Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Improper Land Clearing - Part 2 & Replicating the Design in Nature

This article is a follow up to my first article 

"Improper Land Clearing Can Destroy the Internet" 

This article here is really a reflection on how humans use to clear land back in history in replication of what they saw and observed in the natural world around before the invention of all things mechanized. Perhaps these alternatives have been long since forgotten by most folks, but many are bringing them back again. Once again, out in the Natural World there has always been a major component of land clean up and maintenance for which today is sadly breaking down or in some locations on Earth it's completely absent. Proper land custodianship hasn't always worked with most conventional  science-based Industrial Agricultural and Forest Land Management practices which usually seek to find or make a fast Buck ($$$) quick fix solution as opposed to replicating long term ecological  solutions which from an imperfect human standpoint may not have an immediate Dollar Value attached to these ideas, but does have long term life sustainable investment returns. Hopefully folks reading this will get a clue with all sorts of lights turning on in their heads as to the possibilities that are out there. So let's consider some historical perspectives on land clearing and maintenance.

Ever see old paintings of those grandiose landscapes of famous European Estates owned by the wealthy of eras long past ? Or how about the earliest paintings of some of the most famous of large city parks in both America and throughout Europe ? Ever wonder who or should I say what cut and edged those 'as far as the eye can see' lawns depicted in those paintings ? It was quite often sheep which were a natural part of Public Parks and Estates back in those times before the introduction of mechanical devices which replaced the sheep. Sheep were often a common feature in those paintings, but maybe often overlooked by the viewer who may never once considered why they were present. We certainly don't have sheep in our public parks or estates today, so what was their purpose for being in the painting. I dare say most folks viewing those works of art never give it a second thought, let alone thinking or wonder about them in the first place. Let's take a historical look back. History can be an amazing educator.


Thomas Coke of Norfolk (seen here with his prized 
Southdown sheep on his estate at Holkham)





Cattle were also used, though I doubt allowed to graze
 around the immediate vicinity of the Estate residence itself.

Modern day sheep grazing grounds management examples: TheJournal.ie (Irish publication)




Sheep graze in an urban environment in the village of Matson, where the local farmer allows the sheep to permanently graze among flats and houses in the quiet English village.





Even a resident Kitty was curious. Wool-Kommen!



An interesting historical photo of the USA 
White House Grounds Maintenance Crew !


For further historical reading on the use of sheep, here is a link to an historical look at the fascinating way America use to maintain their public works. 
--Shepherds of Manhattan – Tending the Flocks in America’s City Parks by Linda Rorem 
Here are some modern day applications being done right now. It's a shame more modern farms do not follow this example!


Sheep grazing in an Orchard not only keeps the grasses and other annual grasses and other plants in check, but also prevents soil compaction from heavy farm equipment which is better for root growth along with it's mycorrhizal grid and those added natural fertilizer pellets.




"For the third consecutive year, 220 ewes and an equal number of lambs have been imported onto our home ranch as part of our biodynamic program. Their presence contributes to the vineyard environment in a number of ways:       
•Grazing on the cover crop avoids soil compaction from farm equipment which is detrimental to root growth.      •Sheep are natural recyclers: their manure helps fertilize the root system of the vines.       
•Along with bees and chickens, their presence increases biodiversity on the ranch. A major goal in any biodynamic program is to create a farming environment that is as self-sustaining as possible. At JPV we are currently farming 140 acres biodynamically, and it is our goal to eventually become 100% biodynamic."


The photo above is a picture of sheep grazing Vineyards in Douro River Valley - Portugal.



Even with a shepherd, Goats would make a not so wise choice for gleaning the fields between Trees in an Orchard or Grapevines in a Vineyard.  They will eat everything in site and that despite the watchful eye of an attendant. However, they are perfect for Chaparral maintenance and thinning dense growth zones as in firebreaks.

When I lived in Anza, CA, there were several people who used goats to maintain their land without destroying the environment and disrupting the underground mycorrhizal Grid or network. Of course like anything, goats need to be managed and moved around so as not to overgraze an area down to the soil.  In historical times past various predators did this service by keeping the herbivores on the move. A prime example of ecosystem improvement was in Yellowstone when the wolves keep the Elk moving which in turn allowed for willow, alder and other Riparian Habitat plant community establishment.




