Mandatory Shelter in Place Drives More Opportunity

Life goes on on the ranch

Today, our governor Gavin Newsom issued an order for all Californians to shelter in place, stay home, not to be near others, to limit the transmission of covid-19 virus. Although this is disconcerting, I appreciate data-driven decision making and the leadership of our state. David and I have been sheltering in place since it was a recommendation – especially David, who has the underlying medical issue of asthma. One of the good things coming from staying at home, for me, is the increase in time I have to focus on a number of tasks. I run around quite a bit, which takes up considerable time. Staying at home is giving me more time to focus on the Monarch Project…and to clean my house…and to organize my paperwork….and to get rid of old files…and….and…

For the Monarch Project, I seeded additional salvia plants and alyssum. I learned of additional funding through the Healthy Soils Program, and have been working on a grant to expand the work I am planning to do. Again, winter does not mean a stopping of work.

Starting off on a hike to ID more milkweed locations.

The dogs and I started off on a hike to identify additional plots for milkweed and nectar plants. We are focusing on creek beds, arroyos and drainages because of their more lengthy moisture content after the rest of the ground is dry. Hornitos/Catheys Valley is dry country in the summer. With climate change, I anticipate hotter and lengthier dry months. Choosing the drainages will keep moisture available to the plants longer allowing for their survival and, hopefully, aligning with the timing of the Monarch migration. This is the theory. As part of my project, I will be keeping a close eye on health of the plants to learn what they like best.

The lower part of the spring-fed creek where it gets shallow.
Lower part of the spring-fed creek with standing water.

The newest grant project I am writing, will expand monarch plantings further down and up the creek from the spring site. When appropriate, we will choose the north facing or east facing side of the drainage, again, to limit the exposure to the heat so moisture is retained longer.

The south side of the ranch property.

One area I have not explored as much for planting is the south side of the ranch property boundary. As seen in the photo above, there is a shallow drainage that stays green and moist longer into the summer. Where it flattens out, by the pasture fence, could be a good growing site. It is not my first choice because of its shallowness (think: longer exposure to the heat), but it could be manageable due to the moisture level. I will watch this site more closely this year.

This weekend, I will start more seeds for other nectar plants. Fortunately, there are a proliferation of wildflowers due to the series of small storms (and one larger one) we received over the last week. We are up to nearly 11 inches now for the winter. There are still more possibilities for storms through April -a and we will need them. Technically, California is in a moderate drought in my location. It is not getting much news due to the virus, but it can be devastating in its own way. The State reports also show that our snow pack is only at an average of 47%. Not good news for water thirsty California. David and I already began conservation measures back in February when we did not have rain for several weeks. Although we always practice conservation of water, we are adding additional practices to further save this precious resource. If you want to track this issue, here are the official website links: AND

Proliferation of wildflowers by the solar array.

Also thanks to the storms, we are nearly at capacity in our rain water tanks (photo below). We will need every drop if we continue at our current drought levels. So far, we have collected 7,000 gallons. We have about 500 more to go before full capacity. My system is not pretty, and I would love to have an underground cistern system, but it is functional and what I can afford. It gets the job done.

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