Well, the winter rains have descended. The final cleanup from this latest activity will have to be done next year. But, happily, the people with the equipment (R-J Consulting – check out the link on the blogroll) were able to get in, clean up the debris, and pile all the slash, ready for chipping. See the video HERE.
Usually slash is burned, but I hope we can chip instead. That will give us more mulch to work with, and the carbon will still go into the atmosphere, but on a much longer schedule than incineration. The increased sequestration of carbon from the trees left to grow will offset this somewhat (for the technical details, send me a comment!)
We also had two piles pushed off into the ravine, which is dry in the summer. Although this sounds like a bad idea, the extra debris can break the impact of rain drops, and slow down runoff to protect from erosion. And eventually the piles will melt down into the ground and add organic matter back to the soil, which also helps hold more water. There are no fish in these intermittent (mostly winter and spring) trickles, so this is an approved method.
The equipment operator will return next year with his wonderful skid steer machine with a mowing attachment to reduce the blackberries, poison oak, scotch broom and assorted branches to chips, when the ground is dry and most of the favored plants are dormant.
For the recap, here’s what we started with, at two different spots:
And this is the current scene
It can be a bit shocking, but just look at these oaks – so many years living in the shadow of each other and the Douglas firs, and now they can breathe!
Although many won’t ever bush out like the huge open-grown savanna oaks that were never crowded, these will sprout from a number of dormant or buried (epicormic) branches and start to look better-clothed in a few years, although they will always be narrow.
The rains began in earnest, just as the machines finished up, so everything happened just in time. I spread 22 pounds of native grass seed and 3 pounds of forbs (aka wildflowers and herbaceous plants) as evenly as possible over 2-1/2 or 3 acres. For this I spent a day measuring out 50’ X 10’ plots and portions of seed to cover each. Thanks to Heritage Seedlings for advice and a good product.
Current plans are to conduct well-timed weed control at every opportunity, with every means possible, until the end of time.
Days spent tossing out seed on a slick, sloppy hillside were pleasant, despite the prospect of falling on my butt and sliding all the way to the bottom of the slope. A muddy boot day for sure – even the deer were sliding around.
It’s a RAIN BEETLE
(Pleocoma sp.) . These are comical, extremely furry-hairy creatures about an inch long. They come buzzing out with the fall rains in the Northwest, the males flying around with their fabulous, complex antennae oriented for female pheromones. They sound like tiny helicopters. They are our own northwest endemic species, except for those in Utah, which is a puzzle.
The females wait at the entrance to their burrows for mating, then go back underground. Weeks or months later they get around to laying eggs.
After they hatch, the larvae live underground, eating the roots of – you guessed it – oaks and conifers. The first soaking rains of fall are apparently a trigger for those that have pupated to emerge as adults.
I must look for them next year, as I’m not sure if they have coordinated emergence like cicadas, or if a few come out every year or every few years. They are native, and as such are not pests, except in cultivated crops like orchards. I surmise this is because their native habitat has been plowed and they’ve lost their natural food web relationships. They might be an instrument of natural selection, taking out the weaker trees. The larvae would be a tasty snack for a gopher, mole, vole or other burrowing creature and the adults are eaten by other mammals like skunks and raccoons or anything that can catch them, which is pretty much anything because they are very slow.
WHAT A WONDERFUL THING to be here when the beetles were. If we hadn’t cut so much vegetation, I might never have seen them, and if the logging, loading and slash piling hadn’t taken so long, I might have missed the rains; if Tom hadn’t found this place, I wouldn’t have this hillside to stand on, and if I hadn’t left Colorado, I wouldn’t have met Tom. I am so lucky.
Looking forward to another year of discovery and witnessing life converge on the present moment. Best wishes to all.