Dark Soil Light Wood Saddleback is an Outdoor Classroom wildlife habitat installation at the Laguna Foundation‘s Laguna Environmental Center, or LEC, located at 900 Sanford Road, Santa Rosa, California, 95401. Date: February 23, 2017. School: Orchard View School, Sebastopol, California. Teacher: Sunny Galbraith. Me: Tony McGuigan, from Spore Lore.
Dark Soil Light Wood Saddleback (now that’s a name!) hereinafter “Saddleback” installation.
The Plan, from 2 months before the project. Name change was inevitable; the students had not been consulted. Plan is North View. Our project, Saddleback, is under East Log and the mounding of soil/rock/plants between the two logs.
In a nutshell, Saddleback is a wildlife habitat installation using a large trunk section to shelter an underground tunnel that leads to a rock outcropping and the surface.
Dark Soil Light Wood Saddleback — The Before. North east view. February in Sonoma County means mustard! Note the swath of vibrant yellow mustard in the lush grass-happy cow pasture beyond the Laguna Environmental Center’s fenceline. The line of trees on the pasture’s north border is Irwin Creek.
Prep — 3 Months Before Installation
Saddleback is a sister habitat to a previous outdoor classroom wildlife habitat installation: Twisted North Mound. In foreground, a student removes clay soil from under East Log to build the soil mound behind him. The trench was then filled with woodchips for easy removal when East Log’s habitat is created (beats digging out clay soil!).
Prep — Installation Day — Before Students Arrive
Meadow barley (Hordeum brachyantherum) plugs that will be used for the project. These plugs are leftovers in the Nursery; their survival rate will be poor. But, some may live to thrive in the habitat.
Shading the woodchip pile with landscape cloth to minimize soil microbe/fungus fatality. The partially broken down woodchips are richly impregnated with decomposers, that is, microbes and fungus and arthropods and gastropods that want to eat the woodchips, thrive in them. Would be a shame to kill off such biota while installing a habitat. The opaque landscape cloth will keep harsh sunlight from the woodchip dwellers.
Taking shape. The trench under East Log is deepened. Soil in the tub, from the trench, will be added to Saddleback when the meadow barley is planted.
Shopping for something organic, something ALIVE! at the Habitat Resource Pile (an old woodchip pile with buried treasures). Note the middle stump, adjacent to the eaten out stump in the foreground — it has lived inside a large woodchip for over 3 years, always covered by chips. Now it is ripe to pick and place in a wildlife habitat. The stump itself is alive — it is impregnated with Life.
Prep. Clockwise from foreground: 4-15 gallon pots filled with Nursery-discarded potting soil (free!), West Log, Cold Water Canyon rock slabs (standing and on garden cart), Middle Stump in white plastic shaded bin, plants (behind East Log in shade), black plastic bin of topsoil from East Log trench, tunnel of corrugated perforated habitated (holes cut in for critter entrance/exit) 6″ ABS, palm fronds, black landscape cloth covered mound of woodchips, wheelbarrow (rusty) of compost with an algae covered log, wheelbarrow (blue) of compost.
Installation — Dark Soil Light Wood Saddleback
In goes the tunnel, a custom designed critter tunnel, “Each Exit/Entrance is about 6-8″ long and 2″ wide (2 corrugation trenches).”, as described in Centipede Tunnel Perch.
Decisions, decisions — it is a school day after all.
Old palm fronds, salvaged/harvested from the Habitat Garden Resource Pile, are used to line the tunnel. Accomplishes: 1) keeps tunnel in place, 2) installs Life-alive! biome to project, 3) provides critters with a moisture laden maze of cavities, and 4) empties the palm frond pile. Turn trash to treasure!
The goal here is to create a planting mound joined with the plants in the foreground, those meadow barley of Twisted North Mound.
1 Month After Installation
A western fence lizard surfaces from within Saddleback.
Thank you, as always, to Sunny Galbraith, teacher at Orchard View School, Sebastopol, and her students. Also, much thanks to the Staff and Board of the Laguna Foundation, particularly the Restoration and Conservation Science Department: Wendy Trowbridge, Director; Brent Reed, Ecological Program Manager; Sarah Gordon, Conservation Science Program Manager; Paul Weber, Restoration Field Supervisor; Asa Voight, Restoration Technician II; Hannah Werdmuller, Restoration Technician; and Julie Skopal, Nursery Manager.
Enjoy your habitat installations. Habitat it!