Jun 072017
 
0- Habitat Landscaper-Instructor for hire — Tony McGuigan — international consulting available — install@sporelore.com , Tony McGuigan, Habitat it!, Spore Lore©, Habitat It And They Will Come, garden, soil, soil microbes, Soil Under My Nails, gardening, gardens, native plants, permaculture, wildlife garden, wildlife habitat installation, environmental education, ecological landscaping, Animal Habitat, garden, ecological, landscaping, wildlife garden, biodiversity, native plants, how to build wildlife habitat, spore lore, sporelore, sporelore.com, outdoor classroom, nonvirtual education, touch the soil!, wildlife habitat workshop, Orchard View School, Sunny Galbraith, Laguna Environmental Center, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, environmental conservation,  Stone Farm, Anita Smith, Acorn Launch Pad, Cold Water Canyon rock, adobe soil, berm, swale, posthole digger, California Valley Oak, acorn, Quercus lobata

Ants!Acorn Launch Pad 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: June 6, 2017.  School: Orchard View School, Sebastopol, California.  Teacher: Sunny Galbraith.  Me: Tony McGuigan, from Spore Lore.

Management reserves the right to change a name!Acorn Launch Pad, hereinafter at times referred to as “ALP” for brevity, is a 3-season wildlife habitat installation.  The project evolved during the winter, spring, and summer months of 2016 into 2017.  The installation highlight is to plant a valley oak tree between a hubba hubba hulk of a log and a 1000 pound Cold Water Canyon Rock slab.  Will the valley oak (Quersus lobata) live to 500 years?  Will the tree lift the rock slab as it grows?  Not for me to know in 30, 40, 50 years from now, but perhaps the students planting the tree will.

1 Year, 5 Months Before Installation

east view -- Laguna Foundation, Santa RosaDriveway of Laguna Foundation’s LEC (Laguna Environmental Center), east view.  The gate is behind me about 50 feet.  Note the rock patch left of the road, at the foot of the culvert pipe, and the juncus rush clump.  Juncus (Juncus patens), culvert, and ditch — sounds like water to me!  This lower area will make good wildlife habitat, providing habitat’s 4 elements — food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young.  Juncus at the site indicates year-round water; the valley oak and critters living in the tree, under the rocks, and in the soil will use that water.

east view -- Stone Farm, Santa RosaSame view as above pic, but along the fence.  Not too early to envision the project; Permaculture principles entail waiting a year (12 months!) before working a site.  This winter’s job is to watch the water — how much water from winter floods will fill the site AND where will the water line be?

driveway road culvertCulvert pipe outlet, north side of driveway, which connects low-lying pastures so the driveway does not flood so quickly.  Will take lots of rain to flood over the road.  Note how thick (happy) the juncus clump is.

7 Months Before Installation

Habitat Landscaper -- Tony McGuiganIt’s been nearly a year waiting on harvesting wood for Acorn Launch Pad.  Last winter’s wet wood (WWW — and nothing virtual about it!) has sunbaked dry, has become lighter.  Lighter wood means we can harvest a larger, bulker, hulkier log or tree trunk.  Took 4 hours to get Hulk (strapped at angle) into the truck.  Note the plywood board under the rear tire — the soft November ground is soft and a tire rut left in the mud would look messy.

Digging bars keep the plywood in place as the truck’s wheel spins right.

Webbing straps secure Hulk to a perfectly placed telephone pole.  Ready?!  Set!

Hulk has arrived homeGo!!!  Hulk, an oak tree trunk section, arrives home, about 50 feet from the installation site, which is close to the fenceline on the left.

5 Months Before Installation

Always set an anchor!So where’s that driveway road?  Winter in Sonoma County means water, sometimes flooding.  Note how Hulk rests in slightly higher ground above the culvert.  Note the lushness of the terrain — hard to imagine that in six months it will be a parched dry golden brown.

Photo courtesy of Brent Reed Kayaking ToursLater that same January 2017 day; the water has risen fast.  Yikes!  Almost lost Hulk to the flood, but now we know where flood level goes to at the site.

2 Months Before Installation

Thanks Stuart!A rock slab is placed on top of 3 smaller landscape boulders.  The rock slab, “Rock”, is a 1000 pound (½ ton) Cold Water Canyon (local to Sonoma County) rock.  Thank you Stuart Schroeder for the fork lift delivery!  The 3 smaller rocks will slow down Rock’s sinking into the soil and will create cavities for critters under Rock.

Installation Day — Part 1 (6 weeks before Part 2)

setting come-a-long chainThe students from Orchard View School have arrived.  Rolling Hulk on its side, we discover . . .

ants!ants!  Lots of ants.  Busy, swarming red ants, that bite.  Obviously, we will be destroying some of their habitat, most likely a nest built under Hulk, as we install another habitat.

