Red Shoulder Hawk

Red Shoulder Hawk

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Permaculture class the fifth

Scott Horton shows us his nuts!

I've only got a few minutes right now, but I learned that Sudden Oak Death isn't sudden at all! Some researchers attribute it to a fungus, but the problem is it is a fungus that is indegenous, so why do the trees fail to stay in balance with it? A newer idea is that the tribal people who lived here, and who were managing the forest for centuries before Westerners arrived, were responsible for maintianing the health of the tree's immune systems.

Specifically, archeologists have been finding rings of crushed oyster shells around oak trees, and wondering what ritual they were for. Anyone who lives near a shell mound knows how large of a resource these were for the local tribes. Turns out it's a very pragmatic reason: they were adding calcium and lime to the soil. They simply ate oysters half the year, and cast the shells around the trees to boost acorn production for food for the other half of the year. Unintended good benefit: the oak's resistance was strengthened.

Fast forward to now, 100 years after this practice has stopped, and the soils are depleted of these minerals and so 200 to 300 year old trees are succumbing. It's not sudden at all, it's been slowly approaching.

So Scott has been commissioned to create an installation art piece on 20 acres in Topanga Canyon, and he'll be hanging these lime and calcium "acorns" from the oaks there. As they degrade in the fog and rain, they'll restore some of what the trees have been lacking all these years.

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