Wildfire, Drought…and Locust?

Sunrise with the smoke

With the smoke being least horrible in the mid-morning and the temperatures down due to smoke coverage, I was able to start out later than usual for my weekend watering. The bladder being bunglesome and the old barrel requiring much effort, I needed a new method to transport the rainwater when using the truck. I decided to fill an old, large cooler and use it as the transport vessel. It is lower slung, easy to move around, and does not require my tailgate to be down (less scraping). It also has a spigot I can use if needed.

Using a cooler to transport water to Site 8 and the deer grass site

The unit only holds about 16 gallons. This won’t be enough as I expand my plantings on the spring creek. I will figure out something new when we get to that point. For now, this worked beautifully. I was able to scoop the water easily into the buckets then haul them to the two sites.

This is much effort in the smoke, which continued to hold steady at unhealthy levels. Fortunately, I have N95 masks, and it worked very well for me to keep my lungs and brain safe. There are several data tools I use to check air quality and smoke drift. One is the Purple Air network. Several years ago, I installed a Purple Air air quality monitoring unit at the house. It helps my husband and I make decisions about our activities during bad air times.

Almost the entire west has horrible air. A screenshot of Central California

The above image shows the how awful it was today…and this is actually an improvement from yesterday. For your reference, I marked my site. Regardless of the air quality, the plants need the water. I have a commitment to them – so I must work outdoors.

Water Update

Tank 3 on the south side of the house is now empty. Just under 5,000 gallons remain in tanks 1 and 2 with just one and a half months to the start of the rainy season (October 1 – hopefully). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is observing trends in the data that suggest we may have a La Niña year, which means drier conditions for us. I will continue to conserve, as always. With Tank 3 empty, I now need to transport water from Tank 1 uphill to Site 9, the nectar plants and the old South Plot.

Filling the trough next to Tank 3

For this, I did use the bladder and cart. I filled the bladder, then hauled it uphill, tipped the cart and let the water flow. It is not as easy as it appears in the photo. The bladder moves constantly. You cannot leave it alone in the cart to fill the trough. It will rollover on itself and fall into the trough or on the ground. It has to be held in place most of the time during the transfer. It is an exercise in patience, and I am looking at this as an opportunity to rest, meditate, and/or send out loving thoughts. I am going to need to figure out a better way to be more efficient. Especially during this time when the smoke is so bad, despite wearing a mask, I still want to limit my exposure outdoors. You may wonder why I am filling a trough. It is for ease of dipping my buckets and watering can. I can move faster that way.


Drought.gov drought monitoring map. The redder the color, the worst the conditions

Another reason I use a trough is to share with my animal and insect relations. While watering the spring creek today, I noticed that the new little pond that developed on its own is now dry. The spring is still trickling, wetting the rocks, but it is not flowing sufficiently to replenish areas of standing water. With us being in moderate drought (see image above), little standing water on this side of the ranch, and especially with the thick smoke drying out the membranes of all living things, I needed to ensure there was some water available to other creatures.

Trough near the North Plot

In addition to the trough near Tank 3, I placed another trough further away from my house near the old North Plot, downhill from Tanks 1 and 2. Note that I placed a rock (in the foreground) and a piece of coated mesh (in the far end of the trough). These items are available to help animals that get caught in the trough to escape. Remember, troughs have only steep edges. They are not graduated like a pond. If a bat or rodent slips in while trying to drink from the edge, I am hoping they can find an escape route using one of these tools. It is not only humane, but it helps maintain water quality. With the drought, I don’t have any water to waste. I don’t want to have to throw out water that has been contaminated by a dead creature.


If wildfires, thick smoke, drought, hurricanes, derechos, tornadoes, covid, civil unrest, fascism in our homeland, and murder hornets were not enough, I added locust to the list today. I found three large “grasshoppers” on the plants. <<Sigh>> All of this is so much, but I take comfort knowing that the earth will survive. Even if I am not able to provide all the things the monarchs need this year, though I will be deeply sad, I will keep trying.

Personal Thoughts

Old oak that lost her branch the other day

Change is inevitable. I don’t want some things to change, like the majestic oak trees that dot the landscape. They are dying. Other things I do want to change – like having a decrease in the number of grasshoppers that visit. To the untrained senses, it may seem like this is the end of the world. One thing after another continues to occur with significant natural devastation and human suffering. Indigenous elders, like some of my elder friends here in Mariposa, tell us that these actions are Mother Earth healing herself. Put into more dominant culture terms, we’ve reached a tipping point in response to our excess and greed. A person cannot continue pooping in their kitchen without some consequences – like illness. The fact that the planet is attempting to balance, create harmony, may not be a comfort to many as the level of suffering continues to mount across the world and the burden of that suffering disproportionately falls on the poor who are often people of color, pushed to the margins, especially indigenous people.

We each have a responsibility to live with respect for all living things. Our needs do not always supersede the needs of other living things. The questions I always have are – Will people listen? Will people learn?

On an indigenous women’s conference this Sunday, I listened to and learned from a Native elder, Abuelita Amalia. She said (and I paraphrase):

I love myself. I take care of myself. I respect myself. If you love yourself, you will love everything. If you take care of yourself, you will take care of everything. If you respect yourself, you will respect everything. We are plugging Mother Earth’s veins with plastic, bottles and trash. Animals are dying too. Stop consuming the things that hurt us. Love yourself. Take care of yourself. Respect yourself.

Abuelita Amalia

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