Heave!Today’s outdoor classroom project is about mechanical advantage, mostly class 1 leverage.  Left, a long metal pipe is toed into the earth and pushed forward, from the top end, to move Rock more centered on top of the 3 landscaping boulders below.  A student (second from right) pulls Rock at the same time using a come-a-long.  A third student (right) keeps Hulk in place; on the other side of Hulk (far right, out of photo) are digging bars and pipes to anchor the come-a-long.  Note that Rock still sits on the fork lift skid/pallet that helped Farmer Stuart deliver it.  The wood pallet creates a lot of catching resistance — all the more reason to use mechanical advantage.

Almost there!Fine tuning placement of Rock and retrieving the come-a-long chain.

Who left this pallet here?Students begin digging Hulk’s hole, near enough to the rocks so that the tree trunk section will surface and rest on the rocks.

Dig a hole, make a mound.Topsoil and weeds from the hole is thrown into the rock pile to create a rich foundation for planting the valley oak tree.

Sticky, heavy mud!Extra logs are temporarily placed to help create a mound of soil up against the rocks.

Excuse me, what are the Rec Room's hours?A western fence lizard (tail and foot visible under the pallet) inspects the new Recreation Room.

Mount St. Helena to the north.Finished for the day.  Acorn Launch Pad waits for the next work session.  North view.  Note that weeds and mud have been thrown against the rock pile.  Also, the extra logs have removed from the soil-mounding area and are now placed into the hole started by the students to alert anyone walking in the field.

Can we have some quiet, please?!A lizard on its way to the rock pile.

setting sun, day's endThe warm sunny rock has coaxed a lizard out.  Notice the little rock alcove it basks in, complete with overhead shelter from predators.

Habitat it and they will come!

Installation Day — Part 2 — Completion on June 6, 2017

Warm rocks -- lizards have moved in!East view.  Time to finish this job, 6 weeks later than scheduled.  Soft adobe mud has turned into brick hard adobe mud.  Today’s job is a different job than it would have been in soft-mud spring.  Summer’s heat and dryness have hardened the heavy soil.  But we can fix that!

North view.  First order of business — get water to the hole so that the soil will soften.  A garden hose is stretched out in the sun to warm while tools are gathered.  Removing any kinks in the hose now will help increase water flow.  Note the dryness of the terrain.

native plant nurseryCollecting tools and water from the Laguna Foundation’s Nursery.

Habitat Landscaper at work!Spore Lore™ Mobile Hydration Station on truck.  Hoses deliver water into Hulk’s hole started by students.

Close-up view of getting water to the installation site.  The odd-looking dome screen above the barrels is merely to keep the sun-warmed hose from kinking; I ran out of hard pipe to plumb the siphon.  5-gal buckets of water are used to replenish water flowed out of the drums, before the siphon is lost — sure beats carrying the water buckets to the site!

chop wood, (don't) carry waterAnd we have water!

bar marks the spotPlenty of time for the hole to be filled with water.  Time to take in the beauty of this pasture land, and time to imagine how this habitat might contribute to it.  A good time to plan completion of the job, work some art into the finished product.  The metal digging bar represents how Hulk is to rest.   Catching the eye — visitors to the Laguna Foundation will spot the oak log from afar.  Diagonally, and opening away from the road, the log is positioned to welcome visitors.  And as for the critters visiting or living in Acorn Launch Pad, they could care less about such artsy stuff.

Metal digging bar representing Hulk’s position — close-up view.  Hulk and Rock will form a “planting box” for Acorn (the acorns planted to seed the valley oak tree).  Fill canyon (trench between Rock and Hulk), plant tree.  Simple!  Oh, that’s right, no such luck; I’m doing the digging.

Mountain Climber makes it look easy!A lizard climbs rock,

small dinosaurand stops.  Perhaps to savor warmth?  Perhaps to conceal, not give away so freely, its hideout and/or home.  “Who me?  I am not here.  I have disappeared into camouflage.”  Note this camouflage expert’s position.  Is it coincidence that this striped animal rests parallel to a like-colored, bleached grass stalk?

