Cottonwood Canyon in a Beautiful Spring Rain. Saturday, March 31, 2012.

Lovely day with the trees budding out and trillium blooming.

Click on the photo to see the whole album, and then for a slideshow click on the symbol that you’ll see in the upper right.

Cottonwood Canyon in a Beautiful Spring Rain. Saturday, March 31, 2012.

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Friends of Montclair RR Trail Volunteer Workday!! Saturday, February 18, 2012.

Today’s project was putting an end, once and for all, to a large weedy patch along the historic Sacramento Northern line. Simple materials, elegant results!

Click on this photo to see the whole album, and then click on the symbol in the upper right for a slideshow. Pictures look best in Full Screen view!

Friends of Montclair RR Trail Volunteer Workday! Saturday, February 18, 2012.

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Newly Planted Natives Revel in the Rain! Monday, February 13, 2012.

The soil along this whole slope is pretty erodible at present, after the heavy brush cutting and traffic of the past couple of weeks. And for much, much longer it has not had a healthy, diverse complement of plants to hold it. As an interim measure, such things as erosion blankets or vegetation bundles can reduce the impact of rain droplets, slow the rivulets, and give water a chance to sink in rather than run off. And even in the heavy showers of this past day these broom bundles did the trick! The young plant below is Wyethia angustifolia, or mule ears — a dramatic native with big, beautiful, yellow flowers at maturity.

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Fern Ravine Planting Day with Friends of Sausal Creek! Saturday, February 11, 2012.

Misty morning, perfect for planting! First to go in the ground were two big sword ferns rescued from the Big Trees Trail re-route in summer of 2010. As I was on that Volunteers for Outdoor California (V-O-Cal) project, and in fact was a bit mortified to have to dig out one of the sword ferns that were in the path of the new trail, seeing them go into the ground here at Fern Ravine made me inordinately (or, ordinately!) happy. : – D

My still photos from that V-O-Cal day are actually on SD chips in storage at the moment, but here is a snippet of video from the big Saturday push:

(And if this seems like a tangent, well, I don’t think it is! The majority of us begin to know our wildlands from within the comfort of a trail’s penumbra, and V-O-Cal is unparalleled at mobilizing hundreds of volunteers in big weekend work parties to build, restore, and re-route hiking trails throughout Northern California. And they are so good at it, and make the weekends so much fun for the participants, that they are one of my three main models for how to run an awesomely effective volunteer organization.)

After the sword ferns, it was on to planting starflowers under the redwoods!

And then, we spent the remainder of the increasingly mist-wreathed morning planting dozens of Blue Wild Rye (Elymus glaucus) plugs on the slope just north of the main wetland.

A pretty wonderful day, really. Good work in good company, what could be better! Here’s a slideshow of the better pics, to round things out. Better yet, come out for the next one!!

(Click for full Flickr album, slideshow symbol is in upper right)
Fern Ravine Planting Day with Friends of Sausal Creek! Saturday, February 11, 2012.

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Conclusive Broom Removal Begins, and We Plant the First Native Wildflowers!! Sunday, February 5, and Onwards!

Clearing away the French broom overburden, as VOA has done, is a cool first step, but broom is awfully tough — it resprouts sevenfold, with heavily ramified roots and seried stems that are v.difficult to pull and vastly more time-consuming to girdle than the original, gracile single stems. And mature broom plants produce up to 10,000 seeds each, with a longevity in the soil of up to 20+ years… The broom thicket here has clearly been similarly cleared before, maybe 10-20 years ago, and it roared back stronger than ever; and it shall do so again, unless…

Natives planted today include winter cress, phacelia, hedge nettle (not actually a nettle; goodness knows where some of these common names come from!), mule ears, and California poppy. A great big thank you to all the wonderful folks at the native plant nursery!!


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Cottonwood (Beaconsfield) Canyon Volunteer Workday!! Saturday, January 28, 2011.

