Land Management

LVEC Land Management
“The most destructive human activities on the planet are agriculture, forestry and fisheries; if we are to survive we need to change how we do these things…
Permaculturalists do not go into the forest and carve out new homesteads; our job is to restore devastated agricultural lands to productivity…
Surviving native ecologies are more valuable as banks of species for restoration than they would be as new pastures or wheatfields…
We go to the forest to learn.”

- Bill Mollison, lectures at the 1986 Permaculture Design Course, PINA, Whidbey Is. WA, 1986

 

Education, Ecology, Agriculture, Forestry, and Local Sustainability by Rick Valley, Land Steward, Lost Valley Education Center, Dexter, Oregon

Our bedrock is a well-layered mix of volcanic and volcanically derived sediments including old volcanic mud flows and lake sediments; there is petrified wood as the most common fossil. The soils derived from these
rocks are predominately clay types, weathered in place, with some alluvial rocky clay loam along Anthony Creek, the only section of LVEC land that has been tilled more than once or twice. Agricultural use of the land has been extremely limited compared to most other mildly sloping land in Western Oregon. Prior to development of the LVEC land by the Shiloh Youth Revival Center, the land was only partially cleared and used for grazing. It has been suggested by ecologists that the lichen diversity here indicates that the land has never been fully clearcut; in the highest clay content soils along the seasonal drainages the heavy soils are not very suitable for Douglas fir and this may be a primary reason for less logging having occurred here. In 1990 large stumps that can still be seen in places still had springboard notches which indicates they had been cut with handsaws prior to the end of WWII. The first modern clearcut here occurred in the mid-1980s and was undertaken by the Seattle law firm to which ownership of the land had passed after Shiloh failed; there was little or no slash burning or herbicide treatment post-harvest and legally required replanting was undertaken only after LVEC was up and running, in the first years of the 1990s. These factors all combine to give LVEC a great floral diversity.

Currently the Lost Creek Watershed has a relatively large rural population dispersed on small acreages and bordered by mostly private timberland on the third rotation of timber harvest. Potential wildfire danger is considered to be among the highest in Lane County. Reducing potential fuel loads and improving defensibility has only in recent years been addressed at LVEC.

Kalapuyan Peoples

Most digging at LVEC exposes tool stone and cores, debitage, and tools.
Burins, hide scrapers, arrow points, blades, and curved-edge shaves have
been found. Tool stone includes chalcedony and carnelian, yellow, brown,
green and red jasper, petrified wood, and obsidian. We have not yet made
a proper archaeological inventory.
For unknown reason, obsidian tools are found primarily across Anthony Creek rather than in the center of LVEC. An apparent cache of jasper tool cores near some charcoal was uncovered during construction of the wildlife pond. Indications are that use of the land by humans has been long-term, although probably seasonal and by small groups.

Large Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana) trees which have been cut at LVEC have ring counts of over 200 years, while overtopping Douglas Firs have ring counts of less than 80 years. Thus, the oaks are positively remnant savannah flora.

Defining Permaculture

As Bill Mollison told the story to my class in 1986, he and David Holmgren and the rest involved in the discussion were seeking a word to refer to their grail of a culture that would not create its own collapse, a non-destructive agriculture, a permanent culture, and so they coined the word “permaculture”. Ecologist Eugene Odum’s work on energy flows as a way of understanding ecologies has been central to The coining of the word “permaculture” predated the phrase “sustainable agriculture” and from the start included technology and economic structures. These aspects were rapidly added into the sustainable agriculture movement as well when it became evident that they were unavoidable aspects of (agri)culture and needed to be included in the new systems. My own “soundbite” definition of permaculture is “living as if ecology mattered.” The sense that exponential growth has limits has been the common basis of the movement, while any sort of controversy over how exponential growth would reverse has generally been avoided as non-productive. Mollison and Holmgren consciously strove to formulate an approach which was positivistic and proactive.

I encountered Dianne Brause and Kenneth Mahaffey, founding members of LVEC, at an annual meeting of Oregon Tilth in 1989, and when they told me they were starting a conference center, I told them I was looking for a place to host an advanced permaculture workshop by Swiss Australian Max Lindegger and New Zealander Lea Harrison. This began LVEC’s association with permaculture, which soon became part of LVEC’s identity.