I usually sleep in for BreakfastClose-up of western fence lizard entering ALP.  Note pattern, color, and texture of Lizard’s right arm.  Now do the same for the lichen it has landed on.  This guy is good!  “Where’s dinner?  I heard there were wood beetles, earthworms, and froglets here.”

stay where you are, pleaseLet’s do the Can Can!  Driwater® hydration cans will provide time-released irrigation to young tree roots a year from now.  Acorn is set for launch in Fall 2017.  Winter rains will help mature the valley oak seedling.  Time-released irrigation, using the Driwater® system, will water the seedlings through next late spring and next summer.   [No statement here is by Driwater®.]  Note the twine line — it was used to keep the cans in place and to “chalk line” surface level.  In order words, the twine marks how high the soil will be mounded.  Keep in mind that this view of the planting mound is looking through Hulk — Hulk will be installed up against these cans, parallel to them and will form a “planting box”.  Note how the cans’ tops have been positioned above soil level.  The top will be removed to fill the cans with Driwater® material.  Note the oak limbs under and alongside the cans — mycorrhizal fungi trenches in waiting.  Those small oak limbs will break down, rot, and become food and homes for soil creatures from today till Acorn is planted.  Then, upon planting, the decayed oak limbs will support growth to Acorn through absorbing and holding water and by providing an enhanced mycorrhizal fungi network.

Let water do the workOak Lake fills while weeds/topsoil are harvested into a storage bin (pond liners are lightweight and strong).  The alive weeds/topsoil will be used used to dress Acorn’s adobe hillside.

treasure trashRoadside trash harvested.  These old tree branches are good organic material that will come in handy.

wet mud on a dry dayOak Lake expansion.  The water is about 6 inches below grade, just low enough to be contained in the hole and not overfill.  Time is the most powerful working agent — the longer the water sits in the hole, the softer the adobe clay becomes.  Note the planting of sticks in the center of the soil mound.  Those antennae are broken roadside trash branches — wood that will absorb water, break down, and leave a more alive soil for Acorn.

underwater mud is slow digging More water.  Now the digging is under water, sliver of mud by sliver of mud.  Slow digging but doable.

Hulk flipped into position.  Note the closer (foreground) digging bar — it provides our workhorse, leverage, and will pull Hulk to it.

Ready?!  Set!

Perfect!  Hulk has cleared the end of the hole and can be flipped in.

It’s a flawless half turn nose dive!  Notice how much more hole there is surrounding Hulk.  Hulk will be pulled to the closer shore, toward the red strap.  Doing so will allow Hulk to rest parallel with the hydration cans.

Supporting logs floated in Oak Lake to provide more organic material AND to preserve precious backfill soil.  More wood in the hole means less soil needed to fill it.

16 pound sledge hammer, The PersuaderPersuader (sledge hammer) sinks another supporting log next to Hulk.  Note that Hulk has twisted on its side.  Each flip of Hulk produces a different rainwater collecting surface.  Might not sound like much but every drop of rainwater is a big deal to the fungi, flora and fauna that will call Hulk home.

Hulk lays almost parallel to the can line.  Half of the adobe mound in the background will line the bottom of the canyon wedge, ensuring that Hulk will absorb water/moisture during rain/fog.

Mudworks.  Downhill side of Hulk filled in with Oak Bog (puddle) created to capture rainwater.

Our old friend, Culvert.  A great place to collect straw.

Straw is used to cover the wet mud and to help the habitat blend into local terrain.

Finished!  North view.  Acorn Launch Pad wildlife habitat installation is in.

Closer view of finished habitat.  Acorn will be planted at the blue flag, between Hulk and Rock.

West view of soil mound awaiting Acorn.

South view.  Note that the hydration cans are hidden from road traffic.

Acorn Blast Off coming Fall 2017East view.  Note that the hydration cans are usable (the lids can be accessed) yet blend into the habitat’s features.  The cans will be more hidden in high grass as the habitat fills in with Life.

See you in the fall to plant (Blast off!!!) Acorn.

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!

                                                                               Tony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 022015
 
Tony McGuigan, Spore Lore, Habitat It And They Will Come, garden, soil, Soil Under My Nails, gardening, gardens, native plants, permaculture, wildlife garden, wildlife habitat installation, environmental education, ecological landscaping, Animal Habitat, garden, ecological, landscaping, wildlife garden, biodiversity, outdoor classroom, nonvirtual education, touch the soil!, wildlife habitat workshop, Laguna Environmental Center, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, environmental conservation,  Stone Farm, Stuart Schroeder, mulch, wood chips, adobe soil, Santa Barbara sedge, Carex barbarae, field sedge, Carex praegegracillus, juncus, Juncus patens, California gray rush, Sonoma fieldstone, Shady Oak Root Of It All, Big Splash Hotel and Spa, oak tree, quercus lobata, valley oak, mycorrhizae, mycorrhizae, mycorrhizal association

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgLet the games begin!  And the players for last month’s workshop (July 12th) at the Laguna Environmental Center are a 600 pound Sonoma fieldstone boulder (left) and an oak rootball with stump (right).  Both the boulder and the rootball will become the main feature of their own wildlife habitat installation.  Stuart Schroeder of Stone Farm helped me (Tony McGuigan) place both the boulder and the rootball near the proposed habitat sites — nice to have a tractor do some of the work!

