Guest Post: At the Root: Trees Rule

At the Root: Trees Rule

By Guest Blogger: Eileen Stark, Portland, Oregon

     Although the region’s unique wetlands and grasslands carry the greatest diversity of species, it is the forests that dominate and most distinctly characterize the Pacific Northwest. Structurally complex, dense, and immense ecosystems, forests sustain trees that substantially outgrow and outlive other plants and tolerate temperature variation and soil differences better. When the first European settlers arrived, conifers covered nearly the entire landscape of western British Columbia and Washington, and northwestern Oregon–from coast to Cascade crest–including the Puget Trough and parts of the Georgia Basin and Willamette Valley.Real Gardens Grow Natives
     These conifers (and other dominant species) are known as keystone species because of their strong and often unique effects on their ecosystem. Though they are greatly outnumbered by smaller plants in the forest, their contributions are mammoth. Cool, wet winters and mild, dry summers, along with rich soils, have made for optimum evergreen growing conditions.
     Conifers are able to photosynthesize during much of the year and are essential for watershed stabilization. Some species are the most massive on earth, often growing over 200 feet tall and living for more than 500 years. Worldwide, conifers represent the largest terrestrial “carbon sink,” where carbon is packed away in plant tissue above and below ground. The wettest forests–those on the west side of coastal mountain ranges–were once especially complex, with lush layering and much variation in tree age. Logging has eliminated much of the original, most productive old-growth forests, and massive clearcutting has resulted in severe fragmentation. Today, much forested land is “second growth” that has followed logging and wildfire.
     Garry oak (or Oregon White oak) ecosystems, where these oaks grow naturally, have become rare, with only a very small percentage remaining. The loss of these unique ecosystems puts all the species that rely on them in jeopardy, and indeed, some species have already been lost, while many of the remaining are at risk. If you live on land that was once part of a Garry oak ecosystem and are starting with a blank slate, consider planting Garry oaks and associated species like madrone (Arbutus menziesii), oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), and baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa). If your site is too small for large trees, grow the smaller associated species in a meadowlike garden or rock garden. Spring ephemerals include white fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum), Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii), and camas (Camassia quamash). Mid-bloomers include tiger lily (Lilium columbianum), nodding onion (Allium cernuum), stonecrop (Sedum spp.), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), and western columbine (Aquilegia formosa); for late blooms try yarrow (Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis), showy fleabane (Erigeron speciosus), and goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).
     Most yards can support more trees, whether evergreen or deciduous, than they do. If you have the space, grow large trees–the oaks, the pines, the firs–that are quintessential to our region and will help replace some of the habitat that has been lost to development and logging. Just one Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) will provide dense shelter and nesting sites for various birds and small mammals, bark that can be used as nesting material, food for seed-eating birds and browsing mammals, and, as the trees mature, cavities for roosting and cavity-nesting birds.
     In urban areas, street trees that grow in parking strips could be native species (as well as the other plants you grow there). Some good choices for narrow parking strips (not less than 4 feet wide) include cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), Douglas maple (Acer glabrum), and black hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), and for wider strips (greater than 6 feet wide) and without overhead utility wires, Garry oak (Quercus garryana), and Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia). Always check with your city’s urban forestry office before planting.
Excerpt from Real Gardens Grow Natives: Design, Plant, & Enjoy a Healthy Northwest Garden by Eileen M. Stark (Mountaineers Books, 2014)


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Albert Adventures

Introducing Albert Adventures.

I like adventures (lately I’ve been calling them rambles). Friends have often remarked that hanging out with me and wandering Portland (or Black Rock City) is fun because of the various twists and turns things take. No adventure is the same. There is not a point A and a point B. You may meet new people and make new friends.  You’ll come away with stories and memories.

Do you have friends or family members in town who have some free time and are curious to see the sites with a unique guide?

Contact me @ and let me know your time frame and let’s see what magic we can make happen!

Price negotiable. Kid friendly – NO Pets.

Albert Kaufman December 2016 Working Together

Snow Days!

