A Sense of Place, and the Waters Flowing Therefrom

As a propagation group member, I volunteer at the CNPS plant sale up at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, and on my way up there for the fabulous sale yesterday, I listened to a podcast of a recent episode of the excellent NPR show, To The Best Of Our Knowledge. The theme and title was "Sense of Place" - one segment in particular really gave me food for thought.

It was about this book: Jerry Apps, Old Farm: A History (Wisconsin Historical Society Press). Mr Apps has written the "deep history" of his place, which was homesteaded by a civil war veteran, and before that was occupied by native Americans whose tribe I forget.

I want to understand the deep history of this place where I live, the ecology, and the botany especially. There are many local information resources, but I don't have the time to get out and take advantage of them. Little by little, I guess.

I'm not talking about new or original research, just pulling together information specific to right here. It would give me satisfaction.

At the sale, I chatted to Fred, a knowledgeable CNPS member, and Deanna, who works in Acterra's stewardship program and does all the things I would also love to do - propagates from local natives for restoration projects and so on. Town Mouse took one of her workshops not long ago.

The topic of watersheds came up, and the importance of planting natives that originate in the same watershed that you live in.

I'm not quite clear about this link between plants and watersheds, and I can't find any info on the web so far. I'll have to talk to Fred again about why exactly this is so important.

Again I realized I don't know my watershed. I tried once and failed: I couldn't determine from this map available on the web - Am I in the San Lorenzo watershed, the biggest one in Santa Cruz County, or the Soquel Creek watershed, just south of it? Here is a bit of the map, whose source you can find by clicking the link above.

Upon close inspection and this time comparing the above map with a Google Maps view of the same locale, I have now determined that our south slope lies in the Soquel Creek watershed, and our north slope lies in the San Lorenzo river watershed! (We live somewhere on the line to the right of the words "Scotts Valley." )

What a unique position, to be sitting on a ridge on the dividing line between two watersheds! If I were a character in a novel, living on such a dividing line would mean something.

Another small but important facet in a slowly developing sense of one particular place on the globe.


We were up at the plant sale yesterday! Although I haven't actively planted any natives yet, I've actually thought about the concept of planting natives that are specific to your region, rather than just California natives in general. As there are so many different biomes and ecosystems throughout the State, it makes sense that if the purpose of planting natives is to attract and sustain local wildlife/insects, then you want to emphasize planting species that the wildlife has co-evolved with and is adapted to. I'm sure even with native plants, that some might be considered 'invasive' if they're not traditionally from your region and grow too well where they're planted.

As for watersheds, I haven't checked yet, but the Santa Cruz County GIS system might be able to confirm the watershed you're in. You'll need the parcel # for the lot to look it up, but there's lots of info about riparian zones/habitat type for your plot.


Hope to meet you later today on the GNGT!
Elephant's Eye said…
I'm guessing it has to do with the seeds washing down the valley. So they should be the right, or the left, seeds?
Anonymous said…
Very intriguing, the whole watershed business. Along the interstate near our home in Tennessee, there are signs denoting different watersheds as they are entered. The signs are new, and I have been wondering about their meaning and why are they placed on the interstate. It is a good starting point to dig deeper into the history of the place, as you say. Thank you for the enlightenment.
Kate said…
As I understand it, native plants do the best job at preventing soil erosion for each particular geographical area. And are the best at fighting noxious weeds that try to take over. Plus, they were the reason our birds and wildlife settled there in the first place. So, we're helping keep a natural balance.

I hope I don't sound like too big of a geek but I'm doing the same thing on my land so I did some reading on the subject... :)
Country Mouse said…
CVF - was very nice to meet the farmers at Town Mouse's garden yesterday!! Thanks for that link - I had forgotten about this resource. it confirms that we are on the boundary of two the watersheds.
Kate - Preaching to the choir! I did also talk to Nicky of Gold Rush Nursery at the going native garden tour event at Town Mouses' garden yesterday. She said, the watershed is a convenient tool to ID the area where material can be taken and propagated for restoration projects, but that the picture is more complicated - as common sense might indicate - As well as water flow we also have bird flight, and wind blow! and of course within one watershed there are innumerable micro climates forming niches. It's perhaps a good "gross" indicator for us geeks! I think we need more general info for restoration gardeners. I'd love to write a book or keep a web site on that topic as an information resource. First maybe an article. Before that maybe some study!!

Thanks all for commenting! It's good to know someone is reading, but I admit it's a bit scary when you meet a "fan" as I did on the tour yesterday, and realize more people are reading than you know about! - Hello to the very nice lady I talked to yesterday, who lives near San Luis Obispo and enjoys our blog!!