California Against the Sea is a Way to Think Forward

If there’s one takeaway from the Deer Creek Watershed study project, it is that all watersheds are interconnected parts of Earth’s circulatory system.

In her book, California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline, Rosanna Xia travels along California’s coastal towns interviewing city, county, and state land policy managers, as well as Native People, Black communities, activists, and private homeowners as she investigates how people think about coastal erosion and property defense tactics.

This subject applies to all places where people live. Do we adapt to change or fight it?

How do we develop governing policies that encourage desired behaviors?

So many people still seem to be estranged from nature – unaware, or unwilling to see, how much we’re holding onto land meant to burn or drown. ‘We love what we have, and we always want it to be the same forever, but it’s just not going to be.’

As I read about high-priced sea walls, diminishing sand, and underserved communities, I couldn’t help but think about home insurers pulling out of California, ongoing Nevada County fire-hardening work, and our Nisenan Tribe.

“I exist because my ancestors resisted multiple and sustained sate and church sponsored efforts to eradicate us physically, culturally, and spiritually,” she said. “They resisted, and they continued – continued to love, laugh, speak their language, sing their songs, build and sustain their communities through all the violence.”

The book takes a while to get through; it is information-dense. It might seem like the subject would be depressing, but it’s not. Xia leaves readers feeling hopeful.

The sooner we arrive at a consensus about ecosystem-specific environmental adaptation, and set plans in motion for forward movement, the less loss of life, housing, commerce, and investment there will be.

Rosanna Xia is an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times, where she specializes in stories about the coast and ocean. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 for explanatory reporting, and her work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series.

Deer Creek Film & the January Circle

We’re approaching mid-January, the time of year when the Following Deer Creek (FDC) Project first came into being (2017).  Like the Earth circling around the Sun and the planetary water cycle, we’ve completed a journey.

I set out to tell the story of the Deer Creek watershed from its tectonic and cultural origins to the people and animals who live in it today. Working backward, I posted blog articles as I researched in preparation to compile the film.

Aerial Views & History
of the Deer Creek Watershed:
Journey from Headwaters to Confluence 
a thirty-minute fly-over film

In early January of 2021, the film was complete. Like the FDC blog posts, it’s a birds-eye view of the watershed that hints at depths.

I smile when I think back to the initial idea seed. Of course, there is no one story, there are more than can ever be told.

FDC and the Aerial Views film is a decent outline, but it also illustrates how much more remains for investigation and study.

I hope this journey inspires yours!

 

 

 

 

Lichen: Exploring Microecosystems in Your Backyard

Lichens are tiny farming biomes that live on rocks, soil and trees.

Fortunately, with a magnifying glass or macro setting on your smartphone, you can explore these systems within a few steps of your door.

A Lichen is a Symbiotic System

Lichen is composed of fungi, algae, and bacteria. The fungus captures plant cells, taking it inside its body where it nourishes and protects them. When the algal cells photosynthesize, they produce sugars that the fungus eats.

Very resilient, lichens have survived space experiments and can lay dormant for up to ten years in wetter California climates. Some species are over 1,000 years old!

 

What Lichens Need to Grow

Lichens need air, water, light, nutrients, and something to cling to (substrate).

Air: Like sponges, lichens absorb everything they need from nutrients to moisture. They’re so sensitive to environmental pollutants, temperature shifts and water conditions that the U.S. Forest Service uses lichen surveys as indicators of forest health, providing hot spot data and conservation priorities.

Water: Lichens don’t have the ability to regulate moisture levels (poikilohydry).  When they lack water, they dry out, go dormant and look dark. When water is available, they plump-up, look green, grow, and reproduce.

Light: The algal cells that the fungi farm need light to photosynthesize. Lichen species have different light requirements. Some prefer full sun on rocks while others like shady, cooler subclimates. Brightness and coloring are also affected by light. Species adapted to hotter and brighter conditions are generally more colorful.
 
Nutrients: Lichen nutrients include; oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Lichens use cyanobacteria to “fix” nitrogen from the air which is then used to organic acids and proteins. 
Species types – acidophyte & nitrophyte – that flourish or diminish under certain climate conditions are used in lichen surveys.
 
