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  • jonnynativeseed

August 1, 2018

Climb the Mountains

Shelter at Muir Pass


The days are getting noticeably shorter and the rising sun has recently been quite red, with smoke to the east from big fires in Central Oregon. The smoke in this area hasn't been as bad yet, as it was last year but it was plenty thick in southern Oregon last Saturday. I was there to try and harvest Corylus cornuta (beaked hazelnut) and Aquilegia formosa (western columbine) to fill some orders. It wasn't my best collecting day. There was no crop on the wild hazelnut plants and I was a week too early to harvest columbine at the good spots I found for it last year.

I was able to get a quart of seed heads of Ceanothus prostratus (prostrate ceanothus). It is now a new species on the attached seed list. It and other species new to the list are in bold. Since I started the return trip home earlier than expected I did have time to stop and harvest some Juncus articulatus (jointleaf rush) in a ditch near Creswell. I would have gotten more but quite a few of the stalks were dry, having been cut off by hungry voles. The crops on wetland plants are not as bountiful as they were last year. The Juncus acuminatus (swordleaf rush) stalks were too crisp to be worth harvesting and a larger percentage of the Carex obnupta (slough sedge) seeds are unfilled so the price is up on it.

There have been some great collecting days for other species though. On Monday this week my helpers and I harvested more Asarum caudatum (British Columbia wildginger) than I have ever gotten. The crop was excellent this year. Once we get it cleaned I'm sure there will be extra seed available. It is one of the seeds that doesn't get dried down and gets sent out moist. If you would like some let me know soon so I get it to you fresh for good germination results. I also have some moist Lysichiton americanus (American skunkcabbage) stored in the fridge ready to send. I will be going after some Trillium ovatum (Pacific trillium) in the Cascade Mountains early next week for a customer that wants that seed in moist condition. Let me know if you want some as well and I will try to get extra. One other species I store moist is Nuphar lutea ssp. polysepala (yellow pond-lily). I didn't get any orders for it this year so I haven't gone after it yet. It isn't too late to harvest it so let me know if you want some.

A few other crops have also been excellent this year so there is extra seed available of several species that usually I can't get enough of to fill orders. To name a few, I have extra Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry), Ribes aureum (golden current) and Rubus parviflorus (thimbleberry). I may also have extra Corylus cornuta. I am still working on cleaning some of the seed so the list will not show the quantities available. Dr on the list means I have seed drying.

A few weeks ago Kellyn from Clean Water Services came to my place to learn how to clean skunkcabbage. Kellyn had come to the NPSO talk I gave to the Corvallis chapter in January. She could tell I was willing to share some seed cleaning tips and asked to come down. We both enjoyed the time visiting together cleaning the slimy seed. That experience predisposed me to saying yes, when I got an email yesterday from Bridget, who manages the nursery at Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center, asking if I would be willing to teach her some things I have learned. She wrote,

"I’m interested in learning more about seed collection, processing, storage and inventory, and it would be really instructive for me to see how others do these things.  I would love to talk more about:

-seed collection, how you find sites, permits you have for any collection on public lands

-tools/infrastructure you have for cleaning, drying, storing seed

-how you keep inventory of what you have/records of collection sites and timing"

After some back and forth emails we have chosen to do it one day sometime between September 3-11th, excluding the 9th. Any of those days will work for Bridget and I at this point. I am open to having a few others come as well. Let me know if you would be interested in helping Bridget pick my brain and put up with my stories. If you want to join in and one of those days is better for you, you can help us chose the exact day. It would be good to have some more questions and experience to round out the learning.

We are waiting until early September to do the seed day because I will be leaving for a week long backpack in the Sierras in a week and a half. Flip becomes a seed widow this time of year so she planned a fun trip to cope with me being so busy. Somehow I have ended up saying I will go with her. Some of the others who planned to join us on the hike have cancelled so two of my collectors will be going as well. Our packs may end up heavier by the end of the trip than they start out if we find much to collect along the trails. 

We will be hiking up above Bishop, California from North Lake to South Lake. A good part of the 56 miles will be along the John Muir Trail and one of the three 12,000' passes we will hike over is Muir Pass. Many years ago when I was a ranger I put a tune to some words from John Muir. I would sing it to backpackers at our Saturday night campfire programs. I also sang the song to each of my 3 daughters when they were little to put them to sleep and to each of my 3 grandsons as well. Last December when I was out in the cold for a number of consecutive days trying to finish filling an order of Symphoricarpos albus (snowberry) I got inspired and came up with 4 more verses to the song. We have our four year old grandson, Lucian, with us for the week and each night after a day of helping me clean seeds and helping Grandma Flip pick fruit and make pies, Lucian says yes to me singing all the verses to him at bedtime. I will be singing them on the hike as well. (The words to the song are at the bottom of this email. The first verse are the words from John Muir.)

My collectors have been a great help as I try to gather enough seed in to get away for the hike. Many thanks to them. James will be especially missed as he leaves this Saturday to head back to Montana for college. This has been his fourth year of helping out and his fingers move faster than they used to.

I plan to make another trip to down to the family date farm towards the middle or end of September. My dad hasn't gotten better but he has been mostly stable. The date harvest season is just beginning and he would love to be more involved with it. I have some seed to collect down that way if I can find spots to get it that haven't been burnt up. It appears that some of the sites have burned. More about that next time. Let me know if you need anything.

Climb the mountains,


Climb the Mountains

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you Like sunshine flows through the trees. And the storms will blow Their energy into you While cares drop off like autumn leaves.

Walk a trail and see where it leads to. New found places will welcome you Like mother glad you’ve come home. And wild birds will sing Exuberant songs to you. You’ll know this is where you belong.

Sleep under stars, see how they sparkle. Patterns will come clear to you. Like a mystery that’s solved. And the moon will rise. An owl will come visit you. You’ll wake rested with the dawn.

Float the rivers, feel how they ripple. The strong current will carry you Like a cloud blown across the sky. And the ocean will roar As gulls glide over you While you walk along the shore.

Sit in the desert, view the horizon. Mourning doves will call out to you Like friends saying, “Over here.” And the breeze will blow Spring flower scents to you While you lift your eyes to the hills. While you lift your eyes to the hills.

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