Cougar Predation Important in Wildland Ecosystems


Another modern day practical applications practice is that of using pigs to clean the understory of a forest floor where the large herds of Bison, Elk and Deer  were the wildlife components of the ecosystem, but have since been removed from this natural system. Take the example of Joel Salatin of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia who uses his pigs to initiate temporary disturbance to his forest soils for a month, then allows 11 months of natural rebuilding by the ecosystem. 
Pasturized Forested Pigs Part 1


Pasturized Forested Pigs Part 2



Below in the next video - Joel Salatin talking about pigs ability at land disturbance and management that makes the ecosystem of the forested lands more valuable. His pigs perform what formerly now extinct herds of Bison , Elk and Deer moved along by predators like wolves, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Lions pushed them along to do in forest floor management. 



Polyface Farms Silviculture: The End Product



Video below is of the Star Rose Ranch using Joel Salatin's Pigerator Method for turning compost and weeding the surrounding area. Two weeks later and the farmer didn't need to life a finger.


As a final video and conclusion here, this is a visit by Joel Salatin to on the central coast of California for a ranch visit with Janina Pawlowski and Doniga and Erik Markegard from the Markegard Family Grass-Fed cattle operation. Joel describes how to divide pasture land based on key lines as well as how to manage pasture with seasonal dry conditions. 
Now pay close attention to what he is suggesting. Often times new ideas need repeating if nothing else than for your own education. Repetition for Emphasis is important along with personal practical  application of the suggested ideas. Even when you make mistakes, view these as learning experiences. Trust me, as a land owner you will make some mistakes, but if humble enough to take much needed advice you'll eventually come off a winner. 
Pay close attention to what he says about viewing and learner your own land. When anyone buys a property they want to develop as a farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard or just a simple nature hideaway retreat, take one year and just get to know it. When I lived up in Anza, California, you find the weather is extremely different from down along the coast or even interior valleys at the lower elevations. Rainfall totals for winter are far more than below along the coasts. Learn the runoff patterns of the water on your land, if any at all. Get to know your geology. Some areas should be left alone. One example in the video Joel gives below are some steep difficult areas for farming or grazing. Leave those alone and allow either the chaparral or forest to grow back. Or if already present, simply leave them alone. They serve wildlife habitat functions and remember hydraulic - lift - redistribution and descent ? These areas can be allow to regulate and administer water intake by percolation in your soil as facilitated by the mycorrhizal grid and intertwined roots systems of the rocky site. Every portion of your land can have purposeful function if you are smart enough to understand how things in nature can actually work for your advantage if you work with and not against.




You can find out more by visiting:  www.earthactionmentor.org


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Networking With (New Mexico Locust)


New Mexico Locust (Robinia neomexicana)

This is really one of those interesting tough little trees and I mean little trees because as a single specimen they don't get more than 20-26 feet under ideal high forested mountain conditions where Aspen, Douglas Fir, Gambel Oak and Ponderosa Pine usually live up in the mountains. Yet, they can tolerate the nastiest and harshest dry hot conditions as long as they and their incredibly sophisticated and microbial colonized roots network have access to moisture somewhere. 

When I lived up in Anza, it was common to see many older Black Locust with their beautiful white flowers which smelled of Orange blossom fragrance. I was at Cahuilla Market one day talking with previous owner Chuck McKee about where his Orange tree were because the fragrance was so overpowering and he pointed out the Locust flowers. BTW, Oranges don't exactly grow up in Anza because the often bitter winter cold would fry them and that's why I was astonished by the familiar scent. The flowers grow in clusters and to me looked reminiscent of Wisteria flowers with the characteristic grape shaped cluster form that hangs down from the vines. Black Locust are native to areas back in the eastern USA and are usually the first tree to sprout back from a forest fire and the underground network has a lot to do with that. Later on (I think in the 1990s) some Anza folks later on brought up a variety called Idaho Locust which in many ways is a lot like Black Locust, but slower growing and the flower clusters as reddish purple.


Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)




Idaho Locust (Robinia idahoensis)

My first encounter was on our annual Cline family reunion trip where we alternated each year for different locations between Lubbock TX, Sierra Vista AZ, Tijeras NM or sometimes we rented cabins at Ruidoso New Mexico.  While hiking up in the dense yet beautiful old growth forest I stumbled upon what I had often only seen and read about in numerous issues of Arizona Highways magazines where it was always in association with other larger trees in dense woods near a stream or some such other woodland setting. The trees here fursther up from where our cabins were located were higher up the mountain and closer to the ski resort. They grow in the high forest understory and can reach over 20' in height. Further on down they were growing with Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii) which itself is another one of those interesting trees that spread and create small woodlands which contain what look to be numerous individuals but in reality are the same cloned genetic individual. Clearly networking works as a great survival strategy and I'll get to that further in the post as it serves multiple purposes and functions. 
 Gambel Oak (Qurecus gambelii) produces clones from an underground spreading root system which also serves to bind soils together and prevent erosion.



