The Coastal Redwoods

Coming to Salmon Creek Farm for the first time, city dwellers are often overwhelmed by the unique and mystical landscape. We lead visitors from the parking lot through front gates into sunny gardens and orchards followed by a second set of gates that dramatically deliver us into the shaded depths of the Redwoods. A wide, curving dirt logging road hugging a south-facing slope takes us into the big trees that loom above us and line our path ahead, stepping down the slope as far as the eye can see.

The trees are impressive, but we need to be reminded that they are tragic and tiny shadows of the giants that grew here for eons. The first Coastal Redwood fossils date back more than 200 million years to the Jurassic period. These ancient trees — among the tallest and oldest lifeforms on earth — grew up to 380 feet tall and 30 feet across, living up to 2000 years.

The indigenous Pomo people would make use of the companion plants the Redwoods, but did not typically cut them down. They might use fallen trees to make planks for houses or hollowed-out logs for canoes. Before commercial logging and clearing began in the 1850s, Coastal Redwoods naturally occurred on around 2 million acres along a 450 mile coastal strip. Only 5 percent of the original old-growth forests remain today.

In the 1870’s, the land now known as Salmon Creek Farm was clearcut for lumber and burned for pasture. New growth sprouting up from the roots of the ancient Redwoods, along with their companion plants and Fir trees grew back until that forest was clearcut for more lumber, and burned once again from 1953 to 1963. Where massive trees were once spaced out around five to fifteen per acre, this new ‘un-natural’ post-industrial landscape of second- and third-growth forests would find thousands of trees per acre. This choked-out and over-grown landscape blocks sunlight to the forest floor, inhibits diversity of companion plants, and prevents any of the leggy, skinny trees from maturing to their full potential size.

We have been trying to heal these damaged woods, limbing up dead branches, thinning Fir trees, giving the most promising second- and third-growth redwood trees a chance to grow up strong, and making more space and light for the native plants that have evolved over millennia with these giants.

Gardens & Orchard

On your way to the cabins you pass through two acres of organic herb, flower, and vegetable gardens punctuated by compost piles, Hugel mounds, and terraced fruit trees. What we don’t harvest or eat, we let flower, dry up, set seed, and naturalize...making for gardens that become progressively wild through the season.
We are on Central Pomo land. We want to help pick up, reconnect, and weave back strands of indigenous knowledge that were violently broken...

…a 1908 document lists numerous once-known Pomo village sites, including “kaba'tōda, on the top of the high, narrow ridge separating ‘Albion River’ from ‘Salmon Creek,’ and indefinitely located at a distance of one or two miles from the ocean.”

Contemporary communities nearby include Pinoleville Pomo Nation, Hopland Band of Pomo Indians, Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Redwood Valley Little River Band of Pomo Indians, and Kashia Band of Pomo Indians.  

…Kashaya Pomo women watch for the first warm inland winds of the summer as a sign that there will only be a few days to gather the seeds of wild oats.

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources (2005) by M Kat Anderson