Early Morning at the Laguna Environmental Center

Here are some photos of the wonderful start to the day while preparing for the workshop to begin:

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA western pond turtle keeps a wary eye from Turtle Pond Float.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA blue heron watches,

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgthen flies over the pond.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA Western Fence Lizard peeks from under the Sonoma fieldstone boulder we will soon move.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgClose-up of the lizard.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgTools at the ready.  From left: pruners, digging bars, roofing tile puller, shovels, soil chisels, hoes.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgAnd some of the materials we will be working with.  Valley oak trees, deer tree tubes, Sonoma fieldstone boulders with water-holding cavities, driftwood, and wood stumps.

The workshop started with a discussion in Heron Hall regarding wildlife habitats for residential settings.  Pastry, coffee, and tea make planning the day so much more fun!  On hand for the habitat landscaping was one Laguna Foundation intern, two Laguna Foundation Guides, four participants, and me, a Laguna Foundation Docent, as instructor.

Big Splash Hotel and Spa

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgBehind the Foundation’s Nursery is a compost area, which itself is a rich animal habitat, as is any thriving compost.  The Nursery manager recently asked all working at the Nursery to hang up the garden hose when finished; she wants to prevent contamination of the water left in the hose.  The hose has been hung up, sometimes here, sometimes there.  “Big Splash” wildlife habitat installation is about getting the hose hung up in mostly one place — the dripping water from the hose will provide water to the critters living under and around the large water-catching landscape boulders.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe Before.  Big Splash will be directly under the hose hanging from Compost Cricket Corral’s southwest post.  Moooo!  Note the nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus L.), front left; it will be saved because of its native status.  The surrounding weeds (non-native plants) will be removed to allow native plants to thrive around the habitat.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA hole is dug alongside the compost post.  The soil is set aside in buckets for later use — this rich topsoil will be used to establish new Santa Barbara sedge and field sedge plants surrounding Big Splash.  The large V-shaped boulder on its side (left) is blocked (to prevent movement) on a pallet next to the hole.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgMelon (cantaloupe and honey dew)-sized fieldstone rocks are carefully positioned in the hole to maximize their water-holding surfaces.  Some rocks have one or two thimble-sized cavities; other rocks present a smear of small holes that will hold water.  The rocks, in total, will provide moist cavities for critters to gather water from.  Other animals will prey upon those seeking the water.  A habitat is born!

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgUsing water to determine a rock’s most-water-holding position.  The rock will be placed on the lower rocks so that the “lake” is most full.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA foundation of water-holding fieldstone awaits the large V-shaped fieldstone boulder, which will sit on top.  The view is from inside the compost, looking toward the Nursery’s concrete slab.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe large boulder is leveled to test its best water-holding position.  St. Mary’s River flows out of Lake Superior — think very small critter!

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgLots of push and pull to get the 600 hundred pound boulder “level” so that it will hold water.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgAnd take a breath — the fieldstone boulder is in place.  The top boulder is placed to receive the hose drip.  Once Boulder Lake (think like a microbe or tiny birdbath critter) is filled, the moistness/wetness/water will drip down the side of the large fieldstone boulder to smaller, also water-holding, rocks.  There are about a dozen such rocks under Boulder Lake.  Soil, plants, mosses, lichens, and critters will call this pyramid of cavities, nutrition, and water “Home”.  In other words, 3 of 4 ingredients of habitat have been met: shelter, food, and water.  Because some critters will stay local to, if not live in, the moist pile of rocks, those critters will reproduce near or in the habitat installation.  Number 4 ingredient, “a place to raise young”, has been met.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgSanta Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) and field sedge (Carex praegegracillus) are planted among the rocks.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgWoodchip mulch is added to suppress weeds and give moisture to the establishing sedges.  The woodchip mulch will break down, leaving rich organic material, enriching the new sedge planting.  Soon a white net of mycorrhizae will spread throughout the decomposing woodchips, thereby benefitting the sedges.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe hose is temporarily positioned using driftwood; we are looking for the hose position that will target the hose drip into the center of the boulder to create Boulder Lake.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA good watering to jumpstart Big Splash Hotel and Spa wildlife habitat.  Soon the sedge plants will surround and shelter the base of the large boulder, providing food and shelter to small critters.  Larger animals will return to the watering hole.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgBig Splash Hotel and Spa is finished.  One habitat down, one to go for the workshop session.

