This past week has been a physical exercise to "clutter bust" one of the five acres on which we live. Our north SF Bay land nurtures various species of firs, pines, oaks, cedars and manzanitas. On account of the trees' standing height at about 75-100 feet, we figure the land hasn't been cleared in at least 60 years.
After we cleared the location for building the house, we luckily acquired this adjacent acre. The land is northeast-facing and in shadow most of the day--so it's a moister version of the overall dry, forested, mountainous area. We wanted to grow plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, ferns. Nicely forested it reminded me of the Shire in J.J.R. Tolkein's Fellowship of the Ring, so the name has stuck: it's the Shire.
Like the saguaro cactus of the desert, the manzanita is "the" survivor icon of our climate. It is recognized by its blood red bark color-- an outward sign of its vital "chi" energy. Drought-resistant, it detests overwatering. It is pest-resistant, evergreen and one of the first to bloom after the first rains. It provides tiny sweet white blossoms to attract bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Its seeds I consider to have been the first real adventurers to the western frontier.
Unfortunately the manzanita is not even slightly resistant to fire. In fact it makes great fire starter wood in our wood stove.
When I walk through the Shire I routinely come across what I call the "elephant graveyard" (yes, an homage to The Lion King). It's a place where heavy ancient manzanitas seem to have burned and fallen in a bygone era.
Amazingly, it was actually the forest canopy choking sunlight to the manzanitas that brought these old crones down. They were giantesses (26 inches diameter) that had grown twisted and torqued in their reach for sunlight. Their desiccated, parched grey skin cannot hide their still recognizable muscular anatomy--athletes still in good sculptural shape.
I ended up clearing out about an acre of the smaller (20' and shorter) fallen trees--by pulling, sawing, breaking--but left the "elephant graveyard" alone. Most likely these beautiful bodies will be resurrected in a forthcoming charcoal drawing.
Start a new adventure! Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.