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The Dirt | Conservation Neighbor: Jerry Paul

By Heath Keirstead

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Jerry has created a suite of engaging materials to help curious gardeners understand the ins and outs of mason bee husbandry.

 For many, spending summers in the mountains with bachelor uncles, and without running water or electricity, may lead to a lifelong avoidance of physical labor. But Jerry Paul embraced the skills and craftsmanship necessary for the homesteading lifestyle and cultivated an appreciation of “old stuff” and respect for “people who get it right” that has influenced the direction of his personal and professional life. His conservation ethic guided him through a career as an urban planner – working to stop the development of open space – and sparked his passion for animals, both wild and domestic.

In the midst of the “back to nature” movement, Jerry and his wife Judith built a log home on their cattle ranch in Salinas Valley. With a big swale and majestic California live oaks, Jerry was inspired to manage the land for wildlife. To get started, he took a class from Bert Wilson, owner of the Las Pilitas native plant nursery. Bert introduced Jerry to the concept of native plant communities, and Jerry has been gardening with natives ever since. Native plants brought the Pauls to Benton SWCD after they moved to Corvallis in 2006. By 2012, Jerry had revolutionized the order fulfillment process at the Native Plant Sale.

He became a Board Director in 2013 and has been our “tinkering treasurer,” building shelves, fixing staplers and reviewing financials ever since. Jerry developed our Bee Buddies program in 2016. Mason bees are one of very few bee species that can be managed actively. Having managed cattle and honey bees in California, mason bee husbandry seemed like a natural next step. When he attended a workshop with the Linn County Master Gardeners, he realized that he hadn’t been managing his bees properly. He took their call to action to heart, and has been working with BSWCD to help other well-intentioned bee enthusiasts take better care of their bees ever since.