Sunday, April 22, 2012

Native Sons and Native Plants

This spring marks the third season that we've provided sheep for vegetation management at the historic Chinese cemetery here in Auburn.  The 2+ acre property on Highway 49 is managed by a nonprofit that also takes care of the Joss House in old Auburn.  We've given them a reduced rate for our targeted grazing services.  The cemetery marks the final resting place of some of the Chinese immigrants who helped build Auburn during the 19th century.

Today, I took 30 ewes to the cemetery to start the project.  As I set up fence, I noticed that there were patches of purple needlegrass scattered among the invasive annual grasses that dominate most of our area.  I've never noticed this native grass before; I'm sure it was there, but I also think our grazing has helped it thrive. Purple needlegrass is actually California's official state grass - it's a perennial grass that stays green all year long.  As a pasture geek, I think it's one of the prettiest grasses I've seen.

This site is interesting.  As a cemetery, it's sacred ground - I always try to be respectful when we're working here.  Because it's sacred ground, it's been protected - which is probably why the native plants still exist among the European and Asian annual plants that thrive in our region. Seeing the purple needlegrass reminded me of the contributions that the original Chinese immigrants made to our region.  We're honored to play a small role in sustaining this heritage - both in terms of our fauna and our cultural heritage!

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