Bears About!

The forest is VERY dry.

Our native plants are adapted to our wet winters and droughty summers, but 2017 has been extreme. That staunchest of natives, the Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum), is suffering in multitudes. Its proud fronds that three weeks ago were standing four feet tall off the forest floor have collapsed and their little frondlets are twisted and crunchy. Devil’s Club’s (Oplopanax horridus) huge spiky leaves are wilted and soft-looking and evergreen tree branches have sagged as their cells have lost moisture. When will we be delivered from all this foliar suffering?

The wild animals found a partial answer; the nursery is an oasis. Everything is so juicy. The deer have pruned the Red-twig Dogwoods (Cornus sericea), one of their favorites. The rabbits, too, partake. They like the small plants, especially Tadpole Haven’s young huckleberry crops, wild strawberry plants, and Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana). Most of these plants, when grown in abundance, only suffer around the edges—the rest of the patch does fine. The deer also love to neatly trim off Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves one at a time. Luckily, Thimbleberry is a resilient plant and this will not set them back one whit.

The bears have also been visiting the nursery and the surrounding woods. Two different bears, one young and one old, trek through the woods on a regular basis, often choosing to nap in the woods between the nursery and the mailbox on the road. I know, because Gus the Brittany tells me exactly where the bear is. Lisa and I saw the small one TODAY, thanks to Gus’ alertness! It ran into the swampy woods on the far end of the lower field. Exciting, but a little scary!Screenshot_20170726bearatpottingbench

Not only did the bears provide summer thrills more wholesome than any creepy summer movie clown, they answered one of life’s persistent questions: Does a bear s**t in the woods? (Yes–with ample solid proof)

I had been planning to harvest some Cascade Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa) berries for seed. So I walked up the mailbox trail, where I knew I could find a lot. But they were all gone—the bears beat me to them, I bet. I ventured off into the woods, searching for the little “grapes” and realized I was on a wildlife trail. It became obvious that this was the trail the bears traverse past the nursery; I found three piles of bear scat. Full of seeds! Eureka! The mother lode! Some of the seeds must be Oregon Grape, I thought. I ran back to the nursery shed for a bucket and trowel.

That’s been 10 days ago, easy. I’ve been in possession of a moldering lump of bear poop since then. Today is the day.

Okay, so I snapped on a pair of latex gloves and chunked up the bear poop with the sticks, fir needles and moss that had come with it. Once semi-spreadable, I plopped it into two propagation flats. Voila! Now I just have to wait 1-2 years…

What other kinds of seeds are in there? Devil’s Club? Cherries? Salal (Gaultheria shallon)? Pacific Crabapple (Malus fusca)? Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana)? What’s your guess?

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