Substrate: Any non-moving object the lichen can hold onto – rocks, trees, soil, tombstones, houses, farm equipment, etc. 

Types of Lichen

 

Foliose: Leafy lichens that use tiny rhizines to attach to substrate.

Folios lichen – Plitt’s Xanthoparmelia plitti, Lettuce lichen/Lobaria oregana & Rhizine Photo by Ed Uebel – NOTE: Lichens are not parasitic. They  do not hurt trees.
 

Forage: Hair-like and hanging species that are eaten by animals and humans

Forage lichen – Willa/Bryoria fremontii – eaten by squirrels, western voles, wild turkey, slugs, snails, mites, springtails, certain caterpillars and Mule deer. Photo by Jason Hollinger

 

 

Crustose:  Lichens grow flat on their substrate surface

Crustose lichens – gold cobblestone/Pleopsidium flavum and Firedot/Caloplaca trachyphylla – Photos by Jason Hollinger

Fruticose: looks like a shrub, bush, or coral

Fruticose lichen – Old Man’s Beard/Usnea Photo by Rhododendrites & Wolf lichen/Letharia vulpina Photo by Jason Hollinger

Reproduction

Lichens have multiple reproduction methods. If they reproduce sexually (by way of fruiting bodies) they create spores. If they reproduce asexually, a powdery substance – soredia –  is released. Both methods use, wind, water, and animals to transport the newbies.

The fruiting body of the Pixie Cup lichen

MYTH: Lichen do not harm trees. 

Other Lichen Uses & Users

Clothing, wound absorbent, diapers, model train shrubbery, and an ingredient in concrete, perfume, and deodorant. Some lichens are being studied as new sources of antibiotics and medicines.

Camouflage for; lizards, moths, tree frogs and other insects.

Insect larva camouflage

 

Nesting Material
At least 50 bird species use lichens as nesting material.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Bird’s Nest Fungi – Spores Spread by Raindrops

 

Click on image to purchase or view more Life on the Creek art
Click on image to go to a FREE downloadable coloring sheet
Click on image to purchase or view more Life on the Creek art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Acidophyte & Nitrophyte Lichen Species  (air quality indicators)

Bay Nature – Identifying with Lichens

California Lichen Society – Observations  |  California’s State Lichen

Consortium of North America Lichen Herbaria 

Field Guide To California Lichens 

 

Live Science – What are Lichens?

The Scientist – Not One, Not Two, But Three Fungi Present in Lichen 

Marin County Lichens (Introduction to)

National Lichens & Air Quality Database and Clearinghouse

North American Mycological Association

OPAL Identification Guide (PDF)

Sharnoff – Lichen uses by people: Perfume & Misc. | Dyeing

Sierra College Natural History Museum – California Lace Lichen

UC, Berkeley – California Lichen Society

University of Minnesota Extension – Non-harmful tree conditions

USDA – Lichen Bioindication of Biodiversity, Air Quality, and Climate: Baseline Results From Monitoring in Washington, Oregon, and California

U.S. Forest Service – About Lichens

U.S. Forest Service – Lichen Habitat 

Wikipedia – Lichens of the Sierra Nevada U.S.

Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lichen Photography

Lichen Photography by Stephen Sharnoff

Lichen Photography by Tim Wheeler 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Nevada County Holiday Giving-Guide with a Land Stewardship Focus

Support organizations that preserve, protect, clean, heal, and educate about our local habitats.

Buy a holiday gift, spend outdoor quality time with family and friends and keep Nevada County healthy.

Visit the websites of the organizations below to;

  • make a gift for operating expenses in someone’s name
  • buy film festival tickets
  • attend lectures
  • take family and friends hiking
  • volunteer to be a water monitor
  • learn to become a citizen scientist
  • or a California Naturalist
  • buy books to learn to about Nevada County native plants
  • go on field trips
  • learn to propagate and spread native plants

 

Bear Yuba Land Trust 

Bear Yuba Land Trust exists to protect and defend the working and natural lands
of the Bear and Yuba River Watersheds and to enrich the deep community connection with nature, in perpetuity.