Shady Oak Root Of It All — Prep before the workshop

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.org Site where rootball was harvested.  The rootball is nearly camouflaged; look between the digging bars.  The oak tree rootball, that is destined to become the focal point of a wildlife habitat installation, is covered in adobe soil, adding to its very heavy weight.    This logger’s garbage is a treasure to us habitat landscapers.  For him, the soil between the roots would ruin the chainsaw blade.  But as a habitat feature, the soil will diversify the habitat’s materials.  Most excess soil will be removed from the rootball just to get it in the back of the truck.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgOak Rootball arrives at the Laguna Foundation in April 2015.  Because the project slated for the rootball is three months away, a corral of logs was made around the rootball.  The logs will help hold the tall mound of woodchips about to cover it.  The rootball will sit in moist woodchips for three months before being installed in a wildlife habitat.  Since the rough plan is to bury the rootball in a new habitat (3 months from now), it will also be buried now — any Life in the soil-impregnated rootball will be welcome in the new habitat.  The dead rootball will be delivered to the habitat ALIVE!

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA log is attached to the chain tether.  The rootball is nearly buried in woodchips.  Come July, in three months, Stuart’s tractor will haul out the stump by the chain — sure beats digging out the rootball!

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe Before.  The Laguna Foundation’s Observation Platform ramp rises from a small hill above the cow pasture (left) and straw field (foreground).  We will take advantage of the small hill’s slope to dig in the rootball, but we must be careful not to undermine the ramp’s supports built into the hill.  The habitat’s valley oak (Quercus lobata) seedlings will be planted to allow tractor travel along the fence.  Also, the trees will be planted a safe distance from the ramp to not encroach upon it.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgDigging goes easier than expected.  Actually it’s a problem — the earth is a mix of gravel and soil fill from the pond grading.  We move the hole for the rootball further downslope to avoid undermining the ramp’s concrete supports.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgTime for the rootball — up and out of the woodchip pile it comes.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgAnd I get to ride.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe plan is to lay the rootball downhill to simulate a fallen tree.  The milled (man-made cut) at the crown will be buried to help create a natural look.  Note the straw bales; they were used to keep the loose slope from eroding the few days the hole was exposed before the workshop.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgIn goes the rootball.  Note how the roots extend above the surrounding ground and that the stump cut is down in the hole.  Also note the white patches on the rootball/stump crown — fungi was thriving on the rootball while it was buried in the woodchips.  Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgClose-up of fungi growing on the oak rootball.

Shady Oak Root Of It All — Installation (Workshop) Day

 

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe rootball is tipped to lower the stump end below the level of the surrounding soil.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe rootball and other wood hulks are positioned half in, half out of the hole.  Fill, fill, fill. Because so much wood is in the hole, there will be extra soil to mound above the hole, on top of the wood.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgSoil engulfs the rootball.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgA critter perch is laid in the hole to the right of the rootball.  It will be mostly buried so that only a 4-foot length sticks out of the hill when the habitat is finished.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgOther wood chunks are thrown into the hole to provide more cavities for wood-loving critters AND to displace soil.  By filling the hole with other than original soil, we will be able to mound the soil higher, or perhaps make a berm of soil where there had not been one.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgIn go small oak branches and twigs, broken up by stepping on them.  We want to create moisture retention and fungi spawning for the valley oak seedlings.  Layers of organic matter (oak rootball/oak branches/oak woodchip mulch) will attempt to humbly simulate oak tree savanah soil, which is layered by decades, if not centuries, of decaying oak wood.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgTopsoil from the hole, which was set aside in large bins, is used to fill over the poorer quality soil and the oak branches.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgHere comes the first valley oak seedling.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgToday I plant a mighty oak tree.  Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) may live up to 600 years old.  The Observation Platform might need a paint job by then!

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe oak trees are in,

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.organd covered with plastic tubes that will allow light in but keep deer from eating the young trees.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgOak woodchip mulch is spread around the trees.

Become a Guide or Docent of the Laguna Foundation – See lagunafoundation.orgThe trees are watered as a final step to the completed wildlife habitat installation.  Note the Medusa-like tangle of roots emerging from the ground.  What is going on there?  What critters will seek habitat there?  Questions, questions.  Keep asking!

Final Report

The workshop was a success.  Thank you to  the LF Guides, Marcia and Barbara, the workshop participants, and intern Sasha — we installed 2 wildlife habitats and nobody got hurt.

Thank you’s to the Laguna Foundation staff for your support of my work at the LEC.  In particular, to Wendy Trowbridge and Brent Reed of the Conservation and Restoration Department and to Anita Smith, Public Education Coordinator, for her work in promoting my July 11th presentation and this workshop.

A big thank you to Tractor Man — Stuart Schroeder.

