Local youth wins second place in speech contest

Nathan Knapp delivers his speech with the topic, “We all need trees,” at the state Conservation District competition. Knapp won the local contest and the area contest, qualifying him for the state competition held on Monday, November 20, in Wichita. He placed second at state.

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Nathan Knapp, 15, of rural Bern, won second place in the State Conservation District Speech Contest held in Wichita on Monday, Nov. 20.

Knapp won the local Nemaha County Conservation District Speech contest held on Wednesday, Oct. 18, and then moved on to the area contest held on Wednesday, Nov. 1, which he won, qualifying him for the state competition. The contest was for high school age youth. Knapp competed against one other youth at the local competition, two others at the area competition and three others at the state competition.

“He gave a phenomenal speech with the theme ‘We all need trees,’” said Dana Schmelzle, district manager for the Nemaha County Conservation District. “Nathan not only delivered his speech well, he incorporated humor, wit, character and charisma in his speech. After the speech was delivered, many people came up to me and told me it was one of the best speeches they have ever heard.”

Tree Speech

A student on his way back from an agricultural convention stopped to observe a farmer at work in his orchard. He exclaimed with a laugh “I’ll bet you $50 those trees won’t give you any apples this year.”

“You’d be right”, the farmer said with a smile. “Them’s pear trees.”

Trees are so ordinary in our everyday life that it is easy to see them and not realize their significance. We all need trees, but do we know how much? Most of us know that paper and lumber come from trees, but how many other things do that we don’t even know or think about? After all, there are over 60,000 species of trees worldwide according to the research completed by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International which was released in April of this year. What a coincidence with our topic!

Let me take you through a day in life with trees. The alarm goes off and I stretch and get out of my maple wood frame bed to get my clothes out of my walnut dresser. Descending the oak staircase I cross my pine floor and sit down at my sturdy wooden table on my cherry wood chair. After my breakfast of pecan-topped banana bread, fruit and almond muesli and sassafras bark tea, I head to work outside. My biggest job is raking leaves which I compost to enrich the earth because healthy soils are full of life.

My house is surrounded by old oak trees, and while I am raking, I consider the shade deciduous trees provide both for myself and my house. In fact, the oak tree was chosen as a national symbol in 2004. A shaded house makes for lower air conditioning bills in the summer, and in the winter I am glad for the windbreak of evergreens on the north side of the house. This makes heating my house easier in the winter. Speaking of that, it’s time to start chopping some wood! But, while raking I got a splinter from the wooden rake handle and so I head inside to research the treatment. I could chew birch twigs to reduce the pain, but my brother chewed them all so I take an aspirin (which originally came from willow bark). I read that Balsam Poplar produces a gooey substance called “balm of Gilead” that is useful for healing wounds, perfect for my splinter. I also noticed that chaulmoogra oil from the chaulmoogra tree was used in times past to cure leprosy.

To recover from the hard work of research I drink a glass of my favorite cola which refreshes me and is my mid-day battery charger because of the caffeine content from the Kola Bean, coming from the Kola tree. As I drink I think about how much water trees use and share back. I discovered that one large tree can take 100 gallons of water out of the ground and respire it into the air in a day, a process known as evapotranspiration. In fact, this is how some of our rains are caused: by the trees respiring the water inland in a relay system from the sea. Water evaporates from the ocean, rains on the trees which take it in through their roots and respire it through their leaves to rain again. The wind moves the air moisture from place to place.

I’m all set to complete my second task which is chopping firewood to heat my house. While chopping I ponder the fact that many animals, birds and insects find their homes in trees from burrowing under and around the roots, to living in the trunks to nesting in the trees. People also use trees for their homes. Lumber is used universally to construct the skeleton forms of buildings including our houses.

I continue chopping and consider how trees not only provide the lumber for our houses but also support the economy with businesses from logging companies to furniture stores, retail items from hair picks to salad bowls and everything in between. Some of these businesses are owned by our friends and families. By this time I’m all out of breath and gasping for air – oh wait! Air! I just realized that a portion of the earth’s oxygen actually comes from trees. We get a majority of our oxygen from the ocean, but trees contribute a good percentage. According to ThoughtCo, “You’ll hear a range of numbers and ways of presenting them because the amount of oxygen produced by a tree depends on the species of tree, its age, its health, and also on the tree’s surroundings.” Even so, North Carolina State says that one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people.

So trees are providing us with business, heat, food, cooling, shelter, oxygen, beauty, and they even contribute to our language in poetry, stories and idioms. Have you ever been “up a tree” or “out on a limb?” Have you ever found you couldn’t see the forest for the trees and that money doesn’t grow on them?

And if you’ve ever climbed the tallest tree you could you’ll know what I mean when I say the view is exquisite.

Noting all of these uses for trees, it is significant that we do our best to maintain and perpetuate their health and growth. An ordinary home owner can help their trees in different ways, such as using a tin can to keep squirrels from digging up seedlings, or using cages and tree tubes as well as repellents to keep deer from rubbing or chewing the bark off. I try to keep an eye on the trees around my house for those that drop their leaves early so I can check for disease or mineral deficiency like Manganese or Potassium. Also if there are any broken branches, I try to cut them off to prevent harmful insects from entering the tree. I also prune my fruit trees in the late winter after the hard freezes, so bugs will not invade, the trees will not have winter damage, and they can heal quickly when new growth begins.

I’ve finished my jobs and put away my rake and axe. I stand and watch the sun sink behind the hill and remember that trees continue to hold the structure of our land from rivers to mountains and they do it in such a beautiful way.

It’s time to have a night time snack of apple pears which are part of the gift of trees. In providing food for me they also provide nectar and pollen for the pollinators. I do enjoy honey! I relax on my latex mattress, possibly from a Brazilian rubber tree, and before I fall asleep I construct some poetry:

At first a tree may only seem no more than just a simple beam

Yet when one has really thought it out

One can see it all about

That God-given uses found in trees

Have contributed much

to mankind’s ease.

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