LVEC was founded as a 501c-3 research and education non-profit. Permaculture emphasizes the importance of information and education, and learning from and working with local ecologies rather than simply imposing template designs from other places. In general permaculture has been a natural fit here, reinforced by the constant difficulties for any attempted standard agricultural practices to succeed easily and cheaply in this location which has marginal soil quality and less than ideal microclimate compared to other locations in Western Oregon.

Community goals are to increase in population to the number allowed by
zoning [I don't think we're agreed on this--this could mean a Shiloh-level population of more than 200, which would have major impacts and change the nature of this place radically], and develop a community landtrust to allow ownership and construction of dwellings. A steadier and more diverse conference and education schedule as well as individual and small group enterprises are foreseen as the income base. Increasing food production is included in these goals. All of this will increase the human impact on the land, and planning is underway to minimize and consciously direct these impacts.

There are community agreements establishing LVEC as a wildlife sanctuary, so that agricultural production either excludes animals such as deer or is designed around species that are not adversely affected by wildlife. For most of LVEC’s tenure it has proved easier for residents to fence land than to crop it effectively. As land steward I have set a goal of bringing existing fenced areas into full utilization before adding new fenced areas.

As-yet little-used agricultural tactics such as rotating domestic animals through areas, and using hedgerows for bird and insect habitat, nitrogen fixation, and biomass production, are seen as some possible techniques for bringing about this increased production. Native plants will be a major component in these hedgerows and part of the food base for domestic animals. This could be seen as a buffering or blending between the non-native intensive production and the almost totally native ecologies in the less-managed areas that constitute the bulk of the land at LVEC.

Edible Landscaping

The LVEC Community feels it to be desirable to surround the public buildings with flowers and fruit at LVEC, and this policy was begun, although less systematically, by Shiloh. Free access with motor vehicles to all roads at LVEC has been assumed to be the natural way; to facilitate bicycle and walking access, most buildings are not fenced off from deer. Therefore, plantings in the core public areas must be designed around deer.

Fruit trees must be caged until they are large enough to survive, and shrubs must be planted in thickets. Understory plants are limited to those which can coexist with deer. Many of these plants are natives. Many native shrubs and herbaceous plants are important for pollinating and predatory native insects and seem to be combining well with the orchard trees. Two areas of orchard have been fenced from deer with natural materials and hedges planted behind these temporary barriers to provide a more protected situation for fruiting bushes and this is having some success. Many varieties which are doing well in these areas
include native germ plasm in their ancestry, for instance, Marionberry (Rubus hybrid) and Orus 6 Gooseberry, one of Dr. Waldo’s Ribes hybrids which are kept available at the USDA Clonal Germ Plasm Repository in Corvallis.

Forest Areas

We have a forestry plan written by Stephen Clark for his Masters thesis, which details management approaches for different zones of forest on our 87 acres. This document is serving as a valuable starting point for our on-going forestry work.

The Shiloh community, which was active here during the 1970s, saw the trees as beautiful. Major buildings were built in the Doug Fir second growth, with trees left directly next to buildings. Some trees are now cracking foundations or rubbing against roofs. Doug Firs which were growing rapidly in the 1990s are now growing slowly and many are showing signs of severe stress. One theory is that the available water is all being used and competition between trees is increasing. Other firs seem to root very shallowly in the heavy soil and suffer fungal and ant invasion from below.

One area where hydrology was changed by building during Shiloh’s tenure has had laminated root rot start through the Doug Fir stand there. As is happening in many parts of Western Oregon currently, the Grand Firs (Abies grandis) at LVEC have had near-total mortality in the past four years.

Since 1990 there have been two areas where Doug Fir has been selectively cut to eliminate shading of Garry Oak trees. The most recent thinning also included thinning and removing firs which were too close to buildings and showing signs of laminated root rot or other disease. The premise was that pre-emptive removal of marketable trees would pay for the difficult logging, and indeed also covered the expense of milling those logs which were not sold off.

