Oxbow Farm in Duvall, WA has supplied EEC Forest Stewardship with gathered wild seed of a number of native wild plants for a major fall replanting project. These babies have been carefully germinated and coaxed through the initial development into plantings stable enough to establish in the wild. There are a number of wetland specific species heading to our salmonid stream and CREP buffer, while others are more suited to savanna grasslands, and will be planted in full sun on well drained hillsides. It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re land has suitable habitat for the species you want to establish. You’ll also want to make sure where you’re planting is safe from predation. Instead of trying to keep deer and rabbits out, I try to over-plant species to create abundance where some of the plants will doge the grazers and survive. Since these species do survive in the wild, they should, en mass, be productive here on a landscape embracing restoration. Still, I did put a few plants near the house in our kitchen gardens for added protection.
For years now, most of our native replanting stock has come from Native Plant sales- usually hosted by our local conservation organizations. But in the past few years, these sales have run out of plants early on, and not offered enough diversity for our restoration ambition. Oxbow was able to source an impressive variety of species- especially ground covers. They could also offer larger bulk numbers, which fits in with my over-planting scheme. This fall’s order was the largest, with about 400 individual plants in 18 species. What a range! Some, like Acer glabrum, Douglas Maple, should be common in our area, but you can never find them in a native plant sale. Others, like Anaphalis margaritacea, can be identified along most logging roads in clear-cuts late summer, but have been quite a challenge to establish. All are nestled safely in for winter, and hopefully we’ll have a lot of new growth at EEC come spring.
Distributing these “plugs” around the landscape took some good mapping of ecology to make sure each species had its correct climate needs. A lot of plants went into our protected CREP area by the creek- wetland species like wild ginger were tucked away in the thick bramble to protect them from deer predation. It was still very dry in the soil in early November, but established species in the wetlands helped identify where new wetland friends would best live. Valley, our Aussie cross lays at the edge of one such planting. See how many verities you can identify- including the ginger. There are three fern types too. The sedge let me know this was a wetland area. Rushes are also helpful guides in finding your wet ground.
Planting directly into stream beds is risky, as winter floods can drastically change a landscape near its banks. A few plugs went into muddy creek bed, but most were put in on seeps on higher ground. I rarely go into the creek wetlands, as that space is heavily impacted by any foot traffic. I’ll try to get back down there in spring to check the plantings, but for the next few months, plants are in and set. It’s a little challenging, not being able to measure progress immediately, but nature cannot be rushed. She’s better left to her own. With a little bit of encouragement, she can repair sooner, and that’s the plan with all the inputs of new vegetation. In ten years, there has not been a lot of diversity without bringing the species in. That’s the challenge with human induces habitat change in these forests. The forests were removed twice, sometimes three times, and bulldozed, burned, then grazed out. Seeds tried to sprout a few times, then failed, and no new seed came. Much of our forest today here in Western Washington has been reduced to mono-culture Douglas fir timber stands. What appears under the industrial lumber is of little concern, so many species are lost.
Weiss Creek, our salmon stream, was also lost during Weyerhaeuser industrialization of the landscape. Erosion filled in the creek with sediment, and it’s flow clogged up, turning the water course into swampland and erasing the fish paths to breeding grounds upland. This is a snapshot of the ecological destruction reeked upon these pristine forests, and the people thriving within them. Legacy is not always good, but can be repaired. That’s the mission at EEC. We’re bringing back lost species and offering a fresh start, in hopes that by the end of this lifetime, we can give back the land better than when we purchased it. We’ve recently contacted The Snoqualmie Tribe to learn more about the possibility of leaving our land to the tribe in trust. They have an Ancestral Lands Movement, which we’re hoping to learn more about in our quest to give land back to the people originally living- and still living there. The Snoqualmie Tribe is part of a greater Lushootseed speaking people in this region who have tended and thrived in the forests and waterways here for thousands of years.
Take a moment to think about where you are right now and who lived there before you. Think of colonial development moving in, for us in North America it’s pretty clear- 1492 onward, that European gluttony drove exploration for wealth and new land to own and exercise dominion over. This often celebrated global grab was directed by short sighted vision and perpetuated cruelty and abuse of the noble savage- both land and people. Cut the trees and burn the ground, drive out the natives and bring in the cows. But there are a lot of great historical reads out there for your education if you don’t know what I’m talking about, or wish to quest for enlightenment. Know place, history, and self. Why are you here and what did you get for it? What will you give? There are only 400 plants today, but 400 tomorrow, another 400 after that, and in a few more decades, my life is done, and another generation will inherit. But it will not be children of mine. My ancestors are back in Europe, and another trail can be followed from there back to Africa, but 40,000 years ago in my ancestry is lost. The Snoqualmie Tribe never left, and continue to thrive here, where I sit now. Land acknowledgment can be enough for some, but knowing how important land is, I cannot ignore that this place, where I sit, was taken long ago, and should be reunited with the people who have tended and celebrated here, always.
I’ll plant, plant, and plant some more. Move some earth to slow the water back into the soil. Roots go down, down, down, into the ground. My lifetime is now rooted here, what privilege, and the gifting back, returning- this is an honorable vision, a righting of wrongs. I did not cut the trees here in 1900, but others like me did, not The Snoqualmie Tribe. The Lushootseed speakers continue to weave their lineage, around all the colonial baggage coming in still. Be proud of ancestry, but also recognize the history you’re woven into so deeply. We’re all in, like the forest, full of many kinds of plants and animals form all over. But the invasives have changed this place forever, and not for the better. Please acknowledge this truth and start the healing. Plant love, seed learning, and harvest understanding through the whole process. Growth takes time. Another swale, more grasses, shoots, and leaves covering bare earth. Scars across our hearts will keep the memories of what was, and what can be again.
As I worked at replanting, this Pacific Tree Frog appeared. The living forest is alive, in small ways, as well as towering trunks and lofty bows. So many layers of complex ecology, with a few surfacing signs that the original people are still there, thriving, adapting, and ready to come back when invited. I plant them in invitation, thanking everything for being present. Even the Japanese Kotweed is telling us something- disturbed soil, too much sun on a ground that should be shrouded in old growth. The same with blackberry- you won’t find it in a deep, dark forest of older stands. Bring back the trees and you have layers, diversity, and balance in the intended ecology. Where the forest thrives, birds sing, bugs hum, and the joyful spirit of nature abounds. Slowly the vibrant colors of life return. Planting, planting, planting love and gratitude with every handful of soil.