These say pictures can convey volumes of information that a multitude of words could never accomplish. I'll start off here with some pictures that really could illustrate land maintenance practices that are found on any location on Earth in any country. The two pictures below are only illustrative of what the subject of this post is all about and the company from where the photos were taken no doubt does a professional job of manicuring the land for which they are hired. It is hoped however that people will gain a better understanding of what goes on under the ground before they hire such a company or take upon themselves any personal land clearing project. The photos below are merely typical of what is experienced in the clearing of land.
Now the company that cleared this land is out of Texas and no doubt obtains many such work contracts. In fact on their website they show a number of pictures of the bulldozer clearing the land by scraping with a blade and pilling up a combination of mangled brush and soil in piles or a long rows of debris pushed up against the property line. This is often typical and I saw this numerous times when I lived up in Anza California. On that website, the bottom photo proudly displays the text: "Cleared Field After 20 Years". Yep, I believe it and have no reason to doubt those words. They did an effective job so that the land would never see a great amount of vegetation ever again.
|image: All AG Services|
Looking at the bottom picture above, you'll notice that though it still looks like grassland after 20 years, the question comes up, 'Is it really the right type of grassland ?' What I see in that photo is mostly annual plants like wild mustard, maybe even some various types of foxtail grasses. Nothing wrong with annuals (or believe it or not weeds), they do what they do best and that is cover the land quickly. That's important because when rains come, they're function or purpose really is to slow water down as opposed to letting it run off and erode the soil. If a bad brush clearing job has been done and the top layer of biologically rich soils have been remove, then it may take years for vegetation of any kind to come back and in the mean time valuable top soil has been washed down stream. Again, anybody in any back country situation has seen what I'm talking about, though you thought nothing of it at the time.
|And you all know what Bunch-grasses are right ?|
Sometimes the goal of the weekend ranchette landowner is to remove what is considered the undesirable plants with what they view aesthetically valueless. In Anza that most often is a tough little shrub or brush that will grow where nothing else will and it's called Chamise or Greasewood (Adenostoma fasciculatum)
But when you see Greasewood grow in large masses or groupings on a rise or hill knoll with no other plants around and only about a couple of feet in height, then that can often tell you that below the surface there is a nasty rocky, probably bedrock situation close to the surface type of geological soil condition. Nothing else will grow there. You can check by trying to force a shovel or even a pry bar to see what's down there. Not only will your much desired plant from the nursery fail under such soil profile, but you will even rarely find the usual nasty weeds growing there. So leave the Greasewood alone. It's performing a couple of important functions for your property. First, when rains come, it slows the water down from completely running off, which is what you want it to do. Second, under that nasty ground there is still a 'Mycorrhizal Internet Grid' which I guarantee you is intact underneath those plants otherwise the Greasewood itself wouldn't be able to survive. And that grid is also connected to another grid that is networked further away in more desirable locations connecting all plant communities in the Network of cooperation for survival. And Third and possibly the most important factor is it's ability to sprout back after a fire and continue to hold the bare ground somewhat intact when the next seasons rains finally come.
Yes, google images of the plant called Greasewood or Chamise and you will find a third of the images appear like the above. It's called Greasewood for a reason. It has a lot of volatile oils within it's wood and it is prone to wildfire situations. Anybody who moves to Chaparral country ecology situation should expect and prepare for wildfires. It's true that it's a natural part of the environment, but what is unnatural is the ever present growing frequency for which fires today come and go. The more people the greater the chances. No matter what you plant, even if you think removing the brush and replacing it with what you think is less fireprone or resistant, the reality is nothing is resistant to these later day firestorms which are more intense now than in times past. Everything will burn, but the natives will sprout back and hold your land intact better than the transplanted urban landscape reconstruction you assumed was a better idea.
Now let me change channels here and show you some example photos of what some folks with good intentions and motivations for clearing land of the jagged stuff to make it more aesthetically appealing to the human eye. First off up in Anza where I lived, people often removed what they considered that nasty looking Greasewood to reveal more the more 'Eye Candy' pleasing shrubs like Manzanita. I love Manzanitas too, but they also need the the other surrounding infrastructure to fully benefit. Many times they will die sudden death after land clearing for no visible apparent reasons.
Yup, no doubt about it. That's one of the best looking natural wild shrubs to be found anywhere, and who wouldn't in their right mind choose that over less desirable brush like Greasewood ? So here's what their land may often look like after the land clearer has followed their strict instructions of what the want ans expect from him. Of course the ultimate goal was to remove just the ugly and while keep the kool stuff.
|image: Cedar Beetle|
Okay, we all get the idea about clearing (cleaning) the land up and leaving the desirable things. I get that and actually agree with it, but there are things to consider. Yes, of course the Fire Marshals ordered you to clean the land up, but then you cared about your land enough already and were going to do that anyway without them making you do it. But now consider the methods you use. The 24 years I spent up in Anza, California, I saw folks hire someone who was in the business of brush clearing or they themselves with their own little Adult toy Kubota Weekend Farmer Tractor and using that blade to literally scrape off several valuable inches of that biologically rich topsoil down to a clean sterile looking decomposed granite type of soil so that they could plant a yard that looks like this example below. Here's some more examples of land clearing in which selected desirable trees or shrubs are left. But often later some of those saved plants may die.
