Thursday, December 13, 2012

I wouldn't mind food preparation in this setting

Yesterday I visited the site of a very cool oak restoration project near Springville, CA - a project in which I'm privileged to be playing a small role, supplying tree tubes to protect the newly planted acorns from getting eaten by deer and/or trampled by cattle. 

A creek runs through the 330 acre property and all along the creek, wherever there is a stone outcropping, there are mortars carved out of the bedrock.

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In simpler - and I will always contend it's not overly-romanticizing things to say better - times, folks sat on these stones grinding acorns in these mortars (foreground, filled with rain water) overlooking, and listening to, this beautiful creek.  It was BYOP - Bring Your Own Pestle.

I loathe cooking.  The kitchen is like a prison for me, with too much happening at once in an enclosed space, and with meal time always corresponding to a time when I'd rather just be talking with my family about the events of the day without interruption from timers, food processors and boiling-over pots of pasta.

Or maybe, as my family contends, it's because the same guy who can juggle 50 different things at work can't handle having food cooking on more than one burner at once.

But I could sit for hours - days - in this spot preparing food for the coming year.  The creek, of course, played a vital role in the process.  Shelled acorns would have been placed in baskets in the creek, allowing the water to leach the bitter tannins from the them.

Oh yes, and if you look in the other directions you see this:

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Then this (turning your head a bit):
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And finally this:
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 And this is on a "bad" day - foggy and overcast.  Two days earlier this place was bathed in golden sunlight.  Two weeks from now the grass will be green and vibrant.

Yes, even a kitchen-hating dude like me could get used to food preparation - gathering and grinding a years' worth of sustenance within a week or two of work - in a place like this.

And yes, in speaking with the US Department Fish & Wildlife guy who is supervising the project (is it just me or do these guys keep getting younger and smarter?) this area would have been much more heavily covered with oaks - primarily blue oaks (Quercus douglasii) in pre-settlement times.  Most were cut down for firewood, building materials, and to grow more grass for cattle (although the success of this is debatable - studies show that the grass growing in the shade of oaks is more more nutrient-rich).

All of the grass you see is non-native - European annual grasses that replaced the native perennial vegetation, and then got its seasons flip-flopped; it turns golden brown in summer and greens up in winter.  Or what passes for winter in California.  Said the native Minnesotan.

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