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

January at Big Oak Canyon was a dry and windy month, but full of discoveries and learning! Little sprouts continued to grow, elderberry leaves started to pop out of bare stems, the winter birds flitted around in flocks, the creek ran clear and cold, and mushrooms and flowers sprang forth. Two campouts filled the canyon with laughter and learning.

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

Honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea), a large, edible type of mushroom, grows in a big clump out of an oak stump.
Mountain lion tracks at the creek, likely those of the infamous Limpy the Lion who has been spotted many times by people in Silverado Canyon this month.
California gooseberry (Ribes californicum) is an early-blooming shrub out here.
Mariposa lily sprouts from seeds I planted in December!
A fun drawing session on the chalkboard during the Spanish immersion class campout.
A peaceful picnic at the upper meadow during Forest Kindergarten.
Mixing cob at Forest Kindergarten.
The Pathways to Connection campout was so fun and connective that no one wanted to leave! Here, Jon Young leads a morning session for the adults while the kids are off having an adventure. We are on the journey of learning again how not to fear each other, how to listen and feel our connectivity and electricity, and how to build a culture where our stories are caught, lifted up and woven together with the stories of each other and the land. Thank you, Jon – we look forward to the larger version of this culture repair work, the Art of Mentoring at Big Oak Canyon, in May 2021!

Projects and Discoveries

New garden beds built just above the kitchen.
We worked on putting some palm fronds as roofing for the kiosk on a volunteer day.
A little field trip I took to help build a living willow dome with the kids at Maple Village Waldorf School in Long Beach, using arroyo willow from Silverado Creek and black willow from Long Beach Office of Sustainability.

Trivia Questions

Answers for last month:

What kind of organism is this orange stuff? Slime mold

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Who walked along the pipe? Gray Fox

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Who made the tracks here? Bobcat. This is their typical scent-marking scrape.

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This Month’s Questions:

This is a beehive in a fallen hollow log, discovered by the forest kindergarten class. What is in the yellow cells on the far right, and in the capped-off cells above them?

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What is the name of this lovely, tender, native salad plant?

What plant has a natural rooting hormone that you can use to help cuttings of other plants take root?

What is usually the first migratory bird to come back to Orange County that signifies the coming of spring?

Comment below with your answers!

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.

Categories: Shane's Corner

2 Comments

Caroline Colesworthy · March 1, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Alan and I think the yellow cells are pollen and the ones above are metamorphosing bees. The green is Caldonia “miner’s lettuce”. Salix so. “Willow” has a rooting hormone. And the first return in the spring: swallow?

    Shane Brown · April 9, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Correct! Well, it’s Claytonia rather than Caldonia. Also I’ve noticed both swifts and swallows being the earliest arrivals.

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