This next photograph above was taken from the "California Native Plant Society"
Here is a quote from under the photo:
"The cost of viewing chaparral as fuel. This remarkable stand of manzanita chaparral in the Cleveland National Forest that was featured on the Fall 2007 cover of the California Native Plant Society’s quarterly journal Fremontia was masticated by the USFS in 2008. The mastication shown above continues around a Coulter pine tree plantation. The area is miles away from any community"
"Rather than dealing comprehensively with wildfire risk, many local governments are promoting vegetation “clearance” strategies that seriously compromise protected wildlands, challenge the integrity of habitat conservation plans, and increase the spread of invasive species. Some San Diego County officials have expressed the desire to exempt such vegetation “treatments” from the California Environmental Quality Act. Under the federal Healthy Forests Restoration Act, millions of dollars are spent to “treat acres” rather than dealing with fire risk where it would be most effective, immediately around and within human communities. Please join us as we discuss threats posed to California’s native plant communities by misguided fuel treatment projects and what you can do to help protect San Diego County’s native plants from unwise land use policies."
This next photo below is again taken from "The Chaparral Institute" website which clearly shows what grows back after stripping the land of it's natural mycorrhizal grid into a bacterial system which as Bert Wilson points out favours plants that are 'ruderals' as in this case foxtails & non-native oats which in fact burn like gasoline. At least brush could have slowed a fire down somewhat, but now is facilitated by a more combustible fuel which when high wind fed on a ridge will allow fires quicker access to the other side of the ridge. At least with fires slowed down with brush, fire retardant dropping planes could make a ridgeline strip ahead of a slower moving fire than one blowing full steam ahead in a grassland setting. However, it should now be noted that with climate and weather pattern change, these higher winds are more common than any time in the past and nothing really will stop them. This can be seen from the last several years of firestorms which have devastated many communities prone to such problems.
|Chaparral Institute: Ridgeline Fuel Breaks are worthless|
This next picture below I've taken off another blog by a gal who lives in Murrieta CA. She's into native plants and this picture is not a bad example of land clearing but is rather an illustrative example of what some land clearing can look like when some plants are selected to be kept. In this case she has replanted with native plants to establish more desirable that she appreciates into here garden environment. But notice the irrigation drip system. This is what is keeping the plantscape live until a proper root system with mycorrhizal networks can take over. Now I like a clean looking property, but the only thing really keeping these plants alive is the constant presence of the drip irrigation system and that's if the critters don't chew it up. One note of caution here though is that you should NOT allow your natives to become dependent on a drip system. The ideal thing is to gradually ween them off it once established. Believe it or not, at my mum's house, though I did install an elaborate irrigation system at her house in El Cajon CA, most all the plants have roots down deep enough to penetrate deeply to get to sub-soil moisture which is what they want anyway. So the system is not on any timer and is only needed occasionally because of a few water loving plants like 'California Spicebush' and some wild currents in the understory of the trees.
|image: Arlene Webster|
|image: Arlene Webster|
I know from first hand experience. I've done a lot of stupid stuff and learned the hard way. Take a look below. This is what is left after I cleared all the other shrubs around a Manzanita that was originally 10 times the size of the skeleton you see in the photo taken last year what we visited my old property again. The small tree was almost 20 feet in diameter when I first bought the place in 1985. It wasn't so much the height of the tree that was impressive, but it had numerous large side branches that grew up and out finally to heavy to stay upwards and lowered to the ground only to re-root (often common in Manzanitas) then grow back up into the air to create another extension of the original tree. Never did a trunk ring core sample, but it had to have been a couple of hundred years old maybe ? Who knows, it's gone now.
Here are some important quotes from that report. Now pay attention.
"Most areas were cut by hand, thereby selectively cutting out the tamarisk while leaving the native shrubs unharmed. Only a 7.5 acre (3 ha) section that was heavily infested (> 95%) was cleared using a bulldozer."
"In the 7.5 acres (3 ha) that wasbulldozed, natives established much more slowly than in the hand-cleared areas."
Remember my post on how the grid works and my Coulter - Jeffrey Pine Tree experiments I mentioned on my Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution article here:
In that post I explained and illustrated how all plants can be connected to an undreground interconnected grid of 'Mycorrhizal Fungi' Same species of plants or different species of plants can all be connected to this grid. I showed that no matter where I placed the irrigation dripline, that eventually the entire 24 trees were hydrated from the original source of H2O but only because they were connected to the grid.
|Image Source: FEMA|
For you folks in Anza, this is how your Anza Electric Copperative works. You don't need your home to physically be on Larry's Agri-Empire land next to the Coop's building to receive electricity. Just connect to the grid they've intelligently built and if it's not available and you've got the big bucks to shell out, they can string the grid to your own home out in Timbuktu (RimRock Rd). Okay kidding.
A prime example for Anza of large trees connected to the grid when they look to be in a dry impossible location is when driving up the HWY 371 as it enters the Hamiton Creek Canyon. Look over on both sides of the canyon. Notice that this isn't exactly ideal garden soil, yet look at the many huge Jeffrey, Coulter Pine and Interior Live Oak trees on those dry rocky hillsides. There is not even hardly any natural mulch layer under those trees. The actual rich water source is way down at the bottom of that canyon in Hamilton Creek. Yet, there are plants there like the willows and maybe some cottonwood, which BTW are also host to the same Pisolithus tinctorius Mycorrhizae that colonizes those pines on the canyon hillsides. These trees may be the fascillitators for transporting through the grid sources of fresh water to other life around them. The ability of this fungus to transport water 200' up a mountain side can be seen in many examples where the grid is intact even on southern hot and dry exposures coming up from Hemet to Mountain Center on HWY 74.
The above truffle which is nothing more than the actual fungi's fruit is also the same one creating this internet grid in this famous picture referenced around the Net. Aren't Illustrations Informative ? Think about the map of the electrical grid of the United states you just saw.
Try real hard an picture in your mind's eye what the ground looks like under your property the next time you want to plan something for the landscape.