Last Saturday was the annual Permaculture Festival and Potluck at the Zeni Ranch. Located 15 miles down Fish Rock Road and high up on a ridgetop between Mendocino and Sonoma Counties, the Zenis have been working this land for well over 100 years. One of the great things about this continuity is that a discussion with any Zeni about sustainable farming and perennial agricultural systems is usually bolstered by stories of moonshining and revenuers.
But the true stars of this day are the dry-farmed chestnut trees brought to this country from Italy over 100 years ago. Tall and majestic, their branches stretch across 100 feet and more. The chestnuts themselves actually grow inside of prickly seed pods, so it is important to wear boots (to squash them out of the pods) and gloves to avoid getting stuck. Along with three friends that went with me, we were able to harvest almost 20 pounds!
Today we started the process of removing 40+ Bishop pines that have been ravaged by the Western Bark Beetle. These trees will be slowly removed over the next two years and replaced with other native trees that are resistant to this pest. It has been interesting watching the logger scale the two trees we are taking down today, remove the branches and carefully fall them.