New Mexico Locust grows most commonly from it's underground spreading network of rhizomatous rooting systems which periodically send up sprouts to become new clones of the original parent. They can and do spread from seed as you can see they are in the pea family from the second from the top photo above, but once established in an area it seems the network is all that is necessary. Even after forest fires they are the first to sprout back and that's important for a number of reasons. New Mexico Locust is great for erosion control as the intricate complex network has long since been well established underground from previous decades. This network and regrowth covering  can have a Nurse Tree effect for the establishment of other later to be dominant trees like Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, White Fir, other Oaks and even Maples. Here's what the US Federal Forest Service says about New Mexico Locust which some think needs to be controlled (no doubt by chemicals) for the re-establishment of forests after logging. (TYPICAL) Yet look what they reference about the benefits to Douglas Firs taken right from their own site:
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: 
"New Mexico locust competes with conifer seedlings and saplings for moisture and light.  Because of its rapid growth and prolific sprouting, efforts are made to suppress New Mexico locust, especially after timber harvest. Brush competition is usually detrimental to seedling or juvenile tree growth. However, Coffman  showed that under adverse planting conditions, the highest establishment rates of planted Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) seedlings occurred under moderate or heavy cover of New Mexico locust and Gambel oak."
So they can actually be of help and benefit towards re-establishment. Why ? First off,  after a catastrophic event such as a wildfire it should be noted that in almost all cases the natural "Earth Network" which not only contains the multi-species biodiverse Mycorrhizal Network & Beneficial Bacteria which for the most part were untouched by the event, but also both New Mexico Locust & Gambel Oaks have their own roots networks still intact for the benefit of not only themselves in resprouting, but the seed of other plants which will plug into the grid and be fed till they are once again established as adults. I refered to this plugging in from my illustrations of how a grid works in this post here:
How I First Became Addicted to the Internet 
This next piece comes right off Dr Dan Luoma's page where he works with the  mycorrhizas and Truffles industries as a business. He is also an active member of the Bashan Foundation of La Paz, Baja California. The link below of course is a science paper on the ability of already existing and established underground natural networked systems and their engineering ability to re-establish forest seedlings which becomes plugged into the network grid which fascillitates nutrient and water hydration to the young plants via this protected network. In one experiment they took a alcohol based blue die and saturated a large stump created by the strip logging. They saturated the stump which absorbed the die and transfered it into the roots eventually through the mycorrhzal grid only to be picked up by the young trees connected to the same grid even at great distances. Enjoy the read:
 Hydraulic redistribution of water from Pinus ponderosa trees to seedlings: evidence for an ectomycorrhizal pathway
"Here are some great photos of both New Mexico Locust & Gambel Oak show off their ability to resprout after a fire ravages an area. The first picture is where New Mexico locust dominates this slope along the Los Alamos ridge trail about a half-mile from the Mitchell Trail. It completely burned off above ground and will be back with a vengeance! Photo is from bike and hike NM Blog which monitors trail maintenance."

images: bikeandhike NM Blog

Another big important function that New Mexico Locust offers through it's extensive complex network in your landscape or forest ecology is it's ability as a member of the 'pea family' it's ability to feed the soil. It is among many plants in nature which is a Nitrogen-Fixing plant. Of course to help this along are beneficial bacteria which influence the process.


Plants That Feed The Soil? In one word - YES! 

Nitrogen is one of the most important elements required by growing plants. Some plants form symbiotic relationships with certain types of soil bacteria that live on the plants’ roots are able to “fix” atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to the plant for growth. This gives these plants a decided advantage over other plants, especially in nitrogen-poor soils. When the plant dies, this nitrogen is left in the soil and is available to other plants.

Most gardeners know about planting annual, nitrogen-fixing cover crops, such as peas, vetch or clover, as a way to improve the soil for the following food crop to be planted in their organically raised gardens . These cover crops are usually cut down and turned-in to the soil to release the nutrients. However, New Mexico Locust (Robinia neomexicana) is just one of many plants that can accomplish this in a wild landscape environment. This is exactly what I established on my property in Anza California on that trip back from Ruidosos, NM.

