It is breathtakingly gorgeous in the foothills right now. Between the calm temperatures, billions of wildflowers, nectar-laced scents, and avian concerts, it is magic. There continues to be water running in the lesser creeks and drainage’s, and the soil moisture content is high. With the increasing heat, the grass has grown a foot in a few days obscuring some of the native plants that were just inching out. Fortunately, some of the milkweeds got started before the recent warm-up, but, at least for the milkweeds, grazing has continued to give them a chance.
I walk up the steep slope to the largest A. Californica (California Milkweed) patch daily to count the plants and monitor them for caterpillars. Two days ago, I saw an orange-ish butterfly large enough to be seen by my limited eyesight. It was too far away to see if it was a monarch. I also did not have my glasses on. I waited for some time, but it did not return. Consequently, I am no longer leaving the house without my glasses and binoculars. As of today, I counted 16 individual plants. Just yesterday it was 14, and a couple days before that 13 and 9. So far, no emergence in the next largest site near the house. However, the one plant in the SW facing site has emerged and the west facing site has one of the two plants emerged. Unfortunately, the locations where I installed the Xerces plugs or 2021 collected seeds are not emerged. I imagine they may take a couple years to establish.
It is an emotional moment to see a grand tree cut up. If you are a regular reader, you will recall that a beautiful, healthy oak tree that was growing at an angle toppled over in the Spring Creek this past January. Between the angle, the saturated soil, wind and freeze of water on the branches, the weight became too great, and the grand tree pulled up by her root ball. It was also a reminder to me to be extremely careful as I walk among the oaks. I had just passed under her the day before.
When the tree fell, her weight was propped up on its branches and near my riparian fence gate. The smaller branches could give way releasing her massive bulk onto anything under it. It was a dangerous situation. I had no choice but to remove her.
These trees are ancestor relatives. Their lives have spanned 4 or 5 generations of my human family. Imagine their perspective of us always coming and going, building then tearing down, seeking and finding, singing and sleeping. We must be so peculiar to them. I love trees deeply. I appreciate their shade, smell, cavities breeding life, branches for singing birds, the food they provide, their moist soil under the canopy and how their roots are deep and connected. They have so much to teach us.
It is within this context and within the sensitivity of my soul, that a small piece of my heart breaks when the saw goes through my fallen relative. For such a solemn moment, the right sawyer is needed. I was grateful that Nick Brochini was available. Nick is Miwuk and understands the gift of the tree. He does not take it for granted. I don’t have to explain myself when I need to touch her and say a prayer of gratitude for her magnificence.
Nick was a young teen when I first met him. I was a tutor in the Indian Education program at the high school. He would come to the room, always a big, happy smile and carrying a turtle back pack. It was so cool; he really pulled that look off. It set him apart. Nick was a nice kid. Not a regular student in need of tutoring, he was mostly in need of community. We always enjoyed seeing him when he came through and loved hearing the tales of his school day.
Nick grew into an adult, a husband and a father over the years. His children are beautiful. I see them at the community Pow Wow from year to year. I hope they are proud of their dad. He is an expert with the saw. He knows trees and shares helpful information. He showed me the gaping hole in the tree, the rot from within. He told me all the oak trees have this. Just like humans, they develop healthcare issues as they age. He showed the start of interior rot in a smaller branch as well. What a lesson. At least some creature will have a good home.
I left a large section of her main trunk as a monument to her. Part of it will act as a check dam and the other will extend beyond the creek banks. She is beautiful even in death. The rest of the material will be used for brush piles and fire wood. Her flesh will keep my nephew and his family warm next winter. Chiokoe uttesia Huya into Nick weweriam (Thank you relatives – Tree and Nick).
After Nick left, David and I sprung into action building brush piles and stacking wood. Within one second of me stepping away, a bird landed on the pile to check it out for a new home. That made me happy. My work is worth something.
Life on the ranch is a joy I cannot adequately explain. I am the kind of girl that loves spiders, snakes and frogs. I like the smell of manure and don’t mind getting it on my boots. Not everyone is into this kind of life. For me, it is heaven. Here are some recent visitor to the house:
Check Dams Working
Nature gave me some help this year in building check dams. The photos below show one that nature built with wood that fell into the creek. Note the sediment upstream has accrued and is nearly at the height of the land, and note that downstream is still carved deeply. Holding the sediment back achieves a number of goals, 1) to increase water quality, 2) make the access to the creek more usable by wildlife, 3) build back wetland type soil, and 4) slow water runoff to retain it for flora, fauna and groundwater recharge.
I left David weedeating around the monarch plots and went to check on the California milkweed sites. I love to walk, even on this cool, windy day, so I decided to walk further looking for more milkweed. One can only hope. While out, I found so many other beautiful things. We live on a remarkable planet. Love it. Cherish it. Protect it.