I’ve planted trees like Japanese maples and fast growing conifers at every house I’ve owned. I think of them as semi-permanent fixtures that slowly improve the property and provide shade, privacy, and beauty.
Soon after getting our property on Orcas, I was motivated to start planting and picked up a couple of Leyland Cypress from a nursery in our area. With the trees in tow, I made my way to the south property line with a shovel, thinking I would dig a couple of nice big holes for the trees. In a familiar move, I put the tip of the shovel into the dirt and then pounced on it with enough force to dig through the soil. This action, surprisingly, didn’t work. Instead, the shovel went in a few inches and hit an impenetrable force that made the shovel vibrate in my hand. I tried again and the THUD sound it made was deep and resonant.
I had to regroup. The locations I had plotted for the trees were all solid rock. Thud. Thud. Thud. So, I started probing and eventually found a couple of spots with softness, or at least enough to get a tree in the ground. The cypress ended up being planted on rock, but with enough soil around them to stand straight.
With the planting complete, I got curious and walked around the property with a long piece of rebar tapping through the thin soil. Almost every bit of space around the Yurt was covered in a thin layer of soil and then, cold, hard, rock.
Our property is not alone in this experience. Orcas is sometimes referred to as “rock island” and that name has become part of the local culture. Our internet service provider is called Rock Island Communications. It’s just a fact of life on the island that manifests in strange and interesting ways.
In between our building site and the water is a tall Douglas fir tree that has clearly broken in half. Halfway up the trunk, it just stops in a jagged point. I’ve seen this in multiple places around the island and eventually asked the arborist what was happening. He said that the roots of some trees get anchored into the rock over time. When the wind blows and something needs to give, the trees break in half rather than fall over. I couldn’t help but think of my little cypresses slowing anchoring themselves into rock that will be their foundation for many years.