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Thursday, June 15, 2017


The sense of space in the Valley Oak Savanna changes radically through the months of April and May as the great trees first flower and then leaf out, forming dense canopies.

To walk in their shelter is to feel an aura of remembrance. 
When ancient lake bed clay and silt was exposed as waters receded, acorns took root. The pioneering generations of oaks in Big Valley provided fodder for ground sloths, camelids, early horses, and prototypical grizzlies. Humans reached the valley ten thousand years ago, killing off most of the megafauna. But grizzlies, deer and elk continued to frequent the woodlands. Directly, the oak's acorns became the central source of sustenance for the humans.

Trees alive today can be 600-years-old and 70' tall. A tree that age spent three quarters of its life in the company of the Pomo peoples and grizzlies. It sheltered General Vallejo's wandering cattle herds during the Mexican period. The creek-side Valley Oaks were fertilized by shoals of rotting hitch, which after spawning, were often stranded as creek water levels subsided. 

These long-surviving trees stood as the first Anglo-Americans arrived and subjugated and enslaved the local Pomo. Some trees today might well have served as hanging trees.

The new Americans built their first homesteads in the micro-climates beneath the oaks.
Relentlessly, they cleared over ninety percent of the valley's oak savannas, replacing them with fields of wheat, and orchards of pears and walnuts.

On a four mile walk around our agricultural block, I see remnants of the ancient savannah, richly inhabited oases of life punctuating the farm monoculture.