Generally, ill health is not the primary reason a tree will be cut; danger to infrastructure is a greater consideration. Trees which die naturally are often left in place for the woodpeckers or allowed to fall into the creek. Trees which are cut often have the less useful tapered or rot-hollowed sections reserved to become habitat or stream improvement logs.

Our tallest Douglas Fir woods is a second-growth remnant in the core of the inhabited area of LVEC, where the dormitories, the Shiloh-era cabins, and the Lodge are all located. The forestry plan in this zone calls for even-age management in this area. Most years there is a good crop of Salal fruit and indications are that since the thinning of the Doug Firs in this area, the crop is improving. In my experience, slight amounts of supplementary water can improve yield with Salal. I plan to make a try at establishing an LVEC tradition of summer fire drills, with fire hose battles irrigating the Salal crop. This area also has extensive Starry False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum) which has edible fruit with delicious, strong flavor. Stumps of cut trees are being planted with Huckleberries, both Red and Evergreen. (Vaccinium parvifolium and V. ovatum) The primary weeds in this area are Armenian Black Berry and English Ivy. The imperative of reducing fire danger puts the highly flammable blackberry at the top of the list for control measures, and blackberry’s ability to restrict human movement adds to the need for control. These areas have seen the start of the landscape-scale fire danger reduction efforts.

The largest area of land at LVEC is known as the new forest, and is the area that was clearcut in the mid-1980s. The most common tree in this area is Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), and conifers include small numbers of some non-native species including Sequoia and European Black Spruce, as well as what was an intended to be a seed orchard of KMX Pine. The bulk of the replanting was, however, with standard native stock, including locally common Incense Cedars, which are not a major timber tree.

Cascara is, with Poison Oak and Blackberry, a prime source of nectar for our bees’ honey manufacturing. Cascara poles are a main utility product here, used for building, stakes, firewood, and more. Branches are used for compost and fascine bundles for bank stabilization. In thinning for poles, the straightest trees are left with the idea that they will provide an easier-to-peel Cascara bark harvest when coppiced at a future date. Primary weeds in this zone are Armenian Black Berry. Scot’s Broom is common in the areas where the ground was disturbed to build drainfields for the LVEC septic system. We have been harvesting the broom extensively for fuel wood, mulch, and compost feedstock. In the past, broom was primarily piled and left to rot; too often turning into blackberry thickets. Cutting Poison Oak back from the trails is a yearly task which has few volunteers.

Riparian Zone and Seasonal Streams

Some foresters have suggested that Anthony Creek may have been used to float logs out to Lost Creek and the Willamette during winter runoff using the destructive splash-dam technique. Certainly, since World War II,
increased road building in the watershed, following beaver being trapped out much earlier, has increased the “flashiness” of peak flows and increased erosion. There are Cottonwoods and Alders growing on rock debris berms along Anthony Creek that possibly date to the 1964 floods in the Willamette Valley. In any case, today Anthony Creek is running on bedrock through LVEC land, and dries to a trickle with only a few pools during most summers. The bed has been incised deeper each winter with flood events. During the ’90s, watershed grant work during Jono Neiger’s tenure as LVEC Land Steward planted riparian trees and placed a log and Christmas tree bank brush in the creek. Besides doing what we can to maintain this work, we are working on further replanting and grant work with Dave Bontrager to reduce Armenian Blackberry and increase desireable riparian species.

I have worked out a gabion-style rock-filled wire basket design that allows planting flood-tolerant species into the nomal high water zone and, using knowledge of flow pattern, may enable us to increase meanders in the stream. The Creek Dogwood stabilizes the basket of rock which creates a slight change in flow, which undermines vulnerable bankside trees, which drop into the stream while still alive and strong enough to further modify the stream bottom. Any canopy opening from this or natural tree death we plant with new stock, or layer in adjacent shrubs and trees, or provoke root suckers from appropriate species present to fill the space before a blackberry thicket can form.