Beautiful morning, and marvelous turnout! Karen brought a whole bunch of seedlings from the native plant nursery, and a tree had fallen, and there are acres of blackberry and ivy to remove still, so everyone had lots of choices for things to work on. Including planting new cottonwoods — for that is the tree that fell, and willows and cottonwoods often grow anew from cuttings if stuck in the mud just right. Here are some photos from the day!


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Montclair Park Progress Continues: Volunteers of America Remove the Overburden. Monday, January 30, 2012.

The accumulated weedy debris of decades begins to go. Good work, and hard.

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Volunteers of America Kick A** on the Broom Thicket, Thursday, January 26, 2012.

The title says it all.

Mid-slope, panning view:

Note: the WordPress/Flickr interface has been stupid lately (come on, guys!) so you may need to cut-and-paste to see this slideshow. But it is worth it, if you want to see the ancient thicket the Volunteers of America are clearing and get a sense of what the restoration of this pond slope really entails. Remember: each mature French broom plant produces up to 10,000 seeds/year, and crown-sprouts from the cut base. E.g., this restoration isn’t going to happen overnight. But it’s going to happen.

North slope, panning view:


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Monclair Park Restoration Project Update: Awesome Example of Decades-Old French Broom. Thursday, January 26, 2012.

In company with other stalwarts I have sawed, lopped, pulled, and girdled some pretty intense thickets of hoary old French broom in the past few years (see, e.g., half the posts in this blog!), but this one right here in the heart of Montclair is as old and impressive as any. But times, they are a-changing!

These photos were all taken this morning.

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Montclair Park Update: How Local, Community-based Habitat Restoration Volunteers Heal Our Parks and Save our City $$. Tuesday, January 24, 2012.

The city crews came through this week, weed-whacking the area above the tennis court and the picnic area as they periodically do. And here is a brilliant example of why local, community-based restoration volunteers are a vital part of a healthy community, and of a healthy ecosystem:

This plant you see here is French broom. It is not a bad plant; it is just far, far away from the natural context in which it evolved, and thus far away from any natural controls on its unchecked expansion across our own beautiful California landscape. So much so that in a very short time it has choked off native trees, flowering shrubs, and bunchgrass prairies throughout untold acres of the East Bay Hills Ecosystem, including right here in many parkland areas within the Sausal Creek and Temescal watersheds.

And part of the reason this plant is so successful in conquering and holding ground is this: it crown-sprouts. Meaning that if you weed-whack it, what was initially a single, slender stem, with roots easily removable by a community volunteer with two minutes’ training in use of a weed wrench, instead becomes a multi-headed Hydra that will send up dozens of stems in place of one and will grow a thick, knotted root crown that is vastly harder to deal with the next time, and the time after that. Meaning needless time and labor cost to the City in a time of ever-tighter budgets; and, even worse, persistent patches of invasive, weedy, and often dangerously flammable vegetation in our public spaces.

The plant pictured above is already such a Hydra, born of a previous weed-whacking, and destined to sprout again forever unless something different is done. As is the nearby thicket of French broom pictured here below, were it to be cleared in similar fashion. You can take a chainsaw to this, and in an astoundingly short time it will be back and much, much harder to remove:

Now fortunately, the City has so far (as of Tuesday evening) only weed-whacked the area just above the picnic area and tennis court, something they have often done before and shall doubtless repeat again. And they are not to be faulted for this; they haven’t the time nor the budget to restore these areas in a way that will last and so are clearly focusing on maintaining buffer strips of cleared ground in the areas of highest concern for public safety. But there is an alternative, one that does last, and it is to be found here in Redwood Park…

…and along the Bridgeview Trail in Dimond Canyon…

…and along the Montclair Railroad Trail…

…and in Beaconsfield Canyon, the wild declivity between Ascot and Chelton in Montclair…

…and quite possibly, soon, here:

post in progress 24/25 jan ’12

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