Perennial nitrogen fixers feed the soil without having to be cut down because all roots are in a constant state of growth and die-back. As bits of the roots of nitrogen-fixing perennials die, nitrogen is released and made available to surrounding plants. Spacing these plants regularly throughout the landscape will help reduce imported fertilizer needs while increasing productivity. 
Here is a great piece by a student presenting his thesis with some good reads, though the text is a bit rough on the PDF.
PERCUSSION AS AN ALTERNATIVE SEED TREATMENT FOR ROBINIA NEOMEXICANA (NEW MEXICO LOCUST)
by Nabil Y. Khadduri (New Mexico State University - Las Cruces NM, 2003)
Some Pertinent Points extracted from "Introduction" of Nabil's Thesis
"New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana A. Gray), a small tree native to the southwestern United States, occurs at elevations from 1,200 to 2,800 meters. This species fills a successional role in post-disturbance situations. As a primary invader, New Mexico locust quickly establishes on burned areas arid flood banks, as well as road cuts (Wagner et aI. 1992). Rapid growth, crown sprouting and prolific root suckering favor the successful establishment ofNew Mexico locust on disturbed sites (Simpson 1988, Gottfried 1980). These attributes also may make New Mexico locust well suited for steep-slope revegetation where erosion is a problem."
"New Mexico locust is a nitrogen-fixing legume that tolerates and improves nutrient-poor soils. Stands ofNew Mexico locust increase Nitrogen (N) and Calcium (Ca) in the forest floor. Levels of Carbon (C), Phosphorous (P), Sulfur (8) and Potassium (K) aIso have been shown to increase in soil beneath New Mexico locust (Klemmedson 1994)."
"The ability to colonize rapidly and ameliorate harsh sites contributes to New Mexico locust's potential as a nurse plant. A nurse plant colonizes an inhospitable site and creates an environment suitable for successional plant establishment. New Mexico locust demonstrates this role in the ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex Lawson & C. Lawson)/Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii Nutt.) community. After a disturbance such as wildfire, New Mexico locust and Gambel oak colonize and dominate the site until shaded out by ponderosa pine. Once shaded, these species become understory shrubs, a process taking an average of 15-20 years (Dick-Peddie 1993, Hanks and Dick-Peddie 1974). New Mexico locust gradually declines, with small dense patches averaging about 0.05 ha beneath pine, until the next disturbance once again offers it a competitive advantage (Klemmedson 1994)." 
"Gottfried (1980), expecting ponderosa pine regeneration to be greater where New Mexico locust had been eradicated, found that survival of planted pine seedlings was greater where locust had not been removed. In a follow-up study, Gottfried (1980) noted that soil moisture in the top 57 cm was highest in 5-year old locust sites, as compared to grass or 20-year old locust sites. He concluded that managing an appropriate cover of New Mexico locust could help regenerate pine, the later successional species."
"The ability of New Mexico locust to improve harsh sites also makes it a candidate for reclaiming disturbances associated with mining. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia 1.) has been used for decades to reclaim mine spoils and other disturbed sites in the eastern US and around the world (Keresztesi 1988, Zimmerman and Carpenter 1980). Ashby et al. (1985) described similar positive attributes of black locust also mentioned previously for New Mexico locust: quick cover for stabilization, supply ofN and nutrient-rich litter to the soil, and site improvement for establishment oflater successional trees. Referring specifically to mine reclamation, the authors note the ability of black locust to grow on a wide range ofmine soil conditions, including extremely acid soils. Black locust also shows some tolerance to soils compacted by grading and topsoiling practices (Ashby et aL 1985)."
"New Mexico locust holds promise as a native southwe~tem counterpart to black locust in mine reclamation, but it has been used infrequently to date. Natural invasion and succession occur slowly on most mine sites (Monsen 1984). While New Mexico locust often colonizes sites naturally, there is no assurance a seed will reach a particular site and establish in a reasonable time frame. The challenge is to introduce New Mexico locust as mother plants to facilitate colonization. Seedling production for outplanting on disturbed sites has been hampered by poor germination (Lin et al. 1996). The goal, then, is to develop techniques to overcome poor germination in New, Mexico locust, thereby facilitating macropropagation." 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The above should at least illustrate to all the important ability of New Mexico Locust to be used as an establishment mother plant to be utilized in the beginning to be replaced naturally over time by more dominant and desirable plants in the landscape without itself totally disappearing from the ecosystem. 
Here is an updated Version of my experience with New Mexico Locust at my former property in Anza California
Revisiting Black Locust and Networks




, ,

by scarification trea

Monday, April 2, 2012

Improper Land Clearing Can Destroy the Internet


These say pictures can convey volumes of information that a multitude of words could never accomplish. I'll start off here with some pictures that really could illustrate land maintenance practices that are found on any location on Earth in any country. The two pictures below are only illustrative of what the subject of this post is all about and the company from where the photos were taken no doubt does a professional job of manicuring the land for which they are hired. It is hoped however that people will gain a better understanding of what goes on under the ground before they hire such a company or take upon themselves any personal land clearing project. The photos below are merely typical of what is experienced in the clearing of land.