Enjoy your wildlife habitat creations.  Habitat it!

Tony

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 092015
 
Tony McGuigan, Spore Lore, Habitat It And They Will Come, garden, soil, Soil Under My Nails, gardening, gardens, native plants, permaculture, wildlife garden, wildlife habitat installation, environmental education, ecological landscaping, Animal Habitat, garden, ecological, landscaping, wildlife garden, biodiversity, outdoor classroom, nonvirtual education, touch the soil!, , Laguna Environmental Center, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, environmental conservation,  Stone Farm, mulch, wood chips, adobe soil, Santa Barbara sedge, Carex barbarae, field sedge (Carex praegegracillus), juncus, Juncus patens, California gray rush, fieldstone, Shady Oak Seat, pond algae, oak, oak tree, Quercus lobata

Tony McGuigan, Spore Lore, Habitat It And They Will Come, garden, soil, Soil Under My Nails, gardening, gardens, native plants, permaculture, wildlife garden, wildlife habitat installation, environmental education, ecological landscaping, Animal Habitat, garden, ecological, landscaping, wildlife garden, biodiversity, outdoor classroom, nonvirtual education, touch the soil!, , Laguna Environmental Center, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, environmental conservation,  Stone Farm, mulch, wood chips, adobe soil, Santa Barbara sedge, Carex barbarae, field sedge (Carex praegegracillus), juncus, Juncus patens, California gray rush, fieldstone, Shady Oak Seat, pond algae, oak, oak tree, Quercus lobataGetting ready for this Sunday’s workshop — Tony’s truck bed load of fieldstone.  The fieldstone will be used to create habitat installations during the workshop.  Hands on!

Some of the fieldstone (above photo) has a lot of holes on its surface.  Those stones will be useful in Cricket Corral Splash, Sunday’s habitat installation that will utilize the Laguna Environmental Center’s garden hose drip at the Native Plant Nursery.  Every hose must eventually be shut off (very old saying), so when the Nursery’s hose is closed down, the drip will be caught by layers of pourous and water-holding fieldstone.  A new Water Park for Cricket Corral Compost‘s critters!  Critters will come from far and wide (from the compost and surrounding habitat) for the wet rock, for the moisture, for the pooling drops, for the water!  Great place to meet other critters, too; might even find some to eat.  It’s habitat!  Was a hose shut off and left to drip dry BUT now is also a watering hole for microbes and crawly critters AND a hunting ground for larger animals.

Tony McGuigan, Spore Lore, Habitat It And They Will Come, garden, soil, Soil Under My Nails, gardening, gardens, native plants, permaculture, wildlife garden, wildlife habitat installation, environmental education, ecological landscaping, Animal Habitat, garden, ecological, landscaping, wildlife garden, biodiversity, outdoor classroom, nonvirtual education, touch the soil!, , Laguna Environmental Center, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, environmental conservation,  Stone Farm, mulch, wood chips, adobe soil, Santa Barbara sedge, Carex barbarae, field sedge (Carex praegegracillus), juncus, Juncus patens, California gray rush, fieldstone, Shady Oak Seat, pond algae, oak, oak tree, Quercus lobataA larger fieldstone will be used in the new Shady Oak Seat wildlife habitat installation.  The installation will include planting 2 majestic valley oaks (juvenile trees are in 1-gallon pots), creating a subterranean wildlife habitat using a large oak tree stump and other wood hulks, and using a large rock to create a seat under the soon-to-be shady oak, while creating a habitat under the seat.

From the Laguna Foundation’s Events page:

About my workshop at the LEC on Sunday morning:

How to Create Residential Wildlife Habitat
Hands-on Workshop with Tony McGuigan
Sunday, July 12, 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: Heron Hall, Laguna Environmental Center, 900 Sanford Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
$55 ($45 for Laguna Foundation members). Suitable for 14 years and up (teens must be accompanied by an adult). Pre-registration required.

Join us for this informative and fun-filled hands-on workshop with habitat landscaper, Tony McGuigan.  Learn how to “think like a plant,” “think like a critter,” and how to creatively foster wildlife habitat and thriving biodiversity in your own yard. Tony will begin the morning with a presentation inside Heron Hall (without Powerpoint!), then move outdoors for a tour of the habitat projects already installed in the landscape. Then we will dig in to create several new wildlife habitats at the Laguna Environmental Center!  This workshop will include light to strenuous landscaping work in the sun, although there will be tasks for every ability. Local materials will be used including native plants, local rock and soil, tree debris, and driftwood. With a strong emphasis on creating natural-looking beauty and aesthetics in the landscape, this workshop will be practical and inspirational.

