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Weekend workshop shows off relationship between agriculture, nature

Oak trees, native plants and wildflowers trim Mariposa’s wineries, farms and orchards. Wine tasters and visitors to alpaca, sheep and horse ranches will pass such scenery as they trickle into the foothills April 26-27 for the Agri-Nature Trail’s “Weekend in the Country.”

While the point is sample the area’s agricultural character, nature plays a large part in both the rural setting and health of local business. “You want to preserve your property in the best condition possible,” said Kris Castro, who runs Mount Bullion Vineyard on Highway 49 North. “Nature and agriculture go hand and hand.”

Presentations and tours of the native plants and wildlife will be featured in this event, which offers a glimpse into rural Mariposa County businesses and talents of nearby artists. “If the weather is good, it’s a great time to be out,” said Len McKenzie, a member of the planning committee. “Wildflowers, migratory birds have begun to arrive.”

McKenzie, also program chairman of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society, will lead bird-watching tours at 9 a.m. both mornings of the event at Wires Ranch on Darrah Road. Sure, it’s early, he admitted. But that’s the best time to go birding.

The nature activities are to give visitors a better understanding of how all the foothill’s ecological relationships work. “How it all fits together,” he explained.

So, of course, foliage is a big piece in this puzzle.

Kris Randal, education outreach coordinator with the Mariposa County Resource Conservation District, will guide a look at native growth, including black oaks, live oaks, gooseberry and manzanita. The tour starts at 11 a.m. April 26 at Silver Fox Vineyard on Morningstar Lane.

Visitors will not only discover the wildlife values of the plants, but will also learn about their uses by Native Americans. And Randal plans to wrap up the presentation with gardening tips. For a closer look at Mariposa’s oak trees, the naturalist will also hold a session at 11 a.m. April 27 titled “Oak Tree Care” at Coyote Springs Ranch on Old Highway South.

These long-lived trees can last 200 to 500 years and sometimes take 20 to 30 years before producing their first acorn, Randal said. They house small birds, owls, raccoons and other critters that borough into the trees’ holes.

She will tell her guests how best to care for the oaks and what can be planted nearby.Mariposa Master Gardeners can be found both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at their native plant garden along Mariposa Creek Parkway. They’ll describe a variety of growth to visitors and tell them how to plant and care for their own.

The colors in the foothills are amazing right now with the blooming purple lupin, California poppies and yellow fremontia, said Ann Medershausen, a master gardener and head of Mariposa County’s Native Plant Society. Because limited rain did not cause the grasses to grow tall, the flowers can really be seen. “But who knows how long it will last,” she added. “It’s at its peak right now.”

Hummingbirds contribute to this natural color.

And Barbara Robinson, a master bander with the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, wants to make sure they stick around. She and her husband, Duane, identify and study the hummingbirds they encounter in the foothills — of which there are many.

Robinson said they see six species come through the area each year, seven if you count a rare species they found recently. The most common — 88 percent of the birds — are Anna’s hummingbirds, followed by the black-chinned.

The Robinsons will offer an update on their work with the slide program “Mariposa’s Flying Jewels” at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mount Bullion Vineyard. They are expecting people who feed humming birds, want to find out more about attracting them and have their own stories to share of what they’ve encountered at their feeders.

Make an appearance at this event in the country to catch the buzz.