Saturday, November 14, 2009

Trees, seeds, trees

If you happen to go to Fort Bragg, California you can drive on a road adopted by the MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS UNION, on your way to the only Virgin Redwood Ballroom anywhere.
Alas, I am a not a user of marijuana, medically or otherwise, but I like to think that MM patients have a union that is interested in keeping this section of the highway litter-free.

In Fort Bragg you will of course want to stay at the Weller House Inn. Unlike the usual B&B, it is a potpourri-free zone, with no overstuffed pillows or animals and lots of good books. The inn is managed by my friend Vivien, linguist, filmmaker, medieval chef and tangoista extraordinaire. While there, you can breakfast in the dining room under the benign gaze of Viv’s Danish grandfather, who at the age of 19 was made the Danish consul in Egypt. You can tango in the third floor redwood ballroom; or hear young Stephen practice his trumpet (or not); or visit the very special Ladies’ Room. There is also an elephant shaped commode but my picture does not do it justice.
Here I am hoping for a good review of Absent a Miracle from the Golden Sexlink and the Black astralorps.

Fort Bragg is way up north in the land of the redwoods, and I can say unequivocally that I have fallen in love with the towering redwoods. As I drove south I kept stopping to walk among them on the bright orange pine needle carpet and get that cathedral-feeling. Feeling short is not exactly a new thing for me (q.v.) but next to a redwood we are all puny. At the far end of one fallen hollow tree I happened upon the complete carcass of a deer. At first I thought he (antlers, hence male) had been burned, but then I realized that he had probably just died there and rotted, leaving his blacked pelt stretcehd across his skeleton. But how did he die? Bout 50 miles later I started thinking about this dead deer and really regretted that I had not extracted the skull and antlers to bring home. Thought that might have altered my plans for having only carry-on for the red-eye flight.

Later that day, and hundreds of miles of tall trees and ravishing coastline later, found me in Pescadero, a town of 2000 with orchards, artichoke fields and goat farms. Liz and I were enjoying a pre-prandial cocktail when my cousin Chris walked in from the office. He proceeded to lay several large black garbage bags flat on the rectangular dining room table. At each of three places he set out a pair of blue latex gloves and a kitchen knife. In the center of the table he emptied out a large bag filled with black walnut seeds.
Now I claim a certain intimacy with Juglans nigra. There is a large black walnut tree next to our house which means that in the autumn when the fruits start to fall, they land on our back porch and stain it black (these nuts were used as a dye by early settlers) or they drop onto the driveway and in a windstorm it sounds like someone has a machinegun out there. Any car that has ever spent time in our driveway has a roof and hood scarified by falling walnuts. We hand out hardhats to guests. Also, the nuts and roots of the black walnut are not friendly to neighbors. They secrete Juglone into the soil and even the air in their vicinity, and woe betide any plant that has the temerity to grow there.
But the shade is lovely, and the wood is beautiful and valuable. Just do not plant them near your house.
Meanwhile my cousin is fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a walnut forester. We donned our latex gloves and cut open the walnuts, removed the green husk and pith, and then scraped the nuts to make them readier to sprout. We probably did a few hundred before dinner. Later Chris would store the husked nuts in peat moss and then plant them. And the world will be a better place for having more trees.

Tomorrow I will continue (briefly) with the tree theme and tell you about the Tree Circus of Santa Cruz.


Diggitt said...

I sorta hoped that if you are in redwood country you would post about banana slugs.

pond said...

An elephant shaped commode? I am having trouble picturing it. More details please.