It’s been around a month since moving to into the new space and there has not been a shortage of things to do. Wanting to explore every niche our forest we discover a multitude of enchanting surprises, including a stunning old hand-dug/hand rock stacked well, around 10 feet in-depth, and very likely over 100 years old. Our minds fill with curiosity and wonder as we contemplate the various ways we can help the well spring back to life.
As we explore, my attention is drawn to the various downfall and natural litter where I find whimsical wood ear and bird’s nest fungi growing in decaying wood adding a special character and delight to the forest. As I continue to lose myself in the variegated patterns of the earth-toned greens, blues, orange and grays of sleeping lichen and patches of golden-green moss, and I cannot wait until the summer rains arouse the forest’s sleeping secrets.
A special attention is drawn to a meandering rocked-lined drainage thickly littered with pine needles and oak leaves. We begin to see a pattern form of some peculiar looking trees. Still early Spring, all the deciduous trees are still bare-branched so identification of any certainty eludes us. But their bark and positions reveal something rather exciting to us. They are fruit trees! The history of the land begins to illuminate itself. We are afterall living on an old homestead site where past buildings have long succumbed to Nature’s reclamation. We can see several foundations now lying as piles of shifted rock and boulders blanketed over with lichen. Rocks that were once carefully positioned to bear the role of bones for small homes and shelters.
Counting as we walk about we determine there are at least 25 naturalized fruit trees! Most of which string alongside the heavily littered drainage. We can hardly believe it and are left utterly puzzled and, incredibly grateful, at the fact that neither the rock-lined well, foundations nor fruit trees were even mentioned by the realtor or seller. It was more than we even dreamt. We did want a space large enough to be able to grow a food forest come to find that the hardest part of that dream was already in place. Well established, and naturalized, fruit trees which might have taken decades to fully establish. We are beside ourselves realizing this property was actually waiting just for us. We truly feel that is true now.
We eventually determined that the fruit trees consist of a variety of pear, cherries, apples and an unknown which seems to be dying, and go on to find other surprises throughout. Other things we find point to another, less appealing aspect of the property’s history.
The property’s history goes something like this: Once upon a time, the land was a part of a vast wilderness alive with a healthy abundance Mexican gray wolves, black and Grizzly bears, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes and more. It was simply a part of the continuum of wilderness which existed before humans decided to exploit, settle and sprawl — a wilderness that now holds official designation and protection as such, existing wild and free around thirty miles to the north of here. Today, a great percentage of these indigenous animals have disappeared due to excessive hunting and unnecessary culling by humans. Their numbers remain lower than ever before, some having been eliminated altogether such as the Grizzly bear.
Pre-historic native peoples roamed and hunted here, just as they had across our entire country. One of the more recent native peoples to occupy the are were the Chiricahua Apache. They were the last that we know of to call this vast area home before greed of hidden resources became viral.
In some recent past, colonial seekers waltzed up upon a nearby creek which still exists just outside the property’s north-east boundary. While quenching their thirst, their eyes caught a glimpse of shimmering gold in the creek’s waters turning their thirst for water into an insatiable thirst for gold. All becomes history from there. A conquest to erase the pre-history of what naturally came before ensues in the new race for gold.
During this race, conflicts arose between these seekers-turned-takers and the Apache who had sustained themselves on this land and surrounding wildlands. A war — something only greed can fuel — began as many lives of as many Native peoples were stolen. The race also dramatically reduced much of the area’s water table, leaving many of creeks dry today.
Remnants of the era, and what followed, were found sprawled across the landscape: a handful of shallow pit mines, corrugated rusted pieces of metal, broken pieces of metal buckets and shovels, rusted nails, barbed fencing and more were removed during our time here.
Cleaning up the junk amounted to around 4-5 truck bed loads. Much of the crumbling metal/tin pieces were turning nearly into dust. We wanted them gone and out-of-sight. They didn’t represent the kind of history we wanted to preserve, nor did they contribute to the recovery of the stripped forest.
Some time between the quest for gold and now the land supported a homestead of sorts, which explains the old fruit trees and lichen-covered rock foundations, all of which are now disjunct and succumbing to Nature’s ultimate reclamation, a process of recovery we are hoping to accelerate. The forest has a long way to go, but with our knowledge of ecological restoration, we hope to give back to the forest everything that was taken by tending and nurturing a birth of new growth.
Happy to have removed the unnatural debris there is still a lot of work to do and much I have not yet written, yet to share. But as we’ve settled in I’ve had lots of inspiration to read, explore and take notes. So rest assured, there is more to come.
Since moving off-grid, I no longer have phone/internet service at home—which for me, is quite the blessing—but that means it is taking me a little bit more time between formulating my thoughts and posting. But, as I stated in previous posts, I am catching up.