On the day of September 12, 2015, while hurrying to evacuate from the Valley Fire, first-time Harbin Visitor John Isom performed a wise and brave rescue. In the midst of his rush from Mainside to the RV parking lot to retrieve his vehicle, with fire advancing down the hill before him, John stopped to gather acorns.
Standing at the edge of the Meadow, John took the time to fully appreciate and connect with one of the grandmotherly valley oak trees there – a huge, spreading tree that has graced Harbin property for hundreds of years. And in a moment of deep caring for the land and foresight for its future, John – an Environmental Studies teacher with a self-described passion for “botanical midwifery” – took the risk of pausing in his evacuation, and carefully gathering seeds for what he hoped would be a Harbin forest to come. He collected several dozen acorns and brought them home to take care of – with the hope that at least a few of them might actually germinate. And much to his delight, several of them did! For nearly a year, John nurtured his seedlings in his kitchen refrigerator, hoping someday bring them back to Harbin for us to plant – and recently he did.
Native trees like these are among our most precious resources. And as we plan, rebuild, and recreate Harbin, we’ll be sure to select just the right locations to showcase John’s saplings… with much gratitude to him for his caring, his love, and his very special gift of life from Harbin’s past to Harbin’s future.
John’s oak seedlings – significant as they are – are just a small portion of the new trees we’ve begun to plant on Harbin property. As of this writing, we’ve planted 750 new hardwood trees around Mainside alone. These new hardwoods are all native species, and including black, blue, and live oaks, bigleaf maples, alders, gainswillows, redosier dogwoods, toyon berries, redbuds, and more. We purchased these trees from Putah Creek Restoration Nursery; and through our contract with National Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), we’ll be largely reimbursed for their cost.
We’re also about to begin planting 50,000 faster-growing conifers: a mix of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. These are trees we contracted for before the fire (again, with reimbursement from NCRS), but hadn’t yet decided where to plant. Now, with more than 90% of Harbin’s land burned by the fire, we have clearer need for them than ever. As soon as the snows begin to melt in El Dorado county where they are being grown, these year-old saplings will be dug up, shipped to us, and planted throughout the road into Harbin, up the road to Mainside, and on parts of Diamond D.
Every tree we plant – whether it’s one of John Isom’s hand-gathered acorns, or a hardwood or conifer procured through NRCS – is precious to us. As are our land, air, water, insects, birds, animals, and people. And just as John Isom so carefully gathered and protected life, so will we too, as we continue to build Harbin anew.