The Summer Seeds
By Richard Sweet, steward of the Hedrick Ranch Nature Area
Volunteer help with a new habitat restoration project at the Hedrick Ranch Nature Area (HRNA) has continued through the summer in east Pasture E. I've been busy weeding and irrigating the willows, cottonwood and rye grass previously planted by volunteers, organized by HRNA and Audubon conservation chairman Sandy Hedrick. I've put in about 120 hours maintaining the new plants through the summer and we've had morning workdays on first Saturdays of July through September. Weed warriors Ms. Lilith, Debby Burns and Frank Nilsen braved the early morning sun weeding non-native, invasive plants (mostly thistle) and bagging their flowers for later burning. Irrigation was automatic for most plants, but growth had to be trimmed around the sprinklers and water lines and the heads kept clear. Because we didn't have enough mulch around the new plants, competition was intense. Some of the plants didn't make it but most of the large willow cuttings are doing great. It's encouraging to see their growth from just cuttings; some are seven feet high. We still need to put more mulch down and to continue weeding though. More help is always appreciated!
In late August, I obtained a burn permit for HRNA from the Ventura County Fire Protection District with concurrence from the Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and the California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG). The permit allows burning in up to four 55 gallon barrels with phone permission from APCD and Fire Station 27 obtained each time, as well as compliance with APCD Rule 56. Weed flowers are cut before the blooms set seed, and then bagged in large, lima bean bags to dry for three weeks. The base of the plants is dug out, cut up and left as mulch. It's an easy job for a couple of volunteers. We've had two burns in two barrels so far, and it is done and cool by noon. The small scale program helps to reduce the weed seed bank and wildfire fuel while improving the habitat.
Workdays are scheduled for Sat., 10/2, from 8-noon then alternating Saturdays and Sundays from 9-noon on 11/6/04, 12/5/04, 1/8/05, 2/6/05, 3/5/05 and 4/3/05. We are also lining up funding for a volunteer coordinator and for contracts to remove invasive weeds and replanting natives. Please come and give us a hand restoring these fallow pastures to a more natural, self-sustaining condition. There is a lot to do, so if you're interested, contact Richard Sweet at 805-644-2802 or email@example.com.