Reconnecting Broken Systems – Dr. Plastic Picker

Reconnecting Broken Systems

| Posted in Oregon Farm

French creek on our farm.

June 22, 2024

by Dr. Plastic Picker

We are back home and our oldest will be back tomorrow from Japan. So we’ll be rejoined as a family for a glorious two weeks before our youngest goes off for a month long camp in the LA area. We are so proud of her. She worked inordinately hard to be admitted to the honors summers arts camp, and she’ll get to live out her dream of “nerding out on ceramics” for a month. She’s an artists at heart, and I love that so much about her. But we’ll miss her for that month. Life does not seem as lively when she’s away. I never thought I’d enjoy having teenagers so much, and this last year of having them both 19 and now 16 – I am going to completely revel in it. I want to make every day count.

But enough about my kids! I wanted to think through this idea of reconnecting systems. I find so many metaphors in nature. But this is where I was thinking of reconnecting segments of our community, and realized that combating global heating is actually literally reconnecting systems. And it is in the most unusual place.

We bought a large tree farm in Oregon and the property is huge. The house is beautiful and has a kitchen nicer than my kitchen in San Diego. There is a large creek that is the Upper Cow Creek that is part of the Cow Creek Watershed (I think). I spent 3 hours with a very smart conservationist from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service and we hiked around parts of our property and chatted for 3 hours. It was one of those meandering conversations but focused on our property qualifying again for the Riparian Habitat tax relief program. Essentially if you do things to preserve Riparian habitat, you don’t have to pay property tax on some acreage. The money is not that much for us, since we are FISE (Financially Independent to Save the Earth). But what I learned was invaluable.

I learned that the most important part of our property for Riparian habitat was not where I expected. I guess the main creek is in pretty good shape. We have to plant some more shade trees to shade the river, and willow and cottonwood are good. But probably some of the native pine species would be better. My new friend mentioned the Ponderosa Pine in particular. Like from that old western show Ponderosa!!!

We want to replant several species and not have a monoculture. Most people tend to just plant a lot of willow since it grows so fast. There are already a family of beavers on the creek more upstream which I forgot to tell my new friend the biologists.

Okay! Just sent the email “It was so great to talk to you Amy and I’m still processing everything we talked about and what you taught me. Just before I forget, I talked to my brother Daiuy who is up on the property now.  I forgot that further upstream of Upper Cow Creek they had seen a beaver dam and beavers. So there are some already on the main creek. On French Creek south of the area we were looking at closer to the road, there is sometimes a pond that forms there. So it’s definitely wet a good amount of the way. I had forgotten but during the fall and winter it’s usually there.”

I learned about floodplains and that it’s sometimes important to create manmade channels to reconnect floodplains that have been disrupted by agriculture for decades. We already have logs on the property that might be perfect material to reconnect the floodplain. I hiked with this wonderful new friend and she pointed out the native species that I had no idea about.

Oregon grape is my new friend. Here it is!

So many plants I need to learn how to identify. But more importantly I know now the big plan of what we need to do. It’s going to take time and patience. But essentially the main Upper Cow Creek runs too hot most of the year, and reconnecting the creek with the floodplains on our property and the French Creek which likely has colder water during the winter and fall – will be important to try to bring up the number of juvenile coho salmon.

I’m so grateful for this interesting life that I’ve stumbled upon. I just finished talking to my good friend Dr. Elizabeth Friedman and our conversation was jam packed with climate work and updates, but also meandering about the people we love and worry about and our dreams for ourselves, and our communities. And interwoven between us are so many people and stories, especially students that we mentor. I am forever grateful for making that connection with her, and in some ways I think I was always meant to meet her. Like I’m grateful I met you dear reader. I hope you seek to reconnect to someone today. I truly believe that reconnecting is a metaphor but also physically reconnecting. I’m hoping to head out to Missouri soon to see Dr. Friedman and I’m going to bring Dr. Dear Friend as well! I want to see what’s up with this biosludge stuff.

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