We are in drought. The California drought monitoring website, Drought.gov, lists this area as “in moderate drought”. How this is defined practically is that crop/pasture damage is possible, water shortages are developing and voluntary water restrictions are in place. Here in Hornitos/Catheys Valley, David and I always behave as if we are in drought. We conserve water daily. Sadly, this is not always enough. Yesterday, a massive limb on our good old friend blue oak tree in front of the house came crashing down. These massive trees often shed one or more limbs when they recognize there is not enough moisture to maintain their overall health. It is not a good sign.
The last time a limb came down was at the beginning of the horrible, long, five-year drought. Normally, we leave dead trees and limbs where they are for habitat. However, this being within our 100′ defensible space zone, we will need to chop it up and move the wood away.
In the last drought, we lost nearly 300 oak trees across the ranch. I have been noticing the dead trees falling apart, but did not expect the healthy trees to be losing branches. On my next venture across the ranch, I will take note if the living trees are also losing branches. I will also need to be extremely careful to avoid, as much as possible, walking under the oaks on the property. I am planning on creating brush piles with the downed branches away from the house to create habitat areas and places where plants can get a head start away from the mouths of hungry cattle. I discussed this in a previous post on this blog. To briefly reiterate, I planted an acorn under one small brush pile I created in the hope it will be protected as it sprouts a new tree.
Even though we are in a heatwave, the butterfly plants must get watered. I have been soaking them this week to ensure deep moisture content even as the above surface area dries out in this heat.
I prepared my watering system for Site 8 the night before so I could just “get going” as soon as I arose. I decided to use the cart with the new water bladder to prevent any chance of the truck heating and starting a grass fire. This meant I had to walk the entire way to Site 8 pulling the cart. I did it once with help, but today, I had to go it alone. David was too tired to assist.
It was already quite warm when I started. There was leftover moisture in the air from the recent Pacific Ocean hurricane activity. We did not get any rain up here, but it was humid. Water weighs 8.33 lbs per gallon. I had 20 gallons in my bladder. The cart was heavy. The water, because of the soft sides of the bladder, would slosh around. The bladder has a 30 gallon capacity, which I do not need yet. Typically, I only use 8 gallons for Site 8 and the Deer Grass Site because seven of the 9 original plants were pulled up by wild pigs. Although I water them in the hope that the roots are still alive and will re-sprout, I reduced the water per plant to 1/4 gallon. The remaining two receive one full gallon. Also the deer grass across the creek receive their full water allocation as well.
I brought the 20 gallons to soak the plant area to help them survive the heatwave. I do not plan on watering mid week at the site. It is too hot and arduous. I used the dump truck feature of the cart to dispense the water from the bladder into the buckets. I then hauled the buckets to each plant to water them. I like using the buckets because I can measure how much water I am using and how much I am providing to each plant. I did not have to go as far as usual since I personally hauled the cart all the way to the site. I definitely felt like an oxen or horse!
It was beautiful early in the morning. I really wanted to get there and back before the sun came up. The heat is truly crippling. Yesterday, I had to take two breaks watering Site 9, the nectar plantings and the North Plot. I had gotten a late start, and the sun was already up. It was that debilitating.
Unfortunately, it took longer than anticipated. The cart, with its sloshing water, tipped over. I had not paid enough attention to the grade change and over it went. I had to use my brain and some brute strength to get the bladder back into the cart. Again, the bladder weighed almost 167 lbs! There was no way I could lift it. Instead, I brought the cart around to the down-slope, tipped it over again so its opening was facing the bladder, shoved the edge of the cardboard liner that I used to line the bottom of the cart under the bladder, and sloshed it over itself into the cart, then used my body and arms to tip the cart right-side up again. It worked! I continued paying closer attention. Unfortunately, on a fast downhill track, I did not quite catch it in time, and it tipped again. I would be lying to you if I said that I did not curse myself a bit for not being extra careful. The truth is, I got a little too complacent because of the heat and effort it was taking to haul the cart. I did not make that mistake again. In fact, I switched the track to blaze my own trail uphill so I was on a bit wider and more level ground (See image above. Red dots indicate tipping areas.).
On the way back, the sun was up. It was already hot. However, the wind was blowing, which cooled me some. I started at 6am and returned home by 8am. I will likely have bruises from using my body to force the cart upright, but it is well worth it. I saw a butterfly yesterday, which excited me beyond measure. It was not a monarch; it was a reminder that they are on their way though.
This is a labor of love, and I am so willing to do the work it takes to restore this habitat. That said, I will REALLY love it when my electric ATV arrives.
Everyone- stay safe out there with this heatwave. Heat is very debilitating, and it can dehydrate you fast. Make sure you:
- Drink plenty of water with electrolytes,
- Eat some salty snacks,
- Take many breaks
- Don’t work during the hottest time of day.
2 thoughts on “Heatwave + Blue Oak Limb Crashes Down”
You have been blessed with an indomitable spirit!
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Or stubbornness… hahaha
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