Tony McGuigan is a Learning Laguna Docent and creates wildlife habitat in residential and educational settings. He is author of the book Habitat It And They Will Come.  His Spore Lore blog discusses Wildlife Habitat Installation and Outdoor Classroom projects. Tony (a Registered Nurse) is currently writing about the health benefits of working with soil and loving Life! See Tony’s monthly project work at the Laguna Environmental Center with Orchard View high school biology students and their latest project, “Turtle Pond Float.”

 

About my talk at the LEC on Saturday afternoon:

Habitat It And They Will Come
Presentation with Tony McGuigan
Saturday, July 11, 3:00-4:30pm
Location: Heron Hall, Laguna Environmental Center, 900 Sanford Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
$10 at the door. No RSVP necessary.

Join us for this entertaining and informative talk about the why, who, and fun-how of creating animal habitats in residential gardens. Learn about some of the challenges wildlife face in suburbia and solutions to create wildlife-rich neighborhoods. Discover what wildlife might be present in our gardens and practical means to attract those critters.

Tony is owner of Spore Lore and the author of Habitat It And They Will Come. His education includes Biology at Long Island University and certificates in Permaculture and Sustainable Landscaping.  His passions include being a Learning Laguna Docent, a Wildlife Habitat Instructor for Orchard View School’s high school Biology outdoor hands-on class at the Laguna Environmental Center, a habitat landscaper, and doing creative wildlife gardening at home.

See you this weekend!  Habitat it!

Tony

 

 

 

May 012015
 
mulch, wood chips, adobe soil, berm, ditch, badger, American Badger,  (Taxidea Taxus), Compost Cricket Corral, Santa Barbara sedge, Carex barbarae, Garter Snake Ravine, field sedge (Carex praegegracillus), piggy-back plant (Tolmiea menziesii), juncus, Juncus patens, California gray rush, oak, valley oak, Quercus lobata, Laguna Environmental Center, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, environmental conservation,  Stone Farm, outdoor classroom, nonvirtual education, touch the soil!, Orchard View School, Tony McGuigan, Spore Lore, Habitat It And They Will Come, garden, soil, Soil Under My Nails, gardening, gardens, native plants, permaculture, wildlife garden, wildlife habitat installation, environmental education, ecological landscaping, Animal Habitat, garden, ecological, landscaping, wildlife garden, biodiversity

Badger Hole Hollow is a cleanup project turned Wildlife Habitat Installation.  This project is an Outdoor Classroom project: Orchard View School; Sunny Galbraith, teacher, and 7 of her Biology students.  Location: Laguna Environmental Center.  Date of classroom project: April 15th, 2015.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation operates the Laguna Environmental Center, or LEC, on Stone Farm, at 900 Sanford Road, Santa Rosa, California, 95401. This wildlife habitat installation borders the LEC’s (Laguna Environmental Center’s) Native Plant Nursery, which is used for the Foundation’s Conservation Program.

About 2 years ago, on October 3, 2013, a massive valley oak fell in Doyle Park, Santa Rosa.  The City of Santa Rosa had sections of the tree hauled off to one of its wood “graveyards”.  The Laguna Foundation coaxed Stone Horse‘s farmer, Stuart Schroeder, to use his implement carrier to bring sections of the huge Doyle Park valley oak to the Laguna Foundation, the purpose being to foster landscape rehabilitation to the Laguna Environmental Center’s fairly recent construction zone around Heron Hall.

“Just a little to the left and back a bit.”  Doyle Park Heritage (valley) Oak section is added to the habitat landscaping of the LEC.  Note the implement carrier, with its 4-chain hoist — a flywheel at the head of the metal frame’s roof turns pipes that winds those chains around the pipes.  The chains shorten thereby lifting the load.  Great way to lift a tree!  And move it!

2013.

2015.   These oak sections, although they will ultimately “return to the earth”, could look more naturally placed in the landscape.  They will be repositioned to hide the human-made chainsaw cuts.  And in doing so a wildlife habitat will be created.

Close-up of BEFORE.  Two oak log sections with their chainsaw cuts facing each other.

A lot to prep before the students arrive.  The larger section will be partially buried — the chainsaw cut will sit in a hole and the shredded, more-naturally broken end will twist skyward.  One end will create den structure for subterranean animals and the other will provide perch-above-the-grasses for climbing animals and birds.  Woodchip mulch is dumped against Trunk (the larger section) 2 weeks before installation date to wick water  to the adobe soil below.  Softening the soil with moisture will make the digging soooo much easier!

Woodchip mulch is piled up against Trunk (larger section) and watered to moisten the adobe soil 2 weeks prior to digging.

