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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Giving out Souls

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The insight of the first people to inhabit this land has a resonance here in the quiet, natural environment in Seboeis Plantation, Maine.  “(they gave) out souls to all manner of things.  A canoe paddle is animate, because it caused something else to move.  Even a humble onion has a soul, since it causes action- pulling tears from the eyes.” (from Caleb’s Crossing: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks)    This new field with over an acre of newly planted Sea Buckthorn has its own unique personality.  I would like to think it isn't really all that unnatural although I admit it wouldn't have ever existed or happened on its own.  The concepts of native or virgin forest just imaginary ones in our minds.  Forests here in the northeast United States have been managed for many thousands of years.  The first humans managed the land, favoring the nut trees, the fruit trees and many other useful plants for their own use and the health of the animals needed for sustenance.  Deforestation did not begin until humans from the Old World arrived.  This spot has been completely deforested two times to my knowledge and probably many more.  Softwood species for paper have been favored over any type of hardwood tree species.  So the chestnut, hickory, chokecherry, beech, serviceberry, hazelnut, perennial sunflower, pin cherry, black locust, elderberry, and high bush cranberry have all but disappeared.  I am hoping to combine a commercial production of Seaberries and Sea Buckthorn plants with a restoration permaculture environment incorporating many of these “native” species and other plants (and eventually domesticated animals) to re-diversify the soul of this land. 
It is of no use to shy away from newer plants from other parts of the globe because they are not “native”.  It is not bad, dangerous, or against any rules of human behavior.  Migration of humans in very ancient times included carrying along, and collecting new plants in their travels.  I have no problem experimenting with what may work here.  Some readers may caution against such a practice as it may yield and “invasive” species.  Ok, got it.  Trust me my goal is to generate an ecosystem here where as much food, energy, materials, medicine, and wildlife habitat is possible.  I would like to do this in the smallest amount of space and design it to last generations.  (I am a bit disappointed I am not programmed to last forever myself)

Sea Buckthorn has been in this country for over 60 years, I have done the research and it is not going to go crazy and repopulate the northeast part of the United State.  I had a long discussion with a nice person from the northwest Canada where she felt the plant had gone wild.  I don’t doubt her perceptions, yet, they are not widespread.   There are a few places in the world where it is used to manage dune erosion and is managed to control its spread but not eliminated since the intended use is working. 
"wild" Sea Buckthorn on dune in Scotland used for erosion control

In other parts of the world where the plant is native, there are prohibitions from removing plants since the berries have been become so popular or were always part of the diet, the plants have become protected by the government.  The Botanical Electronic News in Canada listed it as one of the top invasive plants in Canada.  I contacted them and the scientist they used to make their statement.  The BEN did not respond and the scientist would not confirm or support their conclusion.  Instead he pointed to another published study of his where no such conclusion is made.  Last word for today on the subject is SeaBuckthorn is not Buckthorn.  This has led to some well-intentioned but very bad convictions based on mistaken identity.  I will say very clearly here that confusing these two plants is completely inaccurate.
I have some new neighbors!  These are a couple of wonderful Great Danes.  I am constantly inspired by their strength, intrigued trying to interpret their view of the woods, and grateful for their friendship and of their owners.  These souls can move mountains.


The rows of Sea Buckthorn planted this spring are all doing well.  In the foreground you can see a plant I missed pruning after planting.  It is doing fabulous.  I wonder if I should have skipped the pruning all together.  If it and a few others I missed pruning at planting time survive the first winter, then maybe, the pruning was not necessary.  In person the rows are very visible.  Getting a photograph to show them has been difficult.  Of course the three week growth of the pasture grass here does not help.  I was able to cut most of the field yesterday, the Sea Buckthorn orchard area will be done either later today (if it stops raining) or tomorrow.  I think you can see at least the one row directly behind the un-pruned plant. 

another view of the rows

As I said all the plants are growing.  There are a few with a couple of yellowed leaves or leaves which have had some minor damage from insects.  Even those have some nice growth like what is pictured here.  The worst plant seems to have been defoliated at some point by animal or insect but it too has some vigorous growth.  That damage may have weakened the plant reducing its ability to survive the winter. 
If you have been following my musings about the beavers, the update is they have stopped trying to  block the culvert under the road.  They are trying different method to flood their environment.  That is OK as long as the road isn't part of their plan for an underwater winter playground and food storage.

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