Xerces Kits 100% Planted – Major Muscles Mandatory

David uses brute strength to haul out a 15′ downed oak limb

There are many ways for a spouse to say “I love you” – jewelry, taking out the garbage, cleaning up dog poops, watching a sappy period piece together, getting up in the middle of the night to feed a crying baby. But, for me, nothing says “I love you” more than hauling massive oak limbs to build a fence for your wife’s butterfly habitat.

I am a pretty strong women. I grew up in the mountains shoveling snow off my family’s steep driveway. I chopped wood, stacked it and hauled it inside. I lit fires, swam across lakes and held the family record for putting snow chains on our car tires. There are limits however, and I reached mine this weekend. No matter how I tried, how much I tried to use my brain to think of solutions, I could not haul the large branches I needed to make a branch fence for the newly planted butterfly plants. I needed help – in particular – my husband’s man strength.

I’ve been delaying planting the spring creek for a while due to fencing concerns and then the cow carcass. However, it was finally time to get the last 23 riparian plants into the ground – no excuses. After spending the morning digging holes and planting 18 of the 23, then hauling as much downed wood as I could around the planting site, I reached a stopping point. I dragged myself back to the house, mud in my hair, dirt on my face, a scratch on my leg, and soil coming out of my pockets. My strategy was simple – flattery. I found my husband on a ladder painting the garage. He took one look at me and just shook his head. I said, “I sure could use your super strong muscles. The plants need protection, and I just cannot make it happen. The logs are too heavy, but not too heavy for you [Eyelash flutter].” My husband, who has his own projects and largely leaves me to manage things on my own, recognized my desperation….and….maybe he was motivated somewhat by the chance to show off. He said he would help.

The next two hours were spent hauling downed branches, sawing off dead limbs and shaking limbs off trees – then, as gently as possible, placing them on top of other base branches to form a fence around the planting area. David was magnificent. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t swoon a little. It is just something innate [eyelash flutter].

On Sunday, we needed to finish the spring creek barrier. Fortunately, the plants I installed survived overnight despite a not complete barrier. One of the currants was chewed on a little by some other creature though. David pulled more large logs; I pulled small ones. Together, we completed the barrier. I also called my neighbor to ask for his help. Up stream at Site 7, he had built the only branch fence that kept the cattle out. I needed his assessment on the quality of our work. He gave us an A+.

Spring creek Xerces plot X2 branch fence

After the good grade, I released David back to his projects at the house. Ric, our neighbor, and I went to Odom Creek to plant and protect the last five plants. As I mentioned in a prior post, part of the Xerces Riparian kit contained willow trees. For those more familiar with the weeping willow tree seen generally in urban areas in California, our state has many native willow trees. They are not as water hungry as the weeping willows, which are native to the more swampy southeast of the country. However, they still like water. The ones on the ranch can be found naturally in the creek beds of the larger creek where there is sufficient water resource to sustain them. This is why I chose to take these plants from the kit and place there in another location on the ranch. A willow in the small spring-fed creek would take too much water resource I think. In time, I will plant more butterfly plants in Odom Creek. I also plan to fence it to see what recovers there.

Above is a selection of photos from the planting. In addition to four willows, I also planted one mule fat from the kit. Ric generously offered to dig the holes. (Thank you Ric!!). He also hauled branches and cut larger branches that could not be pulled down in one piece. He brought his very cool electric chainsaw to help us in the work. I chose sites, hauled branches and planted my sweet little plug friends into the ground. I hope they will enjoy a good, long life in this space.

It’s California. Plants Still Blooming!

We still have salvia, fuchsia, sunflowers, marigold, primrose, and rosemary (not pictured) blooming. Lots of colors and choices. The coyote mint has grown more. The yarrow is still green and full. The Xerces hedgerow plants appear to be doing well. I say “appear” because many have gone dormant and no longer have a presence above ground. I am still watering some plants that look like they need it since the weather has been predominantly dry. I have not seen any butterflies, but the bees and a hummingbird or two, continue to enjoy the nectar. I am really getting excited for Spring!

Our Good Friends Still Here and Helping

A blue heron at dusk in an old oak tree just down the hill from the house

In the last post, I discussed the rescue of the plants by several feathered friends. They continue to watch over the hill. Since the great horned owl, blue heron and the harrier (who has now brought a husband here too) have been around, gopher activity has come to nearly a halt. In fact, the gopher that somehow got into my raised bed, decimating the unprotected roots of the butterfly plants each day, has stopped its death march. Maybe the owl got it (I hope). We really do have several someones watching over us.

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