One day before installation date.  Staff and an intern discuss pulling weeds.  One staffer has a weed by the throat.  This native plant landscape will some day be a native plant meadow; till then, weeding is an essential job.  Note the soil bins in queue next to the oak logs — they will store soil as the hole for Trunk is dug.  Bin 1 = top soil; Bin 2 = layer under the topsoil; Bin 3 = less rich sol, adobe clay; Bin 4 = heavy adobe clay.  The bins were labeled as dug and stored to allow the correct bin/soil layer to be returned to the habitat installation at the right time.  Preserving the soil layers helps disrupt the soil ingredients less, including critters and soil microbes.  Nutrients and critters that were living in the topsoil remain in the topsoil.  The same is true for the other soil layers.

A note labels Bin 3 to sequence when its soil will return to the installation.

 

The spade head marks the spot — we will bury our treasure (Trunk) here.  The smaller oak tree section, which has been subsequently named “Crocodile”, has been moved out of the way.  A cardboard barricade has been temporarily installed to throw dug soil onto; a pile will be created close by to be able to cover over Trunk/hole once Trunk is slid into position, that is, dropped into the hole.

Digging so that Trunk can drop into a hole.  The soil pile will return over Trunk, then planted.

Trunk is coaxed via truck chain into its 4-foot hole rest.

Almost there — time to remove the lower chain bolt.  Once the lower bolt was removed, the Trunk was edged vertically into the hole from the chain looped around Trunk’s “top” end.

The next morning — installation day for Badger Hole Hollow!  The digging bar perimeter will help the students walk carefully around the native plants living alongside Badger Hole Hollow, or “BHH”.  Trunk is far enough in the ground it will stay put, minimizing any danger issue.  The smaller oak section, Crocodile, will be positioned by today’s Biology class students.

Julia, a student donating her time at the LEC, transplants native plants, like the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) shown above, to a temporary mound of moist woodchips.  The collected plants will be saved from being trampled during the installation and then will be replaced on or alongside Badger Hole Hollow as a finishing touch.  If 1 out of 3 or 4 survive the transplant, at least there will be one more native plant to jumpstart the installation.

 

Orchard View students are on site.  Red and blue irrigation flags were used to create easily visible walkways between the established (wanted) native plants.

Crocodile wrestling — students position Crocodile into a position that will maximize the wood hulk’s ground surface coverage (for animal shelter) and its landscaping beauty.

Students break up a stick pile 1) to get rid of the pile of sticks from the compost pile, and 2) to provide organic debris under the habitat installation’s soil planting.  Microbes to crawly critters to critters that eat those lower trophic animals will call the small buried stick pile home, habitat.

A student breaks up sticks, then uses his body weight to compress the broken stick pile up against Trunk and Crocodile.

Soil is backfilled (background) and woodchips are mixed into the habitat to prepare for plantings.

Juncus, or California gold rush (Juncus patens), is planted in between and at the base of Trunk and Crocodile.  The juncus, which love moisture, will be on and downslope of the soil/woodchip pile between the 2 oak tree sections.

 

Field sedge (Carex praegegracillus) plugs are planted in the surrounding area of BHH.  –Per Wikipedia, “ [Field sedge] tolerates disturbed habitat such as roadsides and thrives in alkaline substrates.” In other words, field sedge is a good choice for our native plant restoration, and subsequent wildlife habitat creation, of this graded soil next to LEC’s road.

Fields sedge and juncus are planted on Badger Hole Hollow’s hill.

Badger Hole Hollow gets water.  This outdoor classroom rocks!

Badger Hole Hollow wildlife habitat has been installed AND field sedge plugs have been planted up to the road’s edge.

A jack rabbit leaps (center of photo) above the landscape’s sedges and grasses as the project is cleaned up.

Badger Hole Hollow will rest now and enjoy the sunset.

Close-up of AFTER.  All in all, Trunk and Crocodile have had a great day.

Will a badger come to live under or near Badger Hole Hollow?  Perhaps, perhaps not, but in the meantime, the critters of the landscape have another option in the terraine.

The students of Orchard View School, teacher Sunny Galbraith, and Cordy and David and I had fun at this outdoor classroom Biology project.  A thank you also to the Laguna Foundation’s staff, especially Wendy Trowbridge, Director of Restoration and Conservation Science Programs, and Brent Reed, Restoration Projects Supervisor.  Thanks for the plants, Brent.  Cool project!

Enjoy your wildlife habitat creations.  Habitat it!

Tony

 Pics from last month:

[To the Orchard View Students — Sorry I did not get last month’s photos out sooner. I must have had my drill set for REVERSE!]

 Native Plants installed in Habitat Garden, March 2015

A Western Fence Lizard crawls into the sun from Compost Cricket Corral.