Reflections on “Tending the Wild” workshop at OAEC

8 07 2013
Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

When people don’t use plants they get scarce. You must use them so they come up again. All plants are like that. If they’re not gathered from, or talked to, or cared about, they’ll die.

– Mabel McKay, Pomo Elder, quoted from News From Native California

Last week I attended a remarkable 3-day workshop at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) called “Tending the Wild”. It was organized by my friend and colleague Lindsay Dailey, who is the Associate Director of the Wildlands Program at OAEC. For the past few years Lindsay has been training and working with me in the use of fire mimicry techniques in oak woodland restoration. I have found her to be a serious student and practitioner of traditional ecological approaches in land care.

The workshop drew together an amazing group of teachers and elders speaking on the topic of wildland tending by the Californian native people. The first day was led by M. Kat Anderson, PhD, author of the book “Tending the Wild“. Her thesis is that the richness and abundance of the historical ecosystems in California were largely the result of thousands of years of tending by the native people, primarily through the wise use of fire in burning the land to improve soil fertility and promote plant production/regeneration. In answer to the question: “Why are plants and animals disappearing?”, her response is: “Because we no longer have a relationship with them.” Read the rest of this entry »


Six-year results of fire mimicry treatments on California buckeyes

15 07 2011

Six years ago these California buckeyes in Mill Valley were suffering from early leaf senescence. The owner wisely followed my fire mimicry protocol in treating the buckeyes, and six years later we see that the buckeyes are no longer experiencing early leaf senescence. As can be seen in results from these same trees posted from year 4 and year 5, these buckeyes have not been experiencing early leaf senescence for the past 3 years.

More results are shown below: Read the rest of this entry »

Five-year response of California buckeyes to fire mimicry

12 07 2010

Last year I posted a piece on using fire mimicry to treat early leaf senescence in California buckeyes. A few days ago I checked up on these buckeyes and re-photographed them. As you can see in the photos posted here the buckeyes are continuing to show improvement after tending with fire mimicry practices.

When I first saw these trees in 2005 they appeared to be severely stressed due to soil acidification. The lawn areas around their base had a dense cover of mosses growing among the grasses. The mosses were removed by thatching the lawn areas and the soils were treated with several hundred pounds of soil minerals (Azomite and calcitic limestone).

These and other results (see here and here) are showing that the fire mimicry practices which are working so well in restoring the health of the oaks (see here, here, here, here, here, etc.) are also useful in restoring the health of other kinds of trees. This certainly makes sense if the problem is ecological (e.g. fire suppression, soil acidification, overcrowding, etc.) rather than pathological (e.g. disease, insect pests).

I encourage anyone who is interested in getting more information on the methods and services of tree care and forest restoration shown here to please contact me. Read the rest of this entry »

Using fire mimicry to treat early leaf senescence in California buckeyes

15 07 2009

The buckeye (Aesculus californica) is a deciduous tree, low and broad in stature, that is endemic to California. Every year these trees extend their gratitude by offering up a harvest of enormous size nuts. The species is a vital part of the California ecosystem and ever so worthy of our attention. Some even believe that tending the buckeyes is a responsibility passed on to us by the native people, who for the past few thousand years have been tending California’s buckeye groves.

Buckeyes do very well in open forests and savannas, especially in places where fires have been allowed to burn. However, on unburned lands buckeyes are often seen to be in poor health. Where forests are overgrown and acidified the buckeyes are experiencing serious health problems, including stem failure, canopy dieback, and any numbers of leaf blights including anthracnose and sudden oak death.

One of the first symptoms of ill health in buckeyes is the early seasonal onset of leaf senescence. Several years ago an astute friend of mine began noticing that for several years the buckeyes near her home had been losing their leaves earlier than usual. She contacted me about the problem and I suggested we try fire mimicry, the same treatments that I’ve been using on the oaks.

After four years of ongoing treatment here are the results . . .


Read the rest of this entry »