COLUMN: Landscaping with 150-million-year-old material | Columns
I recently completed a landscaping project that was approximately 150 million years old.
Not that I have that time.
While I enjoy maintaining a lush lawn – a challenge this year while trying not to exacerbate Baker City’s water supply crisis – and enjoying blooming flowers and shade trees in full leaf, my obsession with gardening is edges.
That is, the place where grass gives way to other landscaping.
Nothing pleases my eye as much as a sharp edge. I find this affinity strange temporarily, if only because it requires geometrical precision, and I was even more helpless in trying to fathom geometry than I was with any other advanced math.
The problem with edges – or at least with my version of how my wife Lisa occasionally reminds me – is that I tend to leave a streak of bare dirt between the lawn and the flowerbed.
I’ve experimented with a variety of solutions to this unsightly and occasionally muddy border, including covering the dirt with bark mulch or pea gravel. But none seemed satisfactory. Bark mulch looks fresh and graceful when first laid, but it quickly becomes grubby as it dries. And the lawnmower’s passage tends to turn pea gravel into splinters, which is uncomfortable.
Then I thought of granite sand.
I don’t know what inspired that, but once the idea was stored in my subconscious it got stuck and called for action.
There are many things that are readily available to be sure. Wherever a highway has been blasted through granite rock, the road cuts have thick deposits of the coarse sand that is a by-product of erosion.
(The local versions, geologists say, are not true granites, but rather several fiery cousins including tonalite and granodiorite and others with added syllables that make them linguistic versions of these geometric concepts that I could never understand.)
Additionally, federal law allows people to collect up to 250 pounds of stone (or presumably eroded stone) per year for personal use.
(Such collecting is of course not allowed in the case of mining claims.)
It didn’t take 250 pounds of sand to fill the narrow strips in our place, although I probably lugged half that weight home in five-gallon buckets. I shoveled the sand from two places I’ve passed dozens of times – one along the Sumpter Granite Highway, the other along the forest service gravel road that leads to the starting point of Dutch Flat.
The granite sand, whose color ranges from a white almost as light as a golf course bunker sand to a light tan, is a fine addition to our landscaping. The stuff thickens well and creates an attractive color contrast between the green grass and the colorful flowers in the beds.
I also find it exciting to think about the immense time spans and the tremendous forces of nature that made it possible for me to brighten up my humble spot on earth in 2021, which still sounds incredibly futuristic to me.
The granite rock in the Elkhorns is part of what geologists call a batholith – a large expanse of magma that, instead of spitting out of volcanic chimneys across the landscape, is instead quietly cooled underground, only to be exposed by the combination of uplift and erosion become.
The Bald Mountain Batholith, which makes up much of the northern half of the Elkhorns, including the peaks around Anthony Lakes, is between 140 and 150 million years old.
Such a period, like geometry, is beyond my ability to comprehend meaningfully.
But I still like to stand in my garden to look up at the Elkhorns and think about how it came about that a tiny fragment of these great mountains adorned my garden after such a period of time during my infinitely short existence.
Jayson Jacoby is the editor of the Baker City Herald.