Now the company that cleared this land is out of Texas and no doubt obtains many such work contracts. In fact on their website they show a number of pictures of the bulldozer clearing the land by scraping with a blade and pilling up a combination of mangled brush and soil in piles or a long rows of debris pushed up against the property line. This is often typical and I saw this numerous times when I lived up in Anza California. On that website, the bottom photo proudly displays the text: "Cleared Field After 20 Years". Yep, I believe it and have no reason to doubt those words. They did an effective job so that the land would never see a great amount of vegetation ever again.


image: All AG Services
The land prior to the clearing project most likely had a healthy 'Mycorrhizal Internet Grid'. Yet now it most likely has more of a bacterial system to replace it. A bacterial system, as Bert Wilson of Las Pilitas California Native Plant Nursery says, favours what are called plants that are known as 'ruderals' (we know them as seasonal or annual plants, like weeds for instance) and usually a  healthy ecosystem with a  'Mycorrhizal Internet Grid' under the ground tends to keep those weeds in check or at least balanced out. Take a walk or hike anywhere there is pristine chaparral plant community conditions and you will not find weeds as the over powering dominant force you find in open ranges created by humans for livestock raising. Though you will find such annuals here and there, the mycorrhizal grid is a protection and a sort of natural antibiotics for the health of any forest or chaparral community's soil. 

Looking at the bottom picture above, you'll notice that though it still looks like grassland after 20 years, the question comes up, 'Is it really the right type of grassland ?' What I see in that photo is mostly annual plants like wild mustard, maybe even some various types of foxtail grasses. Nothing wrong with annuals (or believe it or not weeds), they do what they do best and that is cover the land quickly. That's important because when rains come, they're function or purpose  really is to slow water down as opposed to letting it run off and erode the soil. If a bad brush clearing job has been done and the top layer of biologically rich soils have been remove, then it may take years for vegetation of any kind to come back and in the mean time valuable top soil has been washed down stream. Again, anybody in any back country situation has seen what I'm talking about, though you thought nothing of it at the time.


The real objective goal in any land management project should be to eventually replace the annuals with perennial system. That would be plants that live for a season being replaced by plants that may live a decade or more. For example, that Pastureland Project (if that was the intended goal of clearing the brush in the first place) above should be mostly perennial bunch grasses and other beneficial plants that one would find on a pristine prairie setting. Something like the picture below where deeper rooted bunch grasses and other plants will allow a greener ecosystem to last longer or in some cases till a summer monsoonal system kicks in.


 And you all know what Bunch-grasses are right ?
These are individual grasses that under the right conditions send their roots down several feet into the earth (in the correct soil setting) which allows them to tap into sub-soil moisture which means they stay greener longer than those annuals that rapidly produce more seed, quickly dry out and then die only to be repeated year after year. A perennial grassland system is more desirable and is going to be more productive if you've got a livestock ranching program. The system will be more nutritious and better at self repairing after the animals pass through, that is if the rancher manages things properly. Many residents up in the Anza area when I lived there were even clever enough to transplant many of the native bunch grasses on their land into small areas of a lawn. Very clever considering Anza is a very dry air region whether it's hot or bitter cold. Those bunchgrass lawns can stay green with very little watering once established and will eventually come together and fill in the bare spaces in between them.

Sometimes the goal of the weekend ranchette landowner is to remove what is considered the undesirable plants with what they view aesthetically valueless. In Anza that most often is a tough little shrub or brush that will grow where nothing else will and it's called Chamise or Greasewood (Adenostoma fasciculatum) 

 
Seriously, who wants such a jagged stickery looking nasty bush like that in their landscape ? You should. As mentioned, they often grow where nothing else will. Much of the soils they grow on is very shallow and rocky and not very deep. Remove them and try planting something you thought was cute choice or pick from the local nursery and would be a better fit in your game plan scheme of things you  envisioned than that ugly old Greasewood and then watch it fail. One thing that most people who come up from the city and who buy that dream home piece of land never do is take their time that first year and get to know their wild landscapes and the ecology and geology makeup of their own property. Know something about the wild plants on that property and what they find as optimal growing conditions. Let's go back to the Greasewood as an example. Under perfect growing conditions, even a Greasewood Shrub can be found growing as a small tree, though it has to compete for this with other plants that like the perfect growing conditions. 

