Loving the landscape

Phil writes below of not understanding the logic in changing features that have been part of the landscape for hundreds of years. I suppose in principle I agree, but in the actual practice, I’m not so sure. It might depend on what we’re really talking about here.

My hesitation, I’m sure, is also partly a factor of western Oregon being very different from Wales–not in climate, or even topography, perhaps, but certainly in human historic age. We don’t have much in the way of 400-year old growing things here. At one point there were large forests that were that old, I’m told, but they burned in a gigantic fire. Because the trees were cedar, snags the size of small buildings are still around to give evidence to the burn. 

But even in the last century there have been great changes to the flora covering the ground in my part of the world. We have pictures of our place (which is now heavily forested) totally covered in grass. The previous tenants raised goats, and where goats grow, very little else does. A couple of years ago, the owner logged the hill across the county road from us. “You must be devastated!” a friend said. The truth was just the opposite. We have so many trees here that they had begun to feel a little oppressive, and I wanted to see the shape of the land, something you can’t see where conifer forest grows. And now my garden gets two more hours of sun each day for ripening the heat loving plants.

Besides, I’ve been in this valley long enough to know that timber really is renewable if the land is treated with love. Most of the property for ten or so miles has been logged during my tenure here. And most of it looks like forest again, although very young forest.

Josh suggested nuking the blackberries. I suspect that wouldn’t work. They’d just mutate into some tougher strain. Many out here, including the county, have tried to control them with chemicals. The berries just laugh at chemicals, so the net result is that you’ve still got berries but much of the healthy vegetation of other types is killed off. The best way to deal with berries is to starve them to death. You mow or clip them to the ground, denying them the nourishment their leaves would provide, and eventually the roots die.

We don’t use chemicals on our land, with this exception: Our soil is very acid, so certain parts of the garden get a good application of lime periodically. And for my heavy feeders like corn and the brassicas, a little sterilized steer manure makes for lovelier produce. But many of my favorites, like the blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and roses (they have to be in the garden because they’re a favorite of the deer also) love a highly acid soil. So I leave those alone and let the water and debris from the woods keep them healthy.

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10 Responses to “Loving the landscape”

  1. whitishrabbit Says:

    Yes but….

    how bad was the bread?

  2. mklekacz Says:

    Rabbit, it wasn’t hopeless, it just wasn’t particularly good. Underrisen and underbaked, very dense, which is why it actually made good French toast. Another lesson learned.

  3. Heath Says:

    One of the things I hate the most about the west coast (california specifically) is that any bit of open land is consumed by housing and strip malls as quickly as possible.
    When I first moved here, the company was surrounded by trees…there was no massive high school across the street, there weren’t the 10-12 gargantuaun apartment complexes visible everywhere. Trees, and natural areas.

    Back east, where I’m originally from, there are trees and parks everywhere, and there’s even currently a lobby to relcaim some state owned property, tear the buildings down, and turn it into a massive park. I like that concept. We’re steadily consuming every bit of open space. – That’s why I want to retire on a lake in the mountains with no one around me. I don’t want to SEE someone else’s house 😉

  4. mklekacz Says:

    Heath, there’s an old bluegrass song that’s one of my favorites that addresses the issue of why settlers kept moving westward. I think it comes out of Appalachia, but I’m not totally sure. At any rate, the song begins:

    “I heard my neighbor’s rooster crow early in the dawn,
    I heard my neighbor’s rooster crow, next day I was gone.”

    Our neighbors have a hound. I can tell you that sounds might be more disturbing than sights. . .

    Many of Oregon’s little coastal towns are suffering that California fate in a rush to try to replace lost timber and fishing jobs with a tourist economy. It’s very, very sad.

  5. Phil Ferris Says:

    I should have taken some photos, as I don’t think that I expalined myself clearly enough.

    It’s the loss of one of the last few rather than one of the many; my family have farmed in this area for hundreds of years, they will have had a hand in changing the landscape. Part of the problem with change today is the way modern technology has speeded it all up, so much idamnage in such a short space of time.

    Since living in this cottage, where my mother and her mother were born and three doors from where I grew up, things have changed and I have absorbed them. Those were practical changes, maybe it’s partly change in things I can’t control that gnarls so. Having lived in this village for all of my life so far I do worry that I might be quite insular. I have travelled to continental Europe and Greece, I surf the world, read widely, listen to a wide range of programmes and communicate with all sorts of people, but it’s no guarantee that I am a cosmopolitan sort of chap.

    Still, I try to put my thoughts into words and share them with friends, in this way I can take part in a conversation and, hopefully, grow a little wiser.

  6. mklekacz Says:

    Phil, I love getting your notes. I think your previous comment was very clear, and as I think I said, I largely agree with you. It’s just a very gnarly issue. Population is a huge problem (or at least I think we have to accept that huge populations are now a reality). People have to somehow live and earn the means to do so. Earning is both about getting resources and about engaging in some sort of meaningful activity, I think.

    But you are absolutely right–the rate of change is accelerating, has been for the past several decades, and it’s difficult to deal with if you are an attentive and caring person (and I’m pretty sure you are ;^}).

  7. Ron Says:

    Principle and practice a knotty issue indeed. Just recently I explored the burnt out forest in the mts above my house. On one hand, it’s devastating to see the trails and trees I’ve visited gone (see photos on my blog) and I hope the woman who started the fire will be fined. On the other hand the blackened forest is beautiful and in a very short time there will be new growth pushing up through the ash and black.

  8. Ron Says:

    The photos are here: http://counterintuitiverundonotwalk.blogspot.com/2007/02/we-often-see-smoke-in-august-or.html

  9. mklekacz Says:

    Ron, the photos on your blog are terrific. What part of the country is this?

    Wildfires are part of a natural cycle. Fires that are set are another issue. But fire is definitely necessary to keep wildlife healthy.

    Very scary, nonetheless.

  10. Ron Says:

    Utah, the Wasatch Mts

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