Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Love Letter to my life #29: The Granary Tree

by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)   
A project called me to move to the Cuyamaca Mountains in east San Diego County ... a vague, blobby kind of idea about creating something around wildflowers and nature, focused on California, all of California, all 800 miles north to south and 400 miles east to west. 
As I went about learning how to live in an RV and began exploring the land around me, I cycled through a lot of project possibilities. Most lasted no more than a day or two.

The work I did about this time last year … which at the time I called my 5-Year Plan (because the idea of a 74 year-old woman making a 5-year plan tickled me) … clarified my intention to live the rest of my life in Delight. Out of that thinking, came four action words that I wanted to be the bedrock of all my doings: Learn - Create - Connect - Share. They became the criteria for all project possibilities, with the overarching mission being to create delight for myself and others. Most projects quietly went away under that spotlight. 

I was beginning to wonder if any project would survive that scrutiny when a new book showed up on my Kindle. Since I'm living in the midst of an oak forest, it startled me with a sense that it was written just for me. The first chapter focused on acorns and woodpeckers. Shortly thereafter, I knew I had found my project.

The story that began to haunt me was about granary trees. Oaks are keystone plants supporting a diverse habitat by producing an abundance of acorns that feed the neighborhood. One of the main inhabitants of oak woodlands are woodpeckers whose main diet is acorns. To store their precious food supply, they create communal store houses … granary trees. These trees may hold 50,000 acorns and take eight years to drill the holes and store the acorns.

Woodpeckers don’t “own” their store houses. Other woodpeckers eat freely from them, and, because the acorns shrink as they dry, squirrels, blue jays and other forest dwellers help themselves to the bounty. However, to outwit the thieves, woodpeckers move as many as five hundred acorns every week!
Soon after I arrived, I started walking through the woods in the surrounding woodland and thought “wouldn’t it be nice if I could actually see a granary tree?”

I practically ran into it … a huge Ponderosa pine. Within a couple of weeks I had found three inside the park where I live and a few outside the park. I can touch the acorns packed into the holes: some are loose enough to pull out with my fingers; some so tight I would need pliers to remove them.

Granary trees are a wonder as baffling to me as the great pyramids. They are unique in the animal world and require an enormous amount of work … drilling the holes, gathering the acorns one acorn at a time from surrounding trees, and then pounding them into the holes. And they are made by generous beings who share the bounty with the neighborhood.
Detail of one of the granary trees.

What’s coming? … The Granary Tree ... on November 30, 2020, under the full Acorn Moon.

Here's a description of the new project ... a periodic, online “magazine” (or as they are sometimes called “flip books”), filled with acorns (or wonders) about what I learn and whatever captures my attention, focusing on beauty and nature, art and generosity, wandering and wondering along the way.
To be sure to receive your copy, simply add your email address in the Follow by Email box on the right side of this post and press submit.


  1. You always amaze me with your thoughts and ideas.

  2. What a sweet idea. I didn't know about granary trees. Love it!!

  3. I didn't know about the granary trees and we had at least one on our little forest outside of Mariposa. Love this!