Donate/Sponsor/Membership

Events

Trails Portal

Youth Programs

Volunteer

CHIRP – California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project
(Nisenan Tribe)

(CHIRP) was created to research, document, preserve, and protect California Indigenous Nisenan culture.

Donate (also accepts land, automobiles, and stock donations.)

Projects

*see books below for more

Redbud Chapter California Native Plant Society

The Redbud Chapter is dedicated to exploring, educating, researching, and writing about the diversity and beauty of our native flora.

Nevada County Native Plant Books

Fieldtrips

Lectures

Trees and Shrubs $35.95 | Wildflowers $29.95

Sierra Streams Institute 

Sierra Streams Institute’s mission is to link water, science, and people for the benefit of human and environmental health.

Donate

School Field Trips

UC California Naturalist Program

Water Monitoring

Volunteer

$95

 

South Yuba River Citizens League 

SYRCL unites the community to protect and restore the Yuba River watershed.

Donations

2020 Film Festival tickets

Volunteer

River Clean-up

River Monitoring

River Ambassadors

Salmon Expeditions

$20-$500

 

The Sierra Fund (Mercury Cleanup in the Sierra Nevada)

The Sierra Fund’s mission is to restore ecosystem and community resiliency in the Sierra Nevada.

Donate (also accepts bequests, asset donations, & beneficiary naming)

Programs

Services

 

Truckee Donner Land Trust (Tahoe/Donner Land Preservation)

To preserve and protect scenic, historic and recreational lands with high natural resource values in the Truckee Donner region
and manage recreational activities on these lands in a sustainable manner.

Donate

Docent-Led Hikes

Projects

News & Events

 

Yuba Watershed Institute (North San Juan focus)

The Yuba Watershed Institute is a group of citizens who are concerned with the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of
long-term biological diversity within the Yuba River watershed.  The Institute also serves as an educational
resource, providing an ongoing series of talks, seminars, publications and walks on all aspects of the watershed.

Membership/Donation

Workshops & Field Seminars

Shop  – The Nature of this Place book & Cutting Boards

$20 – $500

Choose an organization to support when you ‘Smile’ shop on Amazon

Amazon Smile Registration

1. Visit AmazonSmile.com

 

https://youtu.be/fnwB7UcsG0A

2. Select your local organization to support

*Nevada County land steward organizations registered on AmazonSmile as of December 2019

Sierra Streams Institute

South Yuba River Citizens League

The Sierra Fund

Yuba Watershed Institute

 

Nevada County oriented Books & Art
(not associated with a nonprofit)

Books

  • All FORMATS

Ecosystems of California by Harold Mooney and Erika Zavaleta

  • AUDIOBOOKS

Gold Hunters, J.D. Borthwick [Librivox]

  • E-BOOKS

Man and Nature, George Perkins Marsh (Father of Conservation) – 1864 – epub, html, and other formats
The Outcasts of Poker Flat and Other Tales, Bret Harte | for Library Loan
Nevada (City), Grass Valley & Rough & Ready General Directory of Citizens; a historical sketch of Nevada County,  A. A. Sargent, ESQ 1856
Three Years in California, J.D. Borthwick
The Frontier in American History (1920), Frederick J. Turner