During Shiloh’s tenure here there was a great deal of road building and drainage work done. Since LVEC began we have been engaging in projects that aim at slowing the runoff. The first projects added water bars on roads and created swales using road runoff. These features usually include native wetland plant species. In the late ’90s Jono Neiger and I with other volunteers built the first earthen pond here at the edge of the new forest. The design has a central deep area with two peripheral marshes. We introduced a number of not previously present Oregon natives here, Wapato in the deep and Beckmann’s Rice Grass (Beckmannia oryzae) in the shallows. Local rushes, sedges, and Willow Leaf Dock were used in the re-vegetation process. During pond construction it was found that a thick layer of fine-grade clay exists in the ground here. I decided while operating the excavator to use the unexcavated area above the dam as a clay source for future natural building material and consciously expand the marsh gradually as clay is hand excavated. The dam is maintained by yearly scything, and the cut grass (largely non-native) thrown into the pond to increase productivity and shelter tadpoles from the ducks that forage at the pond. At first only Pacific Tree Frogs were breeding there, but now Red-Legged Frogs are as well. Over time ducks of several species, Canada geese, and herons have used the pond, and the observation hut was built as a test of “pajareque” construction (straw wattle) so that people may sleep there and quietly observe the pond upon waking. At some date it is expected we will thatch the roof with local rushes or reeds.

Camas Meadow and Oak Savannah

The surviving Oak Savannah area at LVEC has always been regarded favorably by people, which is probably because it is an environment created by human management. Often people in the LVEC community regard it as a sacred site, and it is agreed that it should be maintained as an open meadow. Shiloh used the margins of the area as mobile home sites. Today there is remaining infrastructure and the sites are county-approved building sites. As well these sites have the best solar access of any place at LVEC, and there is agreement that there will be building here. Some areas of the meadow have been altered by the installation of the community sewage system by Shiloh, other areas by animal paddocks and sheds built then as well. These areas of our meadow have the lowest diversity of Oak Savannah flora. The increased availability of nitrogen and other limiting nutrients encouraging newly introduced species is a likely factor in the pasture areas, as well as concentrated long-term grazing and rooting eliminating the original grasses and bulbs. So far management of the meadow areas has consisted of removing easy to target woody species. More recently areas which are primarily Eurasian pasture grass species and Comfrey (Symphytum hybrid) have been used for hay for the chicken yard and garden mulch. Another altered area is being studied for creating a seasonal pond. Informal observation over the years has seen the Camas (Camassia quamash) varying in abundance and distribution. The areas along the main driveway where digging for laying septic pipelines and other utilities has occurred are high in introduced species which favor disturbed ground, and yet these areas have been re-colonized by Camas since LVEC began. (personnal observation) In 2005 I made a trial using a thin hay mulch to give the rodents (mainly voles) a chance to eliminate competing grasses. I removed the hay in late November and found that while the voles had indeed cut some grasses, they had also gathered and cached over a hundred Camas bulbs in an 8 X 8 area. This has me wondering if the well-known burning of native prairie in pre-Euroamerican times may have served as much to remove rodent cover as any other function which would serve to promote the growth of Camas. Good Camas regeneration in the meadow appears to be highest in high traffic and frequently mowed areas with little rodent cover. We now have a verbal agreement with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry to stage a controlled burn training here in the meadow in Sept.-Oct. of 2007. Besides helping the Camas, this will mesh nicely with the need to decrease wildfire danger, reducing fuel loads around the meadow.

Camas is a plant that can thrive with the right sort of disturbance. In the early 1990s the area which is now orchard and forest garden across the driveway west of the Lodge, which carries the utility and septic lines and where the drainage was straightened and deepened, had very little Camas blooming. Today, with yearly scything following the ripening of Camas seed and removal of the hay, there is Camas blooming throughout the area. Ideally, as we learn how to manage Camas and associated plants here, we will have a situation where the meadow is producing truly local foods, without adding to our irrigation system or using more electricity to pump water. Native Americans often say that traditional food plants do best when they are being used by humans; we are taking that idea seriously. If in the process we create conditions that increase populations of other native species, from plants to animals, that will be the icing on the cake.

“We all go about our work in our “garden” inventing and reinventing the nature that we have inherited in accordance with our own needs, desires, limitations, value structures and positions of power. The resulting physical landscape, or nature, of a particular place includes the accumulated residue of multiple histories of change and human invention… to use the language of postmodernist humanism, it is a socially constructed cultural landscape.”

