No Pause for Winter – Still Working

Morning Frost by the Cactus

This morning, we had our first frost of the season. It was so cold that I dusted off my real winter jacket to work outside. I know 30 degrees seems balmy to people who live outside California – but hey, cut us some slack. We are used to sunshine. I did my graduate studies in Wyoming, so I do know cold (which is why I have the massive jacket). Today, I am grateful for that jacket and for the warmer temperatures (relatively speaking) where I live.

Intact Basket

We have had 5.15 inches of rain since it started raining late in the season on November 26, 2019. The ground is nice and soft. I took the opportunity to dig out on of the baskets where a milkweed was replaced by a big hole in the middle. I wanted to see how the gopher had intruded. After digging the basket out, I saw that the bottom and sides were still intact.

A couple weeks ago, I had biologists at the ranch from NRCS and Xerces Society to evaluate some projects I am hoping to implement and/or participate in, including this Monarch Project. One said he would not be surprised if the baskets were intact when I dug them out. He said the holes were big enough that a gopher could get through. He also said they could climb over the height of the basket I allowed to be above ground. This, along with the evidence provided by the intact basket, reinforced that we will be using metal mesh next year.

I did speak with the biologists about an idea I had to plant milkweeds along the wet area of the arroyo near the house. Ron had thought the most of the milkweeds would not like it since they generally like drier conditions. They certainly did well on the hill near the house. However, the biologists said that they see milkweeds along creeks, and recommended I try it planting the Mariposa species along the banks. I will do this. I did not see any gopher mounds near the arroyo. The biologists pointed out that gophers do not like moisture.

Poor Girls Rainwater Capture

Speaking of moisture, right now is prime time to capture rainwater. This is what I use to irrigate my plants through the end of the growing season, water the dogs and make available for wildlife. I also use it to flush my toilets. The water is good enough to drink as well, with some filtering and boiling. Although I have dreams of the type of rainwater system I would love to design and build, that takes capital. I am not wealthy – so I stick with what I call my “poor girl’s” rainwater system. It isn’t pretty, but it is effective. With my husband, we designed a direct capture system that goes from the downspouts to poly tanks. We started off with just over 500 gallons of capture in 2003, and have grown it to 7550 gallons. I don’t mind hauling water. It gets me out from behind my computer and is good for my body. Also, the dogs and plants seem to prefer it to the well water.

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