  • PRINT BOOKS

After the Gold Rush: Society in Grass Valley and Nevada City, California, 1849-1870, Ralph Mann
Conflict Between the California Indian and White Civilization (1976), Sherburne F. Cook
The Cousin Jacks; the Cornish in America (1969), A.L. Rowse
Crow’s Range: An Environmental History of the Sierra Nevada, by David Beesley [KXJZ, Insight interview 35:46] Gold Rush Stories: 49 Tales of Seekers, Scoundrels, Loss, and Luck, Gary Noy
Hard Rock Epic: Western Miners and the Industrial Revolution, 1860-1910, Mark Wyman
History of Us: Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria, Richard B. Johnson
Jennie Carter, A Black Journalist of the Early West, edited by Eric Gardner
Jews in the California Gold Rush (1994), Robert E. Levinson
Life on the Plains and Among the Diggings (1854), Alonzo Delano
On the Trail to the California Gold Rush (1806-74), Alonzo Delano
The Pioneer Miner and Pack Mule Express, (California Historical Society. Special publication) (1931)
The River: Hiking Trails and History of the South Fork of the Yuba River, Hank Meals
Sierra College Press
Sierra Stories: Tales of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots, and Rogues, Gary Noy
Tribal Land Conservation, Beth Rose Middleton
Yuba Trails: A Selection of Historic Hiking Trails in the Yuba River Watershed, Hank Meals
Yuba Trails 2: A selection of hiking trails in the Yuba River and neighboring watersheds, Hank Meals

Life on the Creek art series  –  Hundreds of Nevada County designs

Deer Creek & Nevada County Art made-to-order on clothing, housewares, or accessories.
$5 from each sale supports the FDC blog & documentary project.
Once complete, proceeds from art sales will be donated to one or more of the nonprofit organizations listed above!

Toyon – Rose Apples

Toyon, in the rose family, carries a name given to it by Native Americans and produces fruit related to apples. Because it ripens and turns bright red around the holidays, its common names are Christmas berry and California Holly.

Photo Credit: redit Miguel Vieira

Toyon’s scientific name, Heteromeles arbutifolia, means “different apple.”

There’s debate surrounding the plant’s association with the naming of Hollywood. [See link in resources.]

A California native, Toyon is an evergreen shrub. It grows from sea level to scrub oak zones up to 4,000 ft. elevation; it’s drought tolerant and accepts a variety of soil types— including clay.

FIRE

Specially adapted to flourish after fire, Toyon root crowns store carbohydrates allowing the plant to quickly send up new sprouts.

Established shrubs, reaching 8 to 10 feet in height, have lower water requirements than young plants.

FLOWERS

Photo Credit: John Rusk

Small white flower bunches appear in June and July.

MATURING FRUIT

Photo Credit: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz

While fruit is developing, berries contain a cyanogenic glucoside, a toxic substance, that protects them from being eaten.

Photo Credit: John Rusk

As the fruit ripens, turning red, the cyanogenic glucoside moves from the pulp into the seeds.

Photo Credit: Becky Matsubara

FRUIT CONSUMPTION

Birds and some mammals, such as coyote and bear, eat Toyon berries in the fall.

For humans, the taste of fresh berries is bitter. It’s a good idea to spit out the seeds.

Heating berries before eating removes some of the bitterness.

HISTORIC HUMAN FRUIT CONSUMPTION

  • Bark and leaf tea for stomach problems and wound infections – Kumeyaay people and other Native Tribes
  • Leaf infusions – menstruation regulation – Costanoan people
  • Sun parching – Luiseno people (southern California)
  • Thirst quencher – Mahuna people
  • Wine, custard, jelly, and porridge – Spanish and American settlers

MOLD & INSECT INFESTATION

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Willow – Bends without Breaking.

click on image to see more Life on the Creek art

 

*This article is dedicated to Rose Sponder, who identified the plant on Instagram.

Resources:

Harvesting Berries

Fermented Toyon Beverage

Bear Yuba Land Trust – Toyon (recipes)

Biological Sciences – Santa Barbara City College

Briar Patch Coop – Wild Winter Spices and Add Local Flair to Holiday Cooking

California Native Plant Society Blog – Holiday Native Plant Recipes 12/11/17 

California Native Plant Society – Redbud Chapter – Natives for Landscaping

Calscape – Toyon

EthnoHerbalist – Native Americans in southern California enjoyed berries from the toyon plant

KCET – Deck The Hills with Boughs of (California) Holly

Living Wild (recipes) – Toyon

Natural History Museum Los Angeles County – California Holly: How Hollywood Didn’t Get its Name

SFGate – How to Care for A Toyon Tree

 

 

RSS
Follow by Email
LinkedIn
Share
Pinterest
fb-share-icon
Instagram