Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dry Days

The little town we're moving to hasn't had any significant rainfall in six months. The creeks and rivers are drying up, but the Ashe Junipers (they're known as Mountain Cedars around here) are doing fine.

Many people have the mistaken belief that the Ashe Juniper is a foreign species, brought here between eighty and fifty years ago, depending on who you talk to. The truth is, they're a native species, mostly confined to box canyons until about a hundred years ago when European settlers first started trying to tame the Hill Country. Before this part of the world became populated year round, Mother Nature would unleash an occasional fire to keep them in check. When the towns and farms started popping up, we kept the fires in check, and the Ashe Junipers took over.

It's a touchy issue. One endangered species depends on the bark of the Ashe Juniper for survival, several others are being edged out of existence because of the Juniper's thirst. The trees are ideally suited to drought conditions, going dormant during dry spells and greedily sucking up every drop of precious water they can get during the wet season. They proliferate until the rest of the native plant life is squeezed out. The iconic Live Oak tree often falls victim to the dense population of Juniper.

Yesterday I heard about the owner of a chain of fast food restaurants. He told his realtor he wanted the worst thousand acres in the Texas Hill Country. The realtor delivered, and soon the fast food king was the proud owner of a Juniper forest. He immediately began clearing his acreage, and now has six natural springs on his property, the precious life-giving liquid bubbling up from the once parched earth.

We've got a few Junipers on our property, down by the creek. The previous owner cleared most of them already, leaving only the ones that were hardest to reach. We'll do a little more research before removing them.

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