The Long and Winding Road

David and I pack our belongings and prepare to leave our friend’s house in Arcata, California. To add drama, I might have added “meager” to describe our belongings, but that would not be accurate. We’ve brought plenty of comfort items on this road trip.

Miner's lettuce

Miner's lettuce

A delicious salad of wild miner's lettuce.

A delicious salad of wild miner's lettuce.

We arrived in Arcata the day before from McMinnville, where we had our last bookstore event in Oregon. We stopped in Corvallis at the Great Harvest Bread Company to stock up on Dakota bread – a favorite of mine. We pulled off the road at Illinois River Forks State Park south of Grants Pass for a picnic, and discovered a bumper crop of miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata, in the portulaca family), with which we made a beautiful salad to go with our sandwiches.

Soon after, we entered the Great Redwood Forests of California’s North Coast, and quickly learned why this is called the “Redwood Curtain”.  The road twists and turns like a serpent, slithering its way through majestic trees. I wonder at what they must have witnessed. I ache for the wisdom I believe they must possess. I don’t know that they are any wiser than a box of rocks; I just believe they must be.

The road through the redwood curtain

The road through the redwood curtain

garlic kale chardOur schedule requires that we move on too quickly, yet the drive is so much longer than I thought it would be. Still, by evening we are in Arcata, at our friend’s. Her house sits on the edge of Arcata Marsh in a co-housing community that appreciates the treasure that lies just beyond. Birds haunt the edges of their garden. Some lead private, secretive lives; others are extroverts, visiting the garden frequently to devour pests that would eat their fill of vegetables.

We spend a quiet evening, strolling beside the marsh, seeing the sights of the sleepy town, where students at Humboldt State are away on spring break. We retire early to rest for our drive the next day. We pack our abundant belongings into our van and set off for Mendocino.

We drive the Avenue of Giants and enjoy another day in the company of towering trees. Individual trees that have lived a thousand years. A forest that has evolved over many millennia, since the last ice age.  I suspect there are secrets to success hidden in the depths of the forest. We stop to walk through the Founder’s Grove, and I place my hand on an enormous trunk. I feel the pulse of its vascular system. Water pulled from the roots by the trans-evaporation of its leaves. The water carries nutrients from the microcosmic world at the tree’s feet. A complex system that supports the deceptively simple “lifestyle” of the Giant Sequoia.

Gigantic, awe-inspiring trees, redwoods capture the imagination

Gigantic, awe-inspiring trees, redwoods capture the imagination

We have time for only a short hike, but we grab the opportunity to inhale the scent of the forest, and to gather what knowledge we can from the presence of the great trees.

car in front of bookstoreThe allure of the sea beckons, and our tight schedule dictates our early afternoon arrival in Mendocino. A tiny town perched on the very edge of the continent. Christie and Michael welcome us to the Gallery Bookshop on Main Street. We enjoy wine and cheese and artisan crackers with guests who arrive with plants in peril and excellent questions.

Christie tells me she received anonymous calls beforehand from plant-friendly folk who asked if they could bring their marijuana plants for diagnosis to our plant clinic. She told them they could, but none of them come this evening. Instead questions revolve around houseplants, container plants, and problems that show up early in the season. Perfect.

Polyculture: Planting different kinds of plants next to each other keeps pests from finding their favorite food, and prevents disease from spreading easily.

Polyculture: Planting different kinds of plants next to each other keeps pests from finding their favorite food, and prevents disease from spreading easily.

There is also lively interest in food production (in the front yard, back yard, or in containers), and we share some secrets to preventing plant problems. Beyond our mantra of “put the right plant in the right place” (through which a plant thrives in a location that meets its needs for light, soil, water, and temperature), we discuss polyculture, rotation, and attracting beneficial wildlife.

Every event gives us the opportunity to make new friends. We enjoy the chance to meet and talk with like-minded people. And the drive gives us the opportunity to experience the magnificence of the California coast. What could be better?

bay and rocks

If you have a favorite spot we should not miss, please let us know. We invite you to share your stories of the greenworld, and welcome you to join us at one of our stops on the road. See our events page for all the details (www.ddandkw.com/events)

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.