Upcoming workshop on tree and soil care at La Casa de Maria

15 09 2009


Saturday, October 10, from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm
La Casa de Maria Retreat Center, 800 El Bosque Road, Santa Barbara, CA

For thousands of years the native Chumash people tended the oak forests in the Santa Barbara. Now California’s oaks are endangered. Come for a workshop that will include presentations, time in La Casa’s oak woodland and a hands-on demonstration of tree care.

The Chumash used prescribed fire and other methods of traditional land management. To them, living on a living earth meant that the trees and forests were essentially organs of the planet. Keeping the trees healthy was fundamental for maintaining their quality of life.

Now-a-days, oaks and other trees are experiencing accelerated rates of decline in many parts of California, including the Santa Barbara area. A holistic view of the problem reveals that many of our aging trees and their soils are undergoing a major ecological shift brought on by changes in land management, especially fire suppression.

By revisiting the practices of the native people we are provided with an effective means of intervening in the decline of trees without the use of synthetic chemicals. Details will be presented on how fires and fire mimicry methods act to improve the fertility of soils and the health of trees. Results will be shown of case studies involving a suite of techniques to restore oak trees, including fire, mineral fertilizers, limewashing, brush clearing and mulching.

There will also be a presentation on the practical applications of the theories of agroecology that are now used in ornamental horticulture. By shifting from conventional techniques that utilize synthetic chemicals and pesticides to non-toxic organic products focused on improving soil fertility and insect ecology plant health is significantly improved.

This workshop will include a demonstration on traditional tree care using all-natural materials.

Lee Klinger, MA, PhD is an independent scientist and ecological consultant from Big Sur, with over 25 years of professional experience in the fields of biogeochemistry, forest ecology and soil science. He has held scholarly appointments at the University of Colorado, the University of Oxford, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Corey Welles is the Plant Health Care Coordinator at Lotusland. He has seen dramatic improvements in the health of their plant collections since using agroecology based practices.

For more information and to register online go to: www.lacasademaria.org


On the origins of fire scars in California redwoods

10 05 2009

Anyone who has spent time with the redwoods has no doubt seen and even ventured inside the giant trees with fire-scarred trunks. Certain trees are so severely scarred that you wonder how they are even able to stand. Some trees contain cavernous fire-carved rooms in their base with multiple entrances and even window-like openings. I’ve marveled at these trees and looked carefully at the orientations and shapes of their scars, and in doing so have found some odd things.

Huge fire scar

Huge fire scar in giant sequoia (photo by Lee Klinger)

Having worked on fire lines in Alaska, Colorado, and California I’ve seen how fire scars are formed. A large quantity of fuel piled at the base of the tree is usually required to ignite a fire hot enough to penetrate the bark and scorch the cambium.

A characteristic burn pattern is seen on slopes where the vast majority of fire scars occur on the uphill face of the trunk (more than 90% in places)[1]. This is due to a couple of factors. First, hot air currents tend to drive ground fires upslope, especially during the day when fires burn hottest. (Keep in mind we’re talking about large ground fires, not large canopy fires which would more likely kill the tree.) The wind-driven fires tend to burn relatively quickly around the lower parts of the trunk, but eddy effects allow the fire to linger on the uphill side. Second, fallen leaves and branches tend to move downhill and accumulate on the uphill side of the trunk. Together these factors seem to account fairly well for the uphill side tendency of fire scars.

So imagine my confusion . . .  Read the rest of this entry »