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.

It was a dry and windy February at Big Oak Canyon. The sunny weather started to bring out the wildflowers early this year, and the lengthening days brought flowing sap and swelling buds on the trees. Red-tailed hawks danced their pair-bonding dance and Anna’s hummingbirds, one of the earliest nesting birds, already had a brood of babies. On the first of the month, the orange-crowned warblers started singing, and on the 17th I heard the first white-throated swift, both indicators I use for changing of the seasons. It was a very quiet month, in terms of people, and there was ample time for reflection.

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

False honey ants foraging on scrub oak sap from a hole freshly drilled by a sapsucker (woodpecker). Since sap was flowing rapidly in the trees this month, the sapsuckers were very active drilling sap wells!
Pear tree just starting to bloom – lots of different trees swelled and popped their buds this month.
A beetle I found scavenging on dead bees and their stored food supply.


A volunteer working on the retaining wall for a new garden bed.

I worked on cutting and peeling the bark off of some pine poles to build a new shade structure over the stage. The small trees were cut from overcrowded areas of pines on the land, and removing them gives other trees space and slightly reduces the risk of a forest fire getting very hot. It’s so fun and rewarding to use local materials!


Answers for last month:

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? 
Bee bread and larva cells
What is the name of this lovely, tender, native salad plant?
Miner’s lettuce or Indian lettuce

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?

Swallows or swifts

This month’s questions:

What was the main economic activity for the first homesteaders in Silverado and nearby canyons?

What common bird of the canyons goes into a state of torpor in the winter, and is named for the call that it makes?

What kind of plant can become completely desiccated and spring back to full vigor in minutes after rain?

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