Scooterville Snowlandia

Scooterville Snowlandia

We’ve been snowed in in Portland, Oregon for the last 5 days. It’s really something. I’ve lived here for 15 years and, as far as I can recall, I’ve never seen the City so socked in. I’ve been wishing to come up with a system to award people for keeping their cars parked.  More stars the longer you go without driving. The roads and sidewalks are pretty icy and slippery – it’s really something.

On my end, it’s allowed me for some much-needed and enjoyed downtime to just be with me. I’ve been reading an interesting book – The Happiness Project; working on my email marketing world; taking short walks to visit with neighbors; I got to see David Bromberg play at the Alladin Theater – and I spent a lot of time chilling and doing house projects. I’ve really been appreciating the sun. It’s been shining steadily for the past 2 days and right now the light is streaming into our living room – and bouncing off of various fun sparkly things I’ve set up to capture the light and reflect and refract it.

The moon has also been delightful. Full – shining.  I walked home after having dinner with Gregg Harris of Roosevelt’s Terrariums last night – and got to see her in her fullness shining down on me. We have a Spotify account which has led to all sorts of new music – such as this version of Winter Wonderland by David Grisman and friends.

That’s all, I just wanted to share some of what I’m up to – been feeling pulled to share some of what’s on my mind, lately – and The Eleven, just comes out once a month :). My friend, Brock Noyes, shared this with his e-list yesterday and I thought it profound.

From Brock: “In the last year of so I have been teaching a class at Breitenbush called Meditation-Experience 5 Traditions.  I been on the path of Meditation for an entire adult lifetime, and it would take time to count all the ones that I have seriously practiced..  In this class I sort of randomly choose 5 different modalities and we explore them for about 12 minutes each.  Amazingly, the class is FUN (not something I ever associated with meditation) and what I have re-discovered is that each tradition has a slightly different feel, and I will choose different ones at different times depending on where I am at…at that moment.  Sometimes I am working on stress, sometimes on chi, sometimes on mystery.  There is that adage from the book The Artist’s Way that we are closest to the creator when we create, so I have unbound myself from the structure of a specific form, create my own practice and I have found it brings a sense of play into the process which is quite different from the stern protocol  that “I am going to get enlightened.”  (good luck with that…my opinion is that is the first thing to let go of)  In this way meditation can be playful rather than stern.  I love that simple line from the country western legend Merle Haggard; “I’m into happy, I ain’t into sad.
Recently I was sent a link to a visiting Tibetan Lama in Potland and in scrolling through U-Tube I karmically came across a talk by my Tibetan Teacher Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.  I studied with him in the Himalayas and make the half truth joke that the only less gifted students than me were the ones that did not show up.  I was so excited to see what he had to say and  his primary message was “Relax.”  It was not memorizing prayer, its was not a protocol of enlightenment, it was simply RELAX.  When I checked in with this message it was simple but extraordinarily profound.  It illuminated when I checked in with my body in mediation I was still holding reservoirs of stress, partly from the tragic loss of my wife to breast cancer in December, and partly from other karma.  I re-oriented  my mediation practice AND my yoga practice to feel into how relaxed I could be in each  posture.  Not how perfect the pose was but how deeply I could surrender into relaxing in the pose and the breath..  I took this same message into my sitting practice, and what I have found is that it laid the ground work for being much more relaxed outside of my various practices. It translated into life.
We all live in this electronic world of visual stimulation and stress and trauma, and now we live in the world of Mr. Trump.  So the simple message here in your practice is checking in with your body.  Are your truly relaxed and can you make that the focus of your practice relaxation until it gets somatically ingrained?
The process of creating a community of conscious creativity (for lack of better words) at our new “compound” in NE Portland has been halted by the passing of my wife in a heroic fight against breast cancer.  She died in December.  Incredible loss for all of us who knew her,  I am headed to points south for a month to try to assimilate, integrate, and reboot my life. And we will be exploring classes and synergistic evolution starting sometime in March here in Portland and periodically at Breitenbush  I hope you can join us.
Leaving you with the  the message from Chuang Tzu from 4th Century BC China when we westerners were living like dogs in caves.
Those who heaven helps we call the sons (and daughters) of heaven.  They do not do this by learning.  They do not do this by working it.  They do not reason this by using reason.  To let understanding stop at what can be understood is a high attainment.
Brock can be reached @ &
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