by Karen Arrington
The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.
― Wendell Berry
A retired builder, a therapist and an entrepreneur walked into a field.
This could be the set-up of a short and funny joke, but it was much more than that. These people, along with other fabulous volunteers, recently came to Tolay Ranch to tend to native plantings.
When Bob Neale, our stewardship director, suggested scheduling not one or two, but SIX! workdays at Tolay Creek Ranch in March, I knew our dedicated volunteer supporters could do it. And when I put the call out to our volunteers, and they responded with excitement (“I’ve never seen this property!”) and enthusiasm (“I will be there almost every day!”), I knew we were on to something big. Big, because we would be tending thousands of native plants that were planted by STRAW and middle school students over the past five years. Big, because we would be taking on a new zone each day with the goal of weeding all the natives in each zone, numbering well into the hundreds. Big, because each day would present a new set of challenges, such as working on steep slopes or wading through waist-high weeds to find the native plantings.
And volunteers came into the field. Every day they showed up, eager to be part of the continuing effort to take care of native plants in the creekside restoration sites. They were happy to be on this breathtaking property with sweeping views of the North Bay all the way to downtown San Francisco, with grasslands shaded by ancient oak trees, and Tolay Creek and its tributaries still flowing with the runoff from recent rain storms.
In all, 24 committed individuals worked a combined 238 hours over six tough workdays. Working with STRAW, we completed four of the restoration zones along the creek. Weeds were pulled, wire cages were repaired and secured (to protect the plants from hungry deer) and notes were made of irrigation lines that needed attention. Those natives now have more light, room and water to thrive.
Two other workdays were spent removing five patches of invasive Himalayan blackberry. The canes were cut and pulled away from the native planting areas, then hauled uphill for composting on site. Sticky business, but they got it done and now the native oak seedlings, sedges and grasses can get the light and water they need to grow.
It was hard work, but everyone took time to appreciate the property, take in the views and watch the raptors soar overhead. We found beauty in the garter snakes and the wildflowers. We heard coyotes calling to each other. But the best part? Leaving the property feeling proud of jobs well done, knowing we’d met new friends and made existing connections stronger.
To all the volunteers who help when and where we need it, you have my unwavering gratitude. It is always a pleasure to work alongside you as we care for the Earth. Your energy and enthusiasm fill me with joy, your hard work totally impressed the STRAW staff and your commitment inspires everyone at the Land Trust. From all of us, thank you so much!
Karen Arrington is Sonoma Land Trust’s volunteer program manager. She often joins our volunteers out in the field and those days are always her best days in the office.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.