We can’t seem to fully know what we’ve got until it’s gone. I’ve always appreciated the conveniences of living in Paradise. It’s big enough that one doesn’t need to leave. I worked in town and could spend all my money in town too, on clothes, shoes, furniture, first and second-hand and antique. We still have a hardware store, the most wonderful in the region.
We had big and small discount stores. We had a large hospital. We had an apple orchard and grapes (both the trees and vines survived the fire, but the operations suffered huge losses). We were shaded by tall pines and oaks and many varieties of trees. We have a multi-use trailway that runs the entire length of the town. We had and have a museum. We had a guild, formerly known as a grange, and the members will rebuild. We had and still have a vibrant community with many festivals. I miss living in my community, even as I am getting used to my new surroundings, making it all it can be.
Paradise is a gift we must actively treasure or we will lose it. As we rebuild from the ground up, let’s consider the soil. I’m thinking about dirt because where I am it’s hard to tell chunks of dirt from concrete. Seriously. We put in a pad of concrete at our new house and also built a large planter. When I used some of the leftover dirt, moved by the skid steer loader, it was mixed with concrete chunks from this and previous construction projects. My shovel can hardly break the chunks of dirt, even after soaking. My intent is to change dirt into soil by working with nature.
If nature is our enemy then we must poison it and add chemicals. The more we add, the more we need. But nature will do so much for us for free. Plants make soil in symbiosis with bacteria, viruses, fungi, and the sun. The soil holds moisture. These processes are positive feedback loops that make our lives easier and less expensive. Grasses grow, which a few of our favorite grazers like cows and chickens enjoy. Hens eat the bugs. Their excrement helps fertilize the land, etcetera, etcetera. Small scale, local food sources are being recognized as a key to our success.
When I attended a class sponsored by the new Center for Regenerative Agriculture last week at the Chico State Farm, I learned some soil biology. It was an intensive day of presentations by a biologist from Australia plus several local farmers. My sacrifice of a day to learn about building soil will pay off in how we manage our pasture land. I’m not a rancher or a farmer by profession, but I am headed in baby steps in that direction, as an amateur. I love to harvest from my garden, and I want to ramp that up a bit.
The new way, termed “regenerative agriculture”, employs the opposite of what we think we know about land management. Instead of working against nature, we work with it, and it’s starting to pay off for those who are trying it at scale. The fears of problems keep the farmers and ranchers doing the same things that their chemical companies recommend.
Thank goodness that chemical companies (and even the new urban planners) are not the only source of information for how to best manage our environment in our historically food producing town.
As our town motto goes, to live in Paradise is to be “in harmony with nature”. With so much now burned to the ground, let’s consider regenerating soil as we rebuild. Soil is more precious than gold.
Appreciating Paradise was published in the Paradise Post on July 2, 2019.
Robin Huffman lived in Paradise, California from 1989 until she evacuated from the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.