Will They or Won’t They -Stay Tuned…

Sunset through the smoke and leftover moisture from the Pacific last week.

No, this is not a sitcom complete with the formulaic “Will they or won’t they get together” question, but it does sometimes feel like one. It is now September, and the monarchs are for certain on their way back to the coast from places up north. I look everyday asking, “Will they stop by?”

Several of the plants are in bloom, but most look a bit rough. I don’t think the smoke is helping their growth or health. One native yarrow plant is in bloom. The primrose keeps budding, but the blooms look tattered by the end of the day. I discovered two volunteer romneya (maybe) that have buds on them in addition to the one I planted. The California fuchsia has a few remaining blooms and some of the narrowleaf milkweed still have their blooms. All others are still growing with no sign of blooming.

Fortunately, I am getting some help from the Mother Earth. Tarweed and doveweed are in bloom all over the place. In the spring creek, a number of flowers are still blooming as well. Maybe we have enough to support a few monarchs.

At the spring creek, there was plenty of tarweed and doveweed. There were also other flowers for which I do not know the names. I found another volunteer romneya (maybe). The deer grass is doing well. The remaining milkweeds are too. In total, there are sixty one plants I planted that survived.

The spring is still flowing at a trickle. There is a little puddle in the crease of the rock. It is giving life to all the plants below and so many insects and animals. I saw a wood rat (or some other rodent) scurry under the thick spent purple thistle stalks toward the puddle. The bees were everywhere picking up water and nectar.

Other Updates


You may recall I had much trouble this year starting the marigolds from seed in pots. I sewed them directly into this old pot outside, and they did really well. I thinned them as they got larger, and transplanted them to areas throughout the yard.

I think I will sew directly into the ground next year too. I did this in other areas, and the seedlings are doing well.

Side-of-the-Road Sunflowers

The side-of-the-road sunflower seed heads I planted back in June sprouted, but never got very big. I finally gave up growing them further in the pot and transplanted the three that were successful. They are now near the South Plot milkweeds.

I also noted that one of the transplanted marigolds was getting blown around too much by the wind. I created a rock shelter to give it some space and time to grow larger and stronger. The rock shelter is definitely helping slow the wind.

Marigold seedling with rock windbreak

This will also help the soil retain moisture instead of getting dried out from the wind. The rock structure is already encouraging a lizard to make its home there. The mesh baskets are working out really well. I have seen several plant “saves” where a round hole is abutted to the basket. Thank you to the inventor.

Large gopher hole adjacent to the coyote mint

The deer grass is very healthy at Site 7 (the deer grass site) as are most of the plantings near the house. I am hoping that some painted lady butterflies decide to make their homes on these plants. I am also hoping that the reeds will be used for baskets once the plants establish more. They need us to take from them so they can renew. Humans are part of the ecosystem and have co-adapted with plant and animal relations since the beginning. Our challenge as humans is not to take more than we need and endanger the live of the plant or other animals that need it.

Healthy deer grass at the deer grass site

Planning for the Future

Acorns are falling!

With maintenance and adaptive management on cruise control, I turned my thoughts to the next steps. I scouted up the spring creek and decided to plant the next site there. With COVID, we will not be able to host the elementary school children to help plant this Fall. So, I decided to save the easier access locations in the arroyo for the children next Spring. I will focus on the more difficult to reach sites this Fall. The site in the images below is Site 6. It is very special because there is a grinding rock.

I was fortunate to be included in a grant written by the Resource Conservation District (RCD) to the Xerces Society for several milkweed plant kits. They will be available for pick up between October and December. Melinda, from the RCD, recommended that we pick them up around the time the rain starts. We will need to get them in the ground fast, and I have a number of places identified. More on that in a future post.

The smoke is still with us – waxing and waning. We are in fire season, which gets worse each year. It has let up considerably the last four days, but today it is worse. I am taking care of myself when I go outside to do chores. I transport and haul water, plant seedlings, water plants, build what is needed – but all with a mask. Smoke is very unhealthy. I don’t let my dogs stay outside long. I use the Purple Air system to monitor air quality. I also use airnow.gov to monitor smoke flows. Finally, I also follow the progress of the fires and firefighters at the Cal Fire incident map page. Please use these resources too so that you can determine whether to perform activities and the risk. I am so grateful to all the firefighters, their families and all those in support/management positions for the work they do to keep our communities safe. There is so much challenging us right now. To everyone, please take good care – – and let’s hope I have some photos of monarchs to share in the weeks to com. Will they stop by?

Me after watering Sites 8 and 7 (deer grass site) this week

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