In spite all of our bumbling and ignorance and “Green Acres” naivite about country living, one of the things I’m most proud of with our Sonoma project has been the fact that we seem to be leaving the land better than we found it. Part of that is respecting what’s there and embracing it (No lawns, fussy flowers and formal gardens! Just unrestrained plantings and nurturing of the natives including weeds. . .er. . .wildflowers.) Most of our “landscaping” has been clearing out the invasive species and fire-prone Chemise and scrub so that the oaks, Manzanitas and Madrones can breath. We’ve reintroduced hardy native grasses. And the pond we’ve built has been like watching a water hole open up on the Serengheti. Suddenly it’s wildlife central and all the little critters are assured a drink even in the driest of summer months.

The second part of the equation has been hiring people to help us who have a deep understanding and love of native Sonoma plants. They’ve stopped us from many unintentional mistakes. And no matter how crunchy granola and Ewell Gibbons green I get about the plants here, our landscape architect is even more radical.

She’s taken my desire to preserve the native trees one step further. When the clearing crews were cutting out the Chemise, she was practically throwing herself bodily in front of tractors to ensure some spindly little oak shoot didn’t get dug up with the scrub.

So it was with some fear that I prepared to tell her that we were going to have to lose a mature oak growing smack dab in the middle of the proposed house site.

We’d tried everything, even asking our architect to see if he could design the house around the tree.


The tree just after the move.

Not possible. Just the act of building around there was going to damage the root system too drastically. But Louise is not one to accept the conversion of a tree to firewood. She proposed moving it.

Not only did she arrange to move it, she planted it in the same orientation it was in at it’s original site. Then she had Felix, stonemason extraordinaire, construct a protective wall around it so eventual livestock couldn’t “molest it.” (To the left, the tree soon after the move.)


Wasps attack the tree.

Sounds like a project that would have to end in success. But within weeks, the tree began to turn brown. Then it started weeping sap. Soon hordes of yellow jackets were attacking it. Things looked grim.

But a funny thing happened. The leaves didn’t drop. The sap-weeping wounds healed. The yellow jackets departed and suddenly, the tiniest green leaves are starting to appear here and there.

We’re praying we’ve turned the corner and our tree is going to make it. It has to. As does everything from the Mountain Lion to the Bobcats to certain birds here at Two Terrier Vineyards, it’s been given a name. Meet Treebeard (yes, named after the Ent in The Lord of the Rings.)


At last we’re seeing tiny green leaves.

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