The smoke has officially made me depressed. Especially when the air quality reading is above 150, which it has been more often than not, I am not able to spend much time outside. I breathe shallow, and I have to work slower. This is excruciating for me and decreasing oxygen to my body. Although it was not planned, I had ordered an electric ATV back in July to replace using the big truck and decrease the fire danger when transporting water to the Spring Creek sites. I did not know that this purchase would be crucial for my productivity in the smokey horror day after day (dramatic flourish intended). With the eATV, I am able to haul more water up the hill to the other plantings and more quickly. I also have the ability to strap on a smaller tank to water the more distant Sites 7 and 8. The plants need water, regardless of environmental conditions. I just have to be safe, use a mask, try to slow down and not stay outside as long as is typical. I live in service to the a’wuu’atee (butterfly food) in the deepest hope that next year the butterflies will come.
Speaking of A’wuu’atee – Blooms
As mentioned in other posts, it is essential to stagger the bloom times of plants so that there is a continuous supply of nectar. We have a huge group of mid to late and late bloomers providing ample, scrumptious choices. The California fuchsia, butterfly bush, and primrose are still going having started their blooms in August. The aster, sunflower and marigolds are opening fully just this month. Many of my herbs are in bloom as well (stevia and rosemary are pictured). If the smoke lifts, we may get some non-monarch visitors before the blooms are whithered. As I relayed in my last post, during the two days the smoke completely lifted, I saw two types of butterflies, more bees and other pollinating flies. It was incredible. A storm is due in this weekend, which I hope will be big enough to clear the smoke out.
The Cows are Back
You may have been waiting with tremendous anticipation from my post a couple weeks ago wondering if the cattle broke through the fortifications or if they held…after all that work. Well…I will end your suspense. The barbed wire structures held, the branch fence failed in one location opening up the entire section of creek to grazing.
I have four to six Xerces butterfly plant kits as part of a grant project arriving in November. Most will be planted on the top of the hill, but two to four kits are meant for the creek. I still need to think through how to protect them. There is only so much more time in the growing season, and I am trying to avoid the expense of professionals installing an electric fence until next year. In my grazing plan, the fence comes down after growing season since there are no sprouted plants on which the cows will want to browse. More on this in November. We may make more small fortifications around the monarch “islands” we intend to plant.
Other Items of Note
The smoke continues to vex me, but I have carried on with the work and making adaptations as needed.
To increase efficiency, I no longer push and squeeze on the bladder. I connected a short hose to it and let it gravity feed as I scoop water into my buckets and water the plants. This has worked well. I’ve begun to fill the bladder to full capacity so that I can have two trough fulls of water per each trip. This enables me to have a full trough waiting for me the next day and not have to spend as much time outdoors in the smoke.
Most of the deergrass plantings have done remarkably well. Many now have new shoots and blades with seed. I am so excited to see if I will have more painted lady butterflies next year with these healthy additions. There are fifteen planted. Two I planted really late and were root-bound. One has some new sprouts; the other still has no signs of growth. If I only lose one, that will be a victory. I continue to water it hoping that the roots are still alive.
The gophers have eliminated all milkweed that resprouted from the original test plots except two small runners. They will likely fall victim before the end of the growing season. Some creature continues to snip marigold plantings. Fortunately, that has slowed, and I have been able to keep other parts of those two marigolds alive to replace the larger, main structure. We will see if they survive through the growing season.
We are in a maintenance and planning phase – so not as much to do. In November, we will be digging holes again for the Xerces plant kits and possibly working on some temporary fencing to protect the riparian pants. There have been only two “helpful” things about the smoke. Its thickness has decreased overall temperatures from the predicted 100s to the low to mid 90s, and the particulates make for stunning sunset colors. However, I would giddily trade both in less than a second for clean air.