Sanctuary Stewards: Cyndi Hughs and Mike Morrison
Our place is called Cedar Ridge and it is 14 acres. We have about 4-5 acres in a vegetable garden, 90 foot medicine wheel with plantings and various other gardens. In these areas we struggle with the heat, poor soil and lack of water. The remaining area is not cultivated or planted by us-Nature has her way here! We have many native bushes, plants and trees such as: Mormon tea, ajerita, Texas scullcap, juniper, mesquite, immortale, milkwort, yucca, cactus, etc.
We are stewarding an area that has been very badly impacted by oil production in the heyday of the White Flat field-a big, very productive and lucrative oil field in it's day. (Story here: we didn't own this land until 1999 but my great, great grandmother raised her family 1/4 mile from here and refused to allow oil production. She said you can always depend on the land but oil is here today and gone tomorrow and she wouldn't stake her family's future on it nor destroy the land to get it out of the ground).
Anyway, there are big pipes just appearing out of the ground and going no where and scattered pieces of oil field and farm equipment and tools (we are making some inroads to removing these). The top soil has washed away as a result of loss of grasses and plants to hold it in place-this comes from equipment being parked everywhere resulting in hard packed red clay. We are working to slow the erosion and as a result are starting to see the return of native grasses like gramma oats. Mike has hauled tons and tons of mulch in the back of his pick-up from the recycling center located in a town 25 miles from here. He is also working with our chickens to improve the soil in our gardens...they are very helpful!
Probably the most visibly amazing "improvement" we have made is our labyrinth-Three Sisters Labyrinth. Mike constructed this in the summer of 2003 (humm, I think it was that summer). It is a 15 circuit labyrinth that has it's center in a bowl that we believe had been an oil derrick site at one time as there was no vegetation there at all. The outside four circuits go up and around the top of a little mesa. He constructed it without moving any shrubs or native vegetation. The labyrinth is 2.5 miles if you walk in and out-we have been informed by the North American Labyrinth Society that it is the largest outdoor labyrinth that they are aware of in the US.
I tell you it took me a few days to recover from being in Ma. It was so cool and green and there were herbs I read about all the time just growing along side the roads. And here I return to 103 temps; no rain in forever and ever; my poor tired, sun darkened husband struggling to keep everything from dying; and a $477 water bill. It makes one wonder why exactly we think we have to do this HERE! But, then I look at the land and see the struggling stands of grasses returning and think about how there was nothing before and know that someone has to take care of this land! And I guess that is us...but, I still dream of green herb farms and drool over pictures of Zack Woods, and Mountain Rose and Heartsong (even knowing that they too have their struggles).