The Backyard Forest

Written by Kari Weiland

Inspired by “Outgrowth-Children” in Braiding Sweetgrass


Sarah and her dad are making a trip to California from their home in Nevada to visit Uncle Jason. He has a forest for a backyard and Sarah is very intrigued. She learns about the history of the forest and how the Cedar trees are becoming extinct. Sarah finds a way to keep the memory of the California forest with her forever.

Keywords: cherish, history, extinction, value, appreciate, memory, legacy

“Dad, are we almost there yet?” Sarah asked as she was staring out the car window. “Yes, Sarah, we will arrive in 20 minutes. Your uncle cannot wait to see you!” replied her dad. Sarah was 13 years old. Her dad was taking her on a mini vacation to California to visit her uncle. She had only visited him one other time when she was 6 years old. She does not get to visit him very often because she and her parents live 10 hours away in Nevada.

As Sarah continued to stare out the window, the scenery began to appear different from the typical city view she was used to during the whole first half of entering California. “These trees are huge!” She announced as her eyes grew wide, face pressed against the window. Her dad had told her many stories about the forests of California, especially the one very close to his brother’s house, practically in his backyard. Uncle Jason moved to California from Nevada when Sarah was not born yet. Even though it was a far drive, Sarah’s dad went to visit his brother frequently. But after getting married and having Sarah, he could not travel much anymore.

After the long drive, Sarah and her dad finally made it. They ventured up the long driveway to the door of the gigantic house. “Wow! This house is beautiful! Look at all of the trees in the backyard!” Sarah exclaimed. All Sarah wanted was for her uncle to tell her about the forest. “Hi, Sarah, how are you? It has been so long!” Uncle Jason asked. “I am good! I really want to learn about the trees in your backyard! They are amazing” Sarah replied.

Sarah’s uncle took her and her dad on a walk through his backyard forest. He had so much information to share. “The trees stretch from Northern California to Southeastern Alaska with several small bodies of water and mountains also included along the way. Some of these trees can be considered the biggest in the world!” Jason exclaimed. Sarah asked, “What is that stuff growing on the bottom of the trees?” Jason looked down to see what she was talking about. “That is called lichen, it is a slow growing plant that can grow at the bottom of trees and on rocks. There are so many more living plants and animals in this forest – countless mammals, birds, amphibians, wildflowers, ferns, mosses, fungi, and insects. Let’s keep walking a little bit and maybe we will see some of those things!”

Sarah was having a great time learning about the forest. “Sarah, did you know that people used to live here in the forest?” Jason asked. “What? Really?” Sarah questioned. Sarah’s dad chimed in and said, “He is right, native people of the Coastal Pacific Northwest made a living here with their families. They could catch salmon from the water bodies to eat and most of their tools they made out of materials from the tree. It is amazing how many uses a simple Cedar tree can provide for people. No part of a tree went unused.” Jason added in, “This forest is called an old-growth forest. It means that it is a forest that has reached a great age without much disturbance. The Cedar trees provided for the people, and in return, they responded with gratitude and reciprocity. Today however, the old cedars are almost gone. People want them, they will even try to find the leftover Cedar logs. There are other trees in this forest, but it is very sad to see the Cedars disappearing.”

“What happens if they are all gone?” Sarah asked. Jason said that once they are all gone, there is nothing much we can do. “It makes me sad that the Cedar trees may soon disappear. What can I do to solve this problem?” Sarah asked. “Follow me,” Jason said. Sarah, her dad, and Jason kept walking into the forest of trees, until finally they stopped. “Do you see that cone on the ground, Sarah? Go pick it up and look at it.” Sarah walked over and picked up a tree cone that was on the forest floor. She examined it, noting the details. “Is this from a Cedar tree, Jason?” She asked. “Yes! That cone fell from the nearby Cedar tree. I want you to keep this cone and take it home. You will find a good use for it,” Jason encouraged.

“I have a great idea! Can I plant this cone at home and grow a tree?” Sarah asked, enthusiastically. “Why yes, you can! Take the cone home, soak the seeds for a while, and eventually you will be able to plant it. You and your dad can do some research,” said Jason. “Dad I am so excited to take this home! Now I can have a piece of the old-growth forest! Thank you, Uncle Jason for showing us around! I am so glad I got to learn about the history of old-growth forests! I cannot wait to come back next time!” Sarah exclaimed. Sarah and her dad returned to Nevada with the Cedar tree cone. Sarah began to research how to be successful in planting a tree from a cone. She was so thankful to have learned about the backyard forest. Now she will have a piece of it at her own home.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Humanizing Science through STEAM Challenges Copyright © 2021 by E.J. Bahng and John M. Hauptman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book