Shane Brown is a lifelong naturalist and the caretaker at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39-acre property in Silverado, California. This blog is a highlight reel of his experiences at Big Oak Canyon.

Join Shane for a 2-hour casual wander observing the flora and fauna of Big Oak Canyon on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
*See schedule for dates and times
Second Tuesdays – Plant Walk
Fourth Tuesdays – Birds, Animal tracks and sign

A lot happened at Big Oak in December! We got a lot of rain and a lot of work done this month in preparation for the rest of winter and beyond. Winter brings cold and rain, but it’s a great time to get out on the land to see the water flow and the plants come to life! We are so grateful for the gifts of the land!

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

A Journey School class is the first to use the Story Bench during a botany field trip.
Calling for donations for the compost! Composting is a great way to cycle nutrients and create richness out of things often referred to as waste. If you don’t have compost at your home, we can take your kitchen scraps (including citrus, meat, bones, shells, everything), leaf piles, animal manure, and anything else decomposable.
A new bench invites passers-by on the Creek Trail.
Jepsonia is the first native wildflower to spring up after the arrival of the rainy season.
Italian thistle sprouts make a delicious salad. Pick ‘em before they get spikey!
Native plant restoration at Big Oak! Here, I’m planting wild rye, a native perennial grass. I also sowed lots of seeds of mariposa lily and blue dicks, which are both beautiful wildflowers with edible starchy corms.

Projects and Discoveries

A little kiosk goes up at the crossroads at Big Oak, soon to have a roof, signage, and a place to write notes.
New parking lot lines painted with lime (calcium hydroxide). Most spaces are compact. Remember to park rear first for a quick getaway!
Spanish Immersion In Nature students learned how to make tortillas from the corn grown at Big Oak!
Volunteers working on digging a water catchment basin to slow and sink the rainwater coming off the road. We later planted native plants here.

Trivia Questions

Answers for last month:

What are the two species of oak found at Big Oak Canyon? Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) and scrub oak (Quercus berberidifolia)

What is the plant at Big Oak that has bright red berries at this time of year, looks like holly, and has leaves that can be boiled into a tea that tastes like cherries? Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

What kind of small, slow-moving animal at Big Oak emerges from the ground when the rain begins in fall or winter? California newt

Where is the easiest place to store rainwater, and how do you do it? In the ground! Slow it, spread it, sink it!

This Month’s Questions:

What kind of organism is this orange stuff?


Who walked along the pipe?


Who made the tracks here?


Blog post was written by Shane Brown.
Shane is the caretaker of Earthroots’ Big Oak Canyon property. He also teaches the Spanish Immersion in Nature and Ancestral Arts programs. He occasionally helps with other Earthroots classes and leads volunteer days at Big Oak Canyon.

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