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The Art of Land Management

Since my husband and I purchased our Santa Cruz Mountain home property 6 years ago we have been on a mission of catching up on years of neglected land management. Owning and managing a second growth redwood forest is a lot of work and after the patriarch of the previous owners died 28 years before we purchased the three parcel property only minimal work was done, mostly for aesthetics and bare minimum upkeep. Lots of people romanticize California mountain life and upon visiting our home comment on the beauty of the nature that surrounds us. But the hard truth is that the majority of people who own properties such as ours in California do not manage the land and this neglect endangers entire communities. The Santa Cruz Mountains are a wild place and the land is unrelenting and unforgiving. It's memory is long and deep. It does not respect those who don't show respect. But I have found that when the land is shown appropriate respect the wild life is almost magical, revealing it's most tender intimacies as a reward.

There are a lot of reasons why people neglect managing their land. The biggest issue is the cost. The work that routinely needs done on our property is far more than any one man or woman can do. For the past 6 years we have had a crew of four men work for four to eight days a quarter to maintain fire safety and aesthetics on our property. And the truth is, if money were no object they could work four days once every month and still there would be more to do. It is cost prohibitive and we've had to double up because of how long things were left go. Another reason people neglect their land is out of ignorance. Few people take the time to learn about, either through study or observation, the ecosystem they live within. Sometimes a lush green landscape that on face value appears beautiful is actually a symptom of a sick ecosystem.

Take for example the Algerian Ivy that is so prevalent across California. A couple decades ago budget for State infrastructure maintenance was cut and officials were seeking a drought resistant plant that would "take care of itself", be hearty and look appealing is places like highway medians. Algerian Ivy was the solution and the State planted it everywhere. It was also then readily available for homeowners to purchase as an ornamental. The problem is, it is too successful and is an invasive species. In actually kills trees by starving them. Giant dead redwoods are very very dangerous. So, the first thing we focused on when we bought our property was to begin pulling out and eliminating the Algerian Ivy. What on first glance appeared to create a fairytale backdrop was actually a horror story. In the first months of owning our mountain property a redwood that was over 100 years old fell in the middle of the night (due to the ivy). It missed our house and our bedroom where we slept by mere inches. So, since then we have been vigilant about land management both for our safety as well as the safety of our neighbors. I wish more of our neighbors would do the same. Anyway...

Here's a clip of the crew working earlier this week. It's awesome to watch. I make sure I'm always present when guys are working so I can call for help if there is a problem. The job is difficult and dangerous. I make them lunch when they come to work and give them beer at the end of the job to try to make it worth their while. Enjoy the clip:

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