But when you see Greasewood grow in large masses or groupings on a rise or hill knoll with no other plants around and only about a couple of feet in height, then that can often tell you that below the surface there is a nasty rocky, probably bedrock situation close to the surface type of geological soil condition. Nothing else will grow there. You can check by trying to force a shovel or even a pry bar to see what's down there. Not only will your much desired plant from the nursery fail under such soil profile, but you will even rarely find the usual nasty weeds growing there. So leave the Greasewood alone. It's performing a couple of important functions for your property. First, when rains come, it slows the water down from completely running off, which is what you want it to do. Second, under that nasty ground there is still a 'Mycorrhizal Internet Grid' which I guarantee you is intact underneath those plants otherwise the Greasewood itself wouldn't be able to survive. And that grid is also connected to another grid that is networked further away in more desirable locations connecting all plant communities in the Network of cooperation for survival. And Third and possibly the most  important factor is it's ability to sprout back after a fire and continue to hold the bare ground somewhat intact when the next seasons rains finally come.

Yes, google images of the plant called Greasewood or Chamise and you will find a third of the images appear like the above. It's called Greasewood for a reason. It has a lot of volatile oils within it's wood and it is prone to wildfire situations. Anybody who moves to Chaparral country ecology situation should expect and prepare for wildfires. It's true that it's a natural part of the environment, but what is unnatural is the ever present growing frequency for which fires today come and go. The more people the greater the chances. No matter what you plant, even if you think removing the brush and replacing it with what you think is less fireprone or resistant, the reality is nothing is resistant to these later day firestorms which are more intense now than in times past. Everything will burn, but the natives will sprout back and hold your land intact better than the transplanted urban landscape reconstruction you assumed was a better idea.

Now let me change channels here and show you some example photos of what some folks with good intentions and motivations for clearing land of the jagged stuff to make it more aesthetically appealing to the human eye. First off up in Anza where I lived, people often removed what they considered that nasty looking Greasewood to reveal more the more 'Eye Candy' pleasing shrubs like Manzanita. I love Manzanitas too, but they also need the the other surrounding infrastructure to fully benefit. Many times they will die sudden death after land clearing for no visible apparent reasons.

 Yup, no doubt about it. That's one of the best looking natural wild shrubs to be found anywhere, and who wouldn't in their right mind choose that over less desirable brush like Greasewood ? So here's what their land may often look like after the land clearer has followed their strict instructions of what the want ans expect from him. Of course the ultimate goal was to remove just the ugly and while  keep the kool stuff.



image: Cedar Beetle





Okay, we all get the idea about clearing (cleaning) the land up and leaving the desirable things. I get that and actually agree with it, but there are things to consider. Yes, of course the Fire Marshals ordered you to clean the land up, but then you cared about your land enough already and were going to do that anyway without them making you do it. But now consider the methods you use. The 24 years I spent up in Anza, California, I saw folks hire someone who was in the business of brush clearing or they themselves with their own little Adult toy Kubota Weekend Farmer Tractor and using that blade to literally scrape off several valuable inches of that biologically rich topsoil down to a clean sterile looking decomposed granite type of soil so that they could plant a yard that looks like this example below. Here's some more examples of land clearing in which selected desirable trees or shrubs are left. But often later some of those saved plants may die.

The photograph below this paragraph is take from the website of  "The Chaparral Institute" which was taken I believe in northern San Diego County. It illustrates panic over fire danger and the mastication method of chewing up and actually stripping the landscape to reveal nothing but raw bare sterile soil which may no longer contain the natural grid which was installed and regularly maintained by nature for thousands of years. Even if the saved single or grouped specimens of Manzanitas, Oaks or Pines make it for a time, they may eventually die as a result of being disconnected from the "Earth's Internet".  Such geographic landscape profiles don't necessarily have sub-soil water stores from which to draw from. Before the masticated land clearance, those plants were dependent on their being connected to the complete mycorrhizal and plant root grid that was networked completely around those slopes to facilitate water transportation from lower stores further down the slope during the dry season. Now they are up dry creek so to speak. This practice is parroted by many landowners who actually lose some of their prized shrubs when they believed they were doing a good thing in manicuring their property.




This next photograph above was taken from the  "California Native Plant Society" 
Here is a quote from under the photo:

     "The cost of viewing chaparral as fuel. This remarkable stand of manzanita chaparral in the Cleveland National Forest that was featured on the Fall 2007 cover of the California Native Plant Society’s quarterly journal Fremontia was masticated by the USFS in 2008. The mastication shown above continues around a Coulter pine tree plantation. The area is miles away from any community"  
     "Rather than dealing comprehensively with wildfire risk, many local governments are promoting vegetation “clearance” strategies that seriously compromise protected wildlands, challenge the integrity of habitat conservation plans, and increase the spread of invasive species. Some San Diego County officials have expressed the desire to exempt such vegetation “treatments” from the California Environmental Quality Act. Under the federal Healthy Forests Restoration Act, millions of dollars are spent to “treat acres” rather than dealing with fire risk where it would be most effective, immediately around and within human communities. Please join us as we discuss threats posed to California’s native plant communities by misguided fuel treatment projects and what you can do to help protect San Diego County’s native plants from unwise land use policies."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
http://www.californiachaparral.org
This next photo below is again taken from "The Chaparral Institute" website which clearly shows what grows back after stripping the land of it's natural mycorrhizal grid into a bacterial system which as Bert Wilson points out favours plants that are 'ruderals' as in this case foxtails &  non-native oats which in fact burn like gasoline. At least brush could have slowed a fire down somewhat, but now is facilitated by a more combustible fuel which when high wind fed on a ridge will allow fires quicker access to the other side of the ridge. At least with fires slowed down with brush, fire retardant dropping planes could make a ridgeline strip ahead of a slower moving fire than one blowing full steam ahead in a grassland setting. However, it should now be noted that with climate and weather pattern change, these higher winds are more common than any time in the past and nothing really will stop them. This can be seen from the last several years of firestorms which have devastated many communities prone to such problems.

Chaparral Institute: Ridgeline Fuel Breaks are worthless

This next picture below I've taken off another blog by a gal who lives in Murrieta CA. She's into native plants and this picture is not a bad example of land clearing but is rather an illustrative example of what some land clearing can look like when some plants are selected to be kept. In this case she has replanted with native plants to establish more desirable that she appreciates into here garden environment.  But notice the irrigation drip system. This is what is keeping the plantscape live until a proper root system with mycorrhizal networks can take over.  Now I like a clean looking property, but the only thing really keeping these plants alive is the constant presence of the drip irrigation system and that's if the critters don't chew it up. One note of caution here though is that you should NOT allow your natives to become dependent on a drip system. The ideal thing is to gradually ween them off it once established. Believe it or not, at my mum's house, though I did install an elaborate irrigation system at her house in El Cajon CA, most all the plants have roots down deep enough to penetrate deeply to get to sub-soil moisture which is what they want anyway. So the system is not on any timer and is only needed occasionally because of a few water loving plants like 'California Spicebush' and some wild currents in the understory of the trees.


image: Arlene Webster
 
If the biological material (mycorrhizae, beneficial bacteria, etc) has been removed or scraped off and pushed to the property line and even if they inoculated the ground within each planting hole, it will take much longer time to recover. Those native plants BTW that people try and save will often succumbed to sudden dying with what appears to be no rhyme or reason to the landowner.


Now back to the prized Bushes that were saved, like those wonderful Manzanitas. How many times have you seen someone's property that was cleared to leave only the desirable Manzanita plants which may look like this example below in the picture on a manicured sterile kool looking landscape. I actually like a clean sterile sort of landscape in my immediate yard, but a little of the plant's own dander or mulch layer should be left. Again below here is another nice picture from Arleen Webster in Murietta CA landscape.
 http://camissonia.blogspot.se/2012/02/manzanita-bloomfest-continues-but-we.html 


image: Arlene Webster

Only a year or two after a property owner's land clearing  job was done, some of them died unexpectedly and look something  like the photo below ? The shrub starts out slowly by allowing some side branches to die back as a strategy measure to save itself from lack of moisture which it may have had prior to brush and soil clearing which took away the grid network underground where other plants had water access and shared these with your prized Manzanita only to later eventually die as a result of an ignorance on your part for not being acquainted with the "Earth's Internet". 

I know from first hand experience. I've done a lot of stupid stuff and learned the hard way.  Take a look below. This is what is left after I cleared all the other shrubs around a Manzanita that was originally 10 times the size of the skeleton you see in the photo taken last year what we visited my old property again. The small tree was almost 20 feet in diameter when I first bought the place in 1985. It wasn't so much the height of the tree that was impressive, but it had numerous large side branches that grew up and out finally to heavy to stay upwards and lowered to the ground only to re-root (often common in Manzanitas) then grow back up into the air to create another extension of the original tree. Never did a trunk ring core sample, but it had to have been a couple of hundred years old maybe ? Who knows, it's gone now.


