June 2017


European Honeybee collecting nectar from Eastern Gamagrass flowers.


Is restoration practice an expression of radical hope?

Can this practice chip the stone walls of self-interest?

Sometimes we have difficulty in explaining what restoration is.  When we visit a doctor, they diagnose an affliction and try to cure it.  Even if she doesn’t know if she will succeed, if she believes she might, it is her job to try.  If our roof is leaking, we call for help and repair it.  In neither case do we tend to get confused about whether this is some vain attempt to go back in time.

In some circumstances, it may be up to us to recognize if damage is too severe for repair and the building should be leveled.  But what about for ecosystems?  Is it up to us to decide to give up or not?

We are harvesting about 10% of 3 stands of Texas Fescue, which is having a bumper year.  It will be enough for experimental use, and these experiments will occur on damaged habitats that will be restored in the process.  This abundant time is a rare chance to access this rare plant.  I am mostly focusing on documenting this species, so I can trace its response to weather, fire, and thinning treatments.  I have found many stands.  We manage the land holistically, so even if some treatment is not so good for it, we will not throw out the whole approach, but we may choose to moderate in certain places.

Ecosystems exist in deep time.  So do our bodies, and behaviors.  We have habits of thinking of our lives in limited ways, related only to what we can understand and see, and what is to be gained or avoided.  Our lives consist of much more.  The ability to conduct ourselves appropriately in daily life is reliant upon this selective ignorance.  We ignore the vast obscurity surrounding our activity and attend mostly to what we can understand, and what fits with the stories that sustain us.

What are those stories?

The great lineage of natural history is evident in ecosystem restoration.  There is no way to overlook the wild depth of nature.  Our normal mental habits that help us manipulate and gain from things are poorly developed or absent.  Perhaps there is nothing to grasp, just limitless interconnection and change.  Perhaps this can work as a kind of training to see the mystery in other aspects of our lives.  Even just sitting in a quiet room includes a vast and unknowable wilderness.

Sometimes lightning will cause the cambium (vascular tissue) of a tree to burst, without any charring.

This June will be a good time to remove Johnsongrass.  It may be too late to treat it with herbicides if seed has already started to develop, but if seed is not yet mature, the plant can be removed without the seed falling off.  This can be an effective technique in early invasions, where most plants are coming up from seed in their first year and are not yet attached to extensive root networks.  This is also the case where a seed bank remains following prior treatments.

When I close my eyes, vegetation spontaneously appears in brilliant arrays of neon purple and yellow, emerging from darkness in subtle flashes.  Silhouettes of the species I have been working with flourish in these gardens, which grow on their own.  Though I only recall noticing them in about the last 10 years, I suspect that they have been growing for a long time, and not just here in this mind, but from beneath it, and from beneath others.

The grass on most sites may be too green to burn just yet, but things look promising.  Soil moisture is low as we move into the hot season, and so even if we get average rain, soil moisture will probably remain low.  Fine fuel loads are not especially high, but dry conditions should lead to a good burn season.

Everything we see is a part of us.  The color and light of vision occur in our eyes and reflect on the curved walls of our skull.  Everything we perceive is limited to the container of our own body.  Seeing this is one way that we can act as agents of the bigger world that we are a part of.  Everything is a part of us, and we are a part of everything.  Some difficulty or another is probably not so big a problem for everything, even if it feels like it is a problem for just us.  So if we see and treat things with care because we know that whatever we are seeing is a part of us, our separate problems might not seem so big.  Are they really separate?  Are we?

This is quite an intense year for chiggers, even though the spring has been a little drier than average.  Perhaps it is because the second half of winter was warm, or perhaps it is because the summer sun has yet to show the full merit of its dry pull.

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