Sunday, August 1, 2010

From the Breaks - The Dry Season

I live on the breaks between the Grande Ronde and Minam-Wallowa rivers.

Right now we're in another in-between season ... not quite fall, but it's not exactly summer either. It's the season of seeds instead of flowers. Green is turning to brown, and the soil is dry even with the soaking rain earlier this week. It is also the season of the earliest fruit in this higher and drier elevation - serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.). Serviceberry is certainly a lot seedier than blueberries, but I've read that in northern Canada varieities of serviceberry have been selected and are grown as a commercial fruit crop. What would our region look like if we all had serviceberry bushes in our yards rather than other imported fruit varieties? Could we have learned an agri-culture that was indigenous to this area, in harmony with our climate and rainfall and plant species? If we grew camas instead of potatoes, biscuitroot instead of wheat?

What does it mean to be in harmony with our ecological neighborhood? As part of the seasonal change, I start thinking abut firewood for the fall. Last year's firewood stash became home to a series of packrats that terrorized our house. I decided to deprive the packrats of their habitat by taking out the pallets, digging down to level dirt, adding gravel and paving stones for drainage and a packrat resistant floor. As I excavated down through layers of bark and straw and leaves and into the dirt, I ended up disturbing frogs and a salamander - both species I try to protect and nurture. Unexpected consequences. Packrats and salamanders - both prefer undisturbed and damp soil with layers of bark mulch. Turns out trout and salmon do better where there are wolves - the linkages John Muir spoke about exist but are not always comfortable or convenient.

Swallows are flocking already. Nestlings have fledged and a new generation of kestrels rock back and forth on the electric wire. Frogs and the salamander are relocated under our deck - with it's undisturbed abundance of organic material. I start laying in firewood in between snacking on the serviceberry bushes that volunteered in my orchard, protected by the 6' deer fence. They are doling much better than the trees I planted.

Learning to be a good neighbor takes time.

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