John the Baptist with flame thrower, SonomaYes, we are doing our part here on the Sonoma home front. Our enemy is insidious, all but invisible and skilled in taking advantage of our own resources to further his evil plans. Of course, I’m talking about non-Native plant invaders who are encroaching on our little piece of Sonoma paradise. But our defenses are marshalled. At the risk of a pun, I’ll add that we have a Plan. Yes, we are doing our share.

For those of you who have shown up a bit late, let me give you the lay of the land, as it were. When we purchased this land, it had been virtually undeveloped — except maybe for migrating Miwok Indians who used our seasonal creek as a highway (we’ve found their acorn grinding stones and arrowheads.) Some rusty barbed wire at the edge of the property showed that someone at some time pastured some cattle out here. But elderly locals all tell us this area was always “the back of beyond”. Younger Sonoma residents say this was where they came to drink, smoke pot and make out. The result is a forty acre patch of Sonoma that is almost entirely undisturbed. That means a wide variety of native vegetation and animals — even including a stand of 500 year old Redwood trees that, by all rights, probably shouldn’t even be this far from the coast, and an increasing population of threatened Tree Frogs, who have now grown in significant enough numbers to comprise a veritable Amphibian Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Why We Fight: Checker Lily, Mission Bells or Fritillaria affinis

Why We Fight: Milk Maids

Why We Fight: Milk Maids or Cardamine californica.

Why We Fight: Indian Warriors or Pedicularis densiflora

Of course, we want to preserve it all. Seems easy. But it’s frightening how fast you can compromise a pristine environment, even if you think you are in preservation mode. First mistake, when the vineyard was put in three or four years ago, we allowed hay bales and straw “snakes” to be brought in for erosion control. Big mistake. Apparently, if you aren’t a careful buyer, these things can harbor all sorts of alien seeds and invasive plants that then take over. And they’ve started their march down the swales and water drainage areas. Apparently we should have specified rice bales, which are not native, but can’t possibly survive in Sonoma once the weather heats up. Next mistake, allowing mustard to be planted as a fallow season crop in the vineyards. Apparently, this plant multiplies faster than Aliens. We now need to plan our strategy for eradicating the mustard.

We're doing it for the critters. Although deer aren't endangered, they've got a clean, well-lighted place to graze here.

I should digress here for a John the Baptist Nature Lesson. Again, if you are showing up late, John the Baptist is our trails man, plant guru and freelance forest spirit. With his trusty lieutenants, Louis and Jesus, he speaks for the plants. Many readers of this blog have written, after reading about our efforts, to ask “Why do you make it sound like Natives are so weak they can’t survive as well as invasive species?” I put that question to John, and here’s his answer: “Natives exist in their landscape in a balance. They have enemies and predators and plants that keep them from overpopulating. Certain non-Natives have no native enemies and they just run wild, choking out all the Native plants.”

So we’ve brought out the Big Guns for the Armageddon of the Vineyards. This year is Blitzkreig. We’re even resorting to selective spraying of Round-Up to kill back some of the invasives that already have a foothold. The marketing information says that this particular formulation dissolves into inert ingredients in three months and doesn’t affect the groundwater. John says he doesn’t believe a thing Monsanto says. But, you’ll see the measure of desperation here. Unfortunately, this is John’s Guantanamo and he’s willing to sanction extreme measures to even the odds. Tell it to Dick Cheney, John!

John the Baptist and Jesus armed for chemical warfare on invasives.

Oscar does his bit with more natural herbicides.

Even shy Lucy Terrier got into the act by killing a gopher...which she promptly gave to her new boyfriend, Jesus.

After this year’s Shock and Awe, we’re hoping that we’ll only have about a 5% recurrance next year. With quick burning and pulling before germination, we should be able to reduce the non-natives in the year after next to about 1% ressurgance. And so it goes.

We're keeping Sonoma safe for Wavyleaf Ceanothus.

Neil Young told us that “Rust Never Sleeps”. Ditto for non-Natives. But we’re at the barricades and we won’t be stopped. With a British husband, it’s now appropriate to misquote Winston Churchill:

“We shall fight in the swales. We shall fight at the creekside. We shall fight in the vineyards. We will never surrender.”