image: Mine

It was after my own bad experiences that I realize clearing slowly by hand and then replacing the cleared undesirables with something more appealing, usually another native was the answer.  Also I was never in a hurry after that. I got some other neighbours and friends in the area involved in planting pine trees and incense cedar on their properties  purchased from L.A. Moran Forest Nursery near Davis California. They shipped bare root trees around March if I remember correctly and you had to get them in the ground as quickly as possible. The land cleared by hand was superiorto the mechanized cleared land. Those trees planted in hand cleared ground grew faster than the land where the grid was disrupted by machinery. This practice of  the superiority of hand clearing is also born out in a report of Tamarisk Removal down in the Coachella Valley at 1000 Palms. Plant restoration was faster and more complete on one side where Tamarisk was removed by hand, than land cleared of Tamarisk by machine. If you have the time, take a read of the report here below.
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http://www.invasive.org/gist/stories/ca003/ca003.PDF  
Here are some important quotes from that report. Now pay attention.
"Most areas were cut by hand, thereby selectively cutting out the tamarisk while leaving the native shrubs unharmed. Only a 7.5 acre (3 ha) section that was heavily infested (> 95%) was cleared using a bulldozer."
"In the 7.5 acres (3 ha) that wasbulldozed, natives established much more slowly than in the hand-cleared areas."
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 Remember my post on how the grid works and my Coulter - Jeffrey Pine Tree experiments I mentioned on my Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution article here: 

"How I First Became Addicted To The Internet" 

In that post I explained and illustrated how all plants can be connected to an undreground interconnected grid of 'Mycorrhizal Fungi' Same species of plants or different species of plants can all be connected to this grid. I showed that no matter where I placed the irrigation dripline, that eventually the entire 24 trees were hydrated from the original source of H2O but only because they were connected to the grid.

For a moment, let's illustrate things this way by considering all sorts of human infrastructure for which we all are dependent and easily recognize in the real world. Electrical Network grids, Gas Pipelines Systems,  Plumbing Grids of water Companies, Internet Cable Networks, Telephone Network systems, etc. Now in order to receive the benefit of these services we understand that we don't need to have our home literally or physically connected to the source of that service provider by being right next to it. Let's take a look at an electrical grid network map example of the United States.


Image Source: FEMA

So we all understand that on that major network of the grid systems are the original sources of electricity by Hydroelectric Dams, Coal or Gas fire Electrical Plants, Solar Farms or even Nuclear Energy Plants. We also are aware that we don't have to have our home physically next to one of those Industrial Plants to be able to plug or tap into the system to receive benefits. In fact we understand that we only have to be connected to an infrastructural grid as installed by the electric company as pictured below.





For you folks in Anza, this is how your Anza Electric Copperative works. You don't need your home to physically be on Larry's Agri-Empire land next to the Coop's building to receive electricity. Just connect to the grid they've intelligently built and if it's not available and you've got the big bucks to shell out, they can string the grid to your own home out in Timbuktu (RimRock Rd).  Okay kidding.

The same is true of all plants. Many plants will be located at the sources of water, be they streams, rivers or lakes, or even ecosystem foundational plants that are able to tap into several meters deep moisture caches or reservoirs, then lift & redistribute from their tap roots to their nieghbours thru the 'Mycorrhizal Network'. Most likely those sensitive Manzanitas may have had that grid system disrupted. They likewise can often be found on top of knolls where the soil is shallow and rocky and seemingly dry, yet they thrived because they were tapped into the system via some of those Mountain Mahoganies or Redshank you didn't think were good looking enough for your overall future plans. This is why it's important to examine your land for a year before you make major decisions you'll wind up regretting as I did.

A prime example for Anza of large trees connected to the grid when they look to be in a dry impossible location is when driving up the HWY 371 as it enters the Hamiton Creek Canyon. Look over on both sides of the canyon. Notice that this isn't exactly ideal garden soil, yet look at the many huge Jeffrey, Coulter Pine and Interior Live Oak trees on those dry rocky hillsides. There is not even hardly any natural mulch layer under those trees. The actual rich water source is way down at the bottom of that canyon in Hamilton Creek. Yet, there are plants there like the willows and maybe some cottonwood, which BTW are also host to the same Pisolithus tinctorius Mycorrhizae that colonizes those pines on the canyon hillsides. These trees may be the fascillitators for transporting through the grid sources of fresh water to other life around them. The ability of this fungus to transport water 200' up a mountain side can be seen in many examples where the grid is intact even on southern hot and dry exposures coming up from Hemet to Mountain Center on HWY 74.


For more info on what some call the Dog Turd fungus go over to Tom Volk's website and have a read. Hope this was informative to all. If you are aware of your natural surroundings when out hiking, you'll recognize this puffball or truffle around many of the scrub oaks or pines trees where you live. Especially not long after lightening storms which I'll talk about another time.

Pisolithus tinctorius, the "dog turd" fungus, also known in more polite company as the dyemaker's puffball




The above truffle which is nothing more than the actual fungi's fruit is also the same one creating this internet grid in this famous picture referenced around the Net. Aren't Illustrations Informative ? Think about the map of the electrical grid of the United states you just saw.



Try real hard an picture in your mind's eye what the ground looks like under your property the next time you want to plan something for the landscape.
Enjoy!