“The area beyond the fence is sensitive and needs to be cared for gently.” The words of the city representative replay in my head as I wander amid the giant rotting stumps on my property. They are not cedar stumps, or they wouldn’t be rotting; more likely they areDouglas Fir or Sitka Spruce, both valuable timber species, and these are the vestigial remains of a long -ago logging operation. This sensitive forest I am standing in, my backyard, is not a temperate rainforest or a patch of old-growth woodland. It is second-growth forest and scrub, the wily and natural regeneration of the earth. The replanting of forest land is a relatively new phenomenon: my property was disposed of when it had no further timber value. I am standing under a canopy of great trees, once the saplings, seedlings, and seeds left in the churned soil by my region’s main industry at mid-century. My land once fueled the postwar housing boom.
Mutually opposing forces somehow do not create mutual exclusion. The land is sensitive, too sensitive for an azalea or a jack-in-the-pulpit. But what little definition is contained in my papers from the city does include the requirement that I weed the ground beneath my native plantings, spot fertilize (!) and water in times of limited rainfall. This, despite their natural resistance to summertime drought…an annual occurrence in the Pacific Northwest. Charles Darwin, you are not welcome here.
Eradication of the grasses, velvet-, crab-, and quackgrass, is also discussed. The representatives from the City, the mitigation Planner, and the supplier of the native plant material all agree that glyophosphate might be the only recourse. If you are not a label-reader, glyophosphate is Roundup*; a dirty word in a Seattle garden, but apparently A-OK for my woodland adjacent to the Class One Wetland. Go figure.
My second-growth forest is the product of its own resilience, but I can’t have paths to walk around on. So I trudge about in the clayey mud, wearing barren trails into the sodden earth. I can’t make overflow parking for guests out of the old logging road that cuts into my land, but the city water department routinely parks there to check the flowrate on the outlet from the wetland to the lake. The land carries a 1947 title restriction ceding all rights to mineral and resource extraction to the timber company that originally owned it–so if one day I’m hunting up some food and up from the ground comes a-bubblin’ crude, that oil well is going to look great where my ribes sanguineum and evergreen huckleberry are now. But no Hostas for me, or my deer. Sensitive, but tough…like a wolverine singing show tunes.
*I claim no knowledge or understanding of any soil migration, surface- or groundwater effects for chemicals like glyophosphate. I am NOT anti-Roundup. Chemicals are tools like any other. Personally, I have habitually steered clear of using them in my gardening activities, with the exception of clearing the gravel driveway of my previous home. Spritz the weeds with a little Roundup, and a couple of days later I’d go over them with my weed torch:http://www.kinsmangarden.com/product/410/URL_1113. The MOST GARDENING FUN YOU WILL EVER HAVE. Seriously. Get you one.