewed to add the right beneficial biology to the plants and soils… giving them strength and resistance to insect and diseases.

We have learned to mimic nature.  We adjust soils so there are better growing mediums for the specific plants/turf in which they are growing.  When new plants are installed, their ball soil is often different from the soil in which it is planted.  This makes it hard for the plants to acclimate… but today we have an arsenal of techniques and materials to help new plants so they do not skip a beat and grow beautifully.

Currently, it is all about ecological landscape management.  Many landscape companies are having a tough time adjusting to the new ways, but these ways are here to stay.  By using ecological techniques, optimum results can be achieved in correcting 99% of landscape problems… and our work is sooooooooooo pleasant now.

Soil Geek

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