- Joseph M. McCann, Before 1492, The Making of the Pre-Columbian Landscape, in Ecological Restoration vol. 17 number 2 & 3, 1999

Thanks to:

LVEC past residents, tree planters, and gardeners and land stewards,
including James Wynn, Jono Neiger, Kemper Carlson, Aryana Ferguson,
Michele Thompson, Stephen Clark

Visiting teachers & permaculturalists, including Tom Ward, Dennis
Martinez, Tim Murphy, David Holmgren, Su Dennis, Simon Henderson, Lea
Harrison, Max Lindegger, Bill Burwell, Herb Hammond

And hundreds of permaculture course, workshop, and gathering participants
who have all contributed in myriad ways to LVEC

Key native species for human use present at LVEC

Camassia quamash, C. leichtlinii – Camas – edible
Needed: management techniques

Perideridia sp.- Yampah -
Needed: greatly increase numbers, management techniques

Madia sativa, M. gracilis – Tarweed – edible
Needed: harvest techniques, recipes

Gaultheria shallon- Salal-
Needed: educating people on picking techniques, making tea available

Aralia californica- Spikenard- medicinal, nectary increase number of plants along the creek, (and in gardens?)

Heracleum lanatum – Cow Parsnip – medicinal, nectary plant for beneficial insects.
Needed: making tincture available, border plantings at gardens from direct seeding

Ribes sanguineum- Red Flowering Currant-
Needed: growing seedlings from selected fruiting individuals for sweetness

Malus fusca- Western Crab Apple- edible
Needed: Growing seedlings from selected fruiting individuals for yield and easy harvest

Amelanchier alnifolia- Serviceberry- edible
Needed: Growing seedlings from selected fruiting individuals for yield and rust resistance

Mahonia aquifolium- Tall Oregon Grape
Excellent fire resistant hedgerow plant, nectar bloom and medicinal herb
Needed: Propagation by seed from local stock .

An example of a seedball mix used at LVEC for revegetation

Madia sativa- Tarweed
California Tea
Prunella Heal All
Blue Wild Rye
Parsley-Leaved Lovage
Camassia quamash- Camas
Luzula- Meadow rush

New and spreading species at LVEC, with notes on control tactics and uses

Hedera helix – English Ivy- Shiloh landscaping, via birds pulled and used for compost

Ilex aquifolium – Holly- via birds

Crataegus monogyna – English Hawthorn via birds

Malus domestica – Apple- via humans pre 70′s
Evaluate for fruit quality and/or graft with known variety

Pyrus communis – Pear- via humans pre 70′s
Evaluate for fruit quality and/or graft with known variety

Prunus avium – Sweet Cherry- via humans pre 70′s
Evaluate for fruit quality and/or graft with known variety, used for firewood

Cytisus scoparius – Scots Broom- spread by heavy equipment work during Shiloh period seedlings pulled, large plants cut. Used for firewood, compost, mulch

Rosa eglanteria – Dog rose

Rubus armeniacus – Himalayan Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry

Rubus laciniatus – Cut leaf Blackberry

Both used extensively for fruit, honey- the most productive stands are maintained for picking cut with brush hooks, loppers, roots grubbed out. Used for compost (currently the largest single element of LVEC compost).

Vinca major- Shiloh landscaping
cut, grub roots, compost

Aegopodium podograria- Bishop’s Weed- Shiloh landscaping

Recent arrivals

Tanacetum vulgare – Tansy- herb garden escapee
compost (can’t contain mature seed heads)
cut off flowers, dig root crowns

Valerianella sp.- Corn Salad- garden escapee (spread by ants?)

Foeniculum vulgare – Fennel- herb garden escapee food, nectar source for beneficial insects food plant for the Anise Swallowtail Butterfly larva.

Geranium robertianum – Herb Robert Geranium came with donated garden plants from Eugene eradication is being attempted: pull on sight

Convolvulus arvensis- Bindweed- with donated plants from Eugene eradication may be possible- pull on sight, dig rhizomes

Agricultural weeds

Bindweed (Convolvulus sp.) along driveway -mow

Quack Grass (Elymus repens)

Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata)

Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum sp.)

Convolvulus arvensis – Field Bindweed – hand pull, mulch, cultivation, hoeing

Water Purslane (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) – eaten in salads

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