Thursday, November 15, 2012

Oak Abuse - This just in: Oak trees grow

(Click to enlarge)
 In this part of California - San Luis Obispo County - oaks generally grow singly or in small clumps on the north/northwest exposures of grassy hillsides.

However I frequently drive through one valley on Hwy 41 just east of Atascadero where the oaks - California white and California coast oaks - form a fairly dense woods and provide a shady haven for grazing cattle - the coolest cows in the county.

Where there are cattle, of course, there is barbed wire.  But this is a slightly different spin on my frequent "oak as a fence post" posts; here the oaks generally weren't used as fence posts.  Surprisingly, for fence posts the ranchers actually used... wait for it... fence posts!  But what they also must have done was run the barbed wire about a millimeter away from the oaks along the fence line.

The oaks grew into into the barbed wire.  Or vice versa.  Either way, we're talking about dozens and dozens of trees over a 1 mile stretch of fence, now with deeply embedded barbed wire.

On the scale of arboreal crimes (with 10 being the intentional poisoning of ancient oaks on the campus of a college football rival - see Auburn University oak trees - or the pruning of Minnesota oaks during oak wilt season by "tree care" companies that know better), this probably rates about a 2.  But it still bugs me.  It's pretty easily avoided.  It doesn't really harm the tree, but it sure as heck doesn't help it either.  And someday, when the barbed wire has broken or rusted off and the wire embedded in the tree is not visible, someone is going to sidle up to the tree with a chain saw and get a very nasty surprise.

Oaks are food.  Oaks are heat.  Oaks are beauty.  Oaks are shade.  Oaks are structures.

But oaks - living oaks - should never be fence posts.

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