Our friends *Fluffy and *Scratchy got together in the canopy of the White Castle tree-sit to discuss what life is like 100 feet up an old Douglas fir.
*names have been changed to protect privacy
How long have you been up here, and what can you tell me about being here?
I’ve been up here almost a month, and it’s different every day. The most interesting thing about being up here is that trees work in vertical ecosystems, as you climb you are going through areas of the forest most people will never see in their entire lives. Living at the top for such an extended period helps you understand the subtleties of life here. I never thought I would care this much about lichen.
What wildlife have you seen?
Deer visit the bottom of the tree multiple times a day. One is a mama deer with two fawns. There lots of little birds that are excited about the traverse networks. The mountain beavers rustle around and communicate at night. When I turn my headlamp on at night there are tiny white moths that try to perch on my nose. We hear owls almost every night.
Has this place become more special to you through your time spent in the tree?
Of course, the forests in Oregon have always been very important places to me. It is hard to get a feel for a place until you sit for a very long time with a tree. I think of trees like monks. Most people come into places and run in quickly and loudly and take off. They never take the time to quietly observe the life that is buzzing around and take in the fullness of the woods. I feel that I am very much in someone else’s home right now. And I am just starting to understand how this works.
Can you give me an idea of your day-to-day routine up here?
I wake up with the sunrise. I lay in bed for an hour then I get up, and it takes another hour to put my sleeping bag away and change my clothes and navigate the pee bucket, tidy everything up and get the haul line ready. Then I eat a well-rounded breakfast of trail mix. I read erotic novels about shape-shifting leopards. Then other stuff happens.
What is this “pee-bucket”?
Oh man, what a contentious issue. After many heated debates about which method to use we have managed to agree to the funnel and plastic jug system. Big note to aspiring tree-sitters: don’t ever take your harness off when you have to pee. Maybe that’s obvious, but it wasn’t to me when I first got into forest defense.
Why must one pee in a jug and not off the platform?
For one, it will destroy vegetation, and it is bad for the tree. I like to count myself among the people who don’t like to live in an area that smells like pee. Call me a square, but I am not down with hanging my butt off the platform.
So, if you pee in a jug, what is the poo situation?
You know, I am glad you asked, because a lot of people seem to be very concerned with this issue. In general when you are in the woods, you’ve got to really unlearn everything you’ve ever known about doing your business. Up here, we just have a different kind of latrine going on. You think it is a bucket of poop, but really it is a bucket of poop and dirt and woodchips. Think of it like a weird litter box.
I am actually kind of offended that with all the work we put into this tree sit the only thing the media and visitors seem to care about is the poop bucket. Entire campaigns get overshadowed by poop buckets. The world is dying and all you care about is the poop bucket. But yes, there is a poop bucket, and it does get emptied.
Fascinating, I’m glad we cleared that up. Why should people help out with this campaign?
You can read all sorts of literature for why we need these forests for our very survival, but there are some things you can understand only by coming out here and seeing it for yourself. The air quality is one thing, and the canopy is one of the most calming, beautiful, and at times, powerful, environments I have ever been in.
There is so much work to be done, both in and out of town. There is something for everyone to contribute, and definitely something for everyone to gain. Plus, everyone in CFD is really fun. Seriously, we get down.
I noticed this tree moves quite a bit in the wind. What happens for you when it is windy up here?
I have stopped noticing the wind, for the most part. I decided the first day that I was going to consider the swaying of the trees comforting.
There were some thunderstorms during the first week I was here. I thought they could either be scary or fun. So I put on my rain gear climbed out onto a branch and just watched the sky. I think it is maybe more entertaining for me because I come from a place that does not have thunderstorms.
What do you hope to see for the future of this tree village?
I want to come back here 20 years from now and still see the forest intact. I want to be able to show this place to younger generations. I don’t want it to be reduced to stories.
How do you think this campaign fits into the larger picture of the ecological destruction we see happening all over the world?
That is a big question; I try not to think about things in terms of doing as much as possible or saving the world. It’s too overwhelming. I try to focus on one thing at a time. The possibility of this place being clear-cut is already a lot to concentrate on.
In a bigger sense, the planet cannot afford any more carbon emissions from deforestation, threatened and endangered species can’t afford to lose any more habitat, and the Myrtle Creek watershed would be compromised by losing this ecosystem.
Is there anything you want to talk about or share specifically, that we haven’t covered?
I don’t appreciate how the media pits tree sitters against loggers. That really bothers me because a lot of ways we are in the same fight. I’ve seen what happens when big industries collapse. For instance, the decline of the fishing industry and small-scale farms has had negative effects on my friends and family. And I know that workers in the logging industry are suffering in similar ways. People are saying not just their job, but their culture, is being taken away from them And I know that asking people to halt logging isn’t something easy, but I really believe that the guilt should fall on the shoulders of the higher-ups who are mismanaging these places, not the loggers.
If we decimate all the resources for logging; what is the logging industry going to be in the future? We have to be realistic that there is only 5% of native forests left in t he continental U.S., and we are selling them at a fraction of what they are worth for some fast cash. It’s not a feasible, long-term solution for local communities. There are much, much more sustainable methods of logging. And big companies like Seneca and Roseburg Forest Products need to step down and let smaller businesses run these places. Is that really worth what this is going to cost future generations?