I love working with people who have passion and care about issues larger than themselves. It feels comfortable to be among those that respect and love this place and are willing to get dirty to make things better. This Pollinator Team began work in September, educating themselves, prepping the ground of the Healing Center, and then jumping into planting the Xerces kits. They have been workers! Nellie created materials for outreach with input from the Team, and Kristie has been busy designing the project. They are almost ready to launch their outreach program. I am so excited.
In December, the Team planted the last of the Xerces Kits. We all enjoyed being on Maggie’s property and appreciated the refreshments she provided. Maggie had a lot of existing habitat – both milkweed and nectar plants. Her property is part of the pollinator corridor I am hoping to create to give the monarchs relatively close sections of food and milkweed patches through the foothills rangeland on their way to the more well-stocked wilderness areas of Yosemite, and the national forests. Thank you Maggie for being a part of the solution!
Interest in the Work
The Pollinator Team is not just working on Walappu’ ‘Uuchuthuu projects, they are building a food garden for the Tribe and helping install a native plant garden at the Mariposa History Museum. Nellie made it on the front page of our local paper, the Mariposa Gazette, doing this work. We were all so proud.
The Pollinator Team was also interviewed by Trudy Williams, of KRYZ Radio in Mariposa County, for her fascinating Inquiring Minds show. The team did an excellent job representing their perspectives on the work we are doing. I was interviewed as well and was honored to be included in helping deliver the message about the critical condition pollinators are in and what can be done to support their survival. We do not have airing information. If interested in listening to this program, please watch our Facebook page. I will post the information once I receive it.
The work of the Walappu’ ‘Uuchuthuu Pollinator Team is also being featured in a presentation at the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) annual conference. Melinda Barrett, Executive Director of the Mariposa Resource Conservation District (RCD) was asked to present on the status of this project. Recall, Walappu’ ‘Uuchuthuu is in part funded by a grant from the CARCD written by Melinda and myself. Melinda will co-present with Tara Fouch-Moore, Board Secretary of the American Indian Council of Mariposa County (AICMC). We contracted with AICMC to provide the Technical Assistance work funded by the CARCD grant. Tara is a UC Master Gardener and functions as the Mentor for the Garden portion of the project. The CARCD is interested in showcasing RCDs partnering with Tribes, and I think attendees to this session will be pleased with Melinda and Tara’s breadth of knowledge in this area.
For the presentation, I included brief videos of the Team within the presentation. It was essential to include their voices. Nellie and Kristie have important things to say as Indigenous women working to heal the land. Their strong foundