Shifting Water Source Plans

Heather, with fur friends, hauls water from the rainwater barrel in the truck to Site 8 and the deer grass site.

Last week was the final day I pulled water from the spring along the creek. It was running very lightly, and I knew I would need to pivot to Plan B for water sourcing. I have been checking on the plants in Site 8 since the pig attack and was visually monitoring the water flow. The flow has stopped. The small pond has algae on its surface now (see photo below) – a sign of low water movement.

Little pond on the Spring Creek now has algae growth on the surface

Sunday is my day to water the Spring Creek plants – Site 8 and the deer grass hillside. This takes approximately 13 gallons of water (1 gallon per plant per week x 13 plants). After the pig attack and with the heat wave this past week, I have hiked to the creek several times to check on the plants. Recall, I attempted to replant those that were rooted out since they were still intact in their baskets. Everything is still in place, but the above ground portion of the plants are all withered and dead (see photo below). What I am hoping to see is new growth from the root balls in a few weeks. I am hoping that the roots were not so disturbed that they died too. Roots can still be alive even when the above ground material is dead. This happened with the test plots last year. As you know from reading this blog, several plants came back this year even though I thought the gophers killed them. So…I continue to water the plants that appear dead.

One of the showy milkweed that was pulled out by the wild pigs and replanted

When conceiving this project, the plan was to use spring and swale pond water through June to water the Spring Creek sites, and then just the spring water through the summer. The last several years, the spring has run all year. With the overall lack of soil moisture, indicating insufficient amounts of precipitation, the spring has run dry. Although there is still a significant amount of water in the small pond, much insect, bird and other wildlife will be depending on that. Their lives are as important as my plants. I will not touch it. We all live in a system that depends upon one another. How selfish it would be for me to think my needs and the monarch needs are more important than everything else. It would also be foolish since we need one another to optimally function and thrive. Fortunately, I had a Plan B prepared – transport rainwater from the house and then haul it by hand to the sites. This is a lot more work.

Millie with mud and algae on her face from the Spring Creek

Instead of spending money on a potable water bladder for the truck, I decided to use an old rainwater barrel, for now, strapped into the back of the truck to transport the water.

Water barrel in the truck bed with buckets for dipping and hauling

I drove the truck to a position lower than the rainwater tanks. This is important. You need to have head pressure for the hose to convey the water from the tank. It has to go back up from the ground into the truck and barrel. To get the water into the barrel, the water level of the tank needs to be higher than the highest level where the hose will enter the barrel. Since I do not have a pump to force the water with pressure into the barrel, I need to use a gravity fed method of conveyance.

Using the truck to transport the water may not be reliable throughout the summer. Here in the Sierras – really anywhere – we need to be mindful of wildfire danger. Any hot piece of a vehicle can ignite dry grass. Timing, wind, and length of grass all need to be considered when driving the truck off road on the ranch. In this instance, we carefully evaluated the height of the grass, height of rocks in the arroyo where we would need to cross and weather. We’ve had very cool nights recently. I prepped the vehicle the day before, and David (my helper and husband) drove with me early in the morning when the air and soil were still cool, and there was no wind, as close as possible to Site 8. I looked closely for any sign of ignition as David drove. We brought an extra bucket for soaking any potential hot spot. We were also mindful of where existing tracks were. You don’t want to compact the soil and damage the grass. Besides, if there is already a track where the ground is adulterated, use it. It is the same concept as in the National and State Parks when signs and rangers tell you to “stay on the trail”. In doing this, we contain the damage to a limited amount of space, which allows all of us, including our plant and animal relations, to live healthfully.

The truck parked along side of the now dry Swale Pond with buckets filled and ready to go.

Once we drove as close as possible, I hopped into the back of the truck, dipped the buckets into the barrel and David and I took the trail to Site 8, then to the deer grass site, with our buckets laden with water. The distance is twice as long than it is from the spring (small pond) to the sites. It took three trips overall to water all the plants. Fun fact: The weight of water is 8.34 pounds (3.785 kilograms). Yes! You guessed it; my upper body strength is increasing! Try crossing the creek with two buckets of water, balancing on the rocks. It is a labor of love, and I am honored to do this work.

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