Monday, December 29, 2008

Willits News

Fred Sent me this link about an old-timer from Willits that thinks he can educate people about what's wrong with our north coast. He bears listening to. (Ed, we knew George Pinches as "Georgie")

A BETTER WAY: We have to grow to survive

By Ed Burton
Posted: 12/23/2008 10:51:59 AM PST

Before World War II, the Willits area had a balanced economy that supported thousands of people with very little cash money.

Potatoes were grown in the valley; sheep, cattle, horses and dairy cows grazed in the hills. Orchards grew apples, peaches, cherries, apricots and berries that local folk ate, dried or canned. Almost every farmer who had those crops had a flock of "mama cickens" that roamed freely in the corrals, scratching and feeding on the bugs and larva in the manure.

The railroad made it practical to plant, raise and sell tanbark, potatoes, cream, wheat, cattle and lumber to ship to market. They traded for money, or for sugar, coffee, clothes and other things folks here could not make easily. Many times they brought dozens of "mama's eggs" to town for a bit of "fun money".

When I brought my little family here in 1950 the Willits area had 22 sawmills, 22 bars and 22 churches. I do not think the figures were completely accurate, but they were close.

Redwood and Douglas fir lumber from most of the mills, and plywood from Industrial Plywood Company, sold by the trainload and truckload for the post-war building boom.

Hattie and I bought in 1948 a new three-bedroom home in Pleasant Hill for $10,500. We paid $250 for the down payment for veterans. Our payments were $75 a month. We sold it two years later for $12,500.

The $2,000 profit made it possible for us to buy land and have George Pinches build the house I now live in alone, since the family has grown up and my Hattie died more than two years ago after 60 good years together.
After about three years as company forester for Willits Redwood Products and one year teaching math and forestry at Willits High School, I began the Ed Burton Company. I specialized in "Research for the Lumber Industry." Most of my effort was devoted to finding a profitable market for the bark, sawdust and scrap wood that smoked and burned in the big teepee burners all over town. For the last 20 years I have focused on how to profitably cut, dry, process and haul small, round wood under six inches in diameter. This wood burns very hot in a wildfire on a hot dry windy afternoon.

Unmanaged wildlands here gradually become covered with brush and trees, which shade out the grass. Soon all of the grazing animals and wildlife cannot reach and feed on the nutritious leaves and twigs. Tall older trees shade out the brush, and absorb more and more of the water and nutrients in the soil. Some of the rain that falls just wets the leaves and twigs of the trees and evaporates back into the air. This results in less water in the upper root zone (upper three feet) which filters out the pollutants from wastewater as well as sand and silt from storm water.

If you spray or flood septic tank effluent, or too much poorly treated wastewater, on land a layer of bacterial slime fungus mat forms on the surface of the soil. Tiny "root hairs" that grow on the roots that you can't see actually absorb the water and nutrients the plant or tree need to live. The root hairs need to "breathe" in oxygen from the air. Without the air (oxygen) the plant dies. That fungal and bacterial mat that rows on the soil surface will also grow on any surface that has nutrient (pollutant)-containing water flowing over it.

Next week I will tell you how all of the above, including "mama's eggs," can lead to a better way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ed Burton is a Willits scientist, businessman and environmentalist.


spyrock said...

i think most people in california before world war 2 were doing the barter system. my dad never did adjust to anything else. he lived by the barter system up until he died in 2006. my dad thought that whomever had a lot of stuff was rich. so he collected stuff and never threw anything away. it cost me money to haul it to the county dump and money for them to take it and bury it. but all that stuff had either rusted or was what they call out of date. but to my dad, that junk was his treasure chest. one thing i learned in business school is that if you don't think making a profit is the main priority, they will laugh you right out of the school.
things like pollution and being responsible are only dealt with when you get caught and you can be sure that whomever caught you won't be re elected to catch you again. of course, i believe that we can live in the world of our choosing. my dad died thinking that he was a rich man. and i'm sure ed is never going to abandon his lifestyle. but good luck trying to change wall street, detroit, or even the et.

Ernie Branscomb said...

When I was a kid living on the family farm in Laytonville, we had all sorts of animals for food. We had chickens, sheep, goats, cows, pigs, ducks, geese, rabbits, and we even had a flock of pigeons, I don’t remember eating any of those but I’m sure they would have been tasty if we had run out of the other edible critters. We had the working animals also, like horses, dogs and cats. We had a huge vegetable garden that fed half of the valley. We had a fruit orchard with mostly apples and pears, but we had peaches, plums and prunes. We had every kind of berry bush that was ever sprouted. Then of course, we had the wild animals like quail and deer.

My grandmother gave most of the food away to people that she deemed to be needy. But she was always careful to make sure that she had plenty of food put up for the family to last a couple of bad years.

I remember asking why everybody had to go the work everyday. I was told that you had to work to make money to pay the taxes, and buy coffee, flour, and sugar and the stuff that didn’t grow well on the ranch.

By today’s standards, I guess that we had it made.

ben said...

Ernie.. I'm glad to see your link to Ed Burton. The guy is really interesting and his ideas might apply to the tanoak topic we've been mulling. He has a gasification process he's promoting. I've been wondering about pellet stove fuel and how that is processed. Probably a lot less polluting than charcoal production but will air quality regulations shoot down pellet stoves as well as wood stoves? I'm talking about in the city, the major market for all of this. Hmmmm... Let's see what Ed's idea is.

spyrock said...

The ethic we have deduced from a picture of the universe as being a huge machine that can be ever more understood, brought under control, and exploited for comfort and gain (the prevailing social "needs") has allowed us to plunder and despoil our planet and each other to a point where it is quite apparent that only a spiritual renaissance (a new cosmology that produces a new ethic) can save us from plunging recklessly into self-destruction. you have to have people like ed and my dad who are honest, ethical men with integrity to keep things balanced. otherwise, things will just topple over. hopefully, they can or have passed this on to enough of us.

Fred said...

I'll have to remember to read his column next week. That article wasn't on the main page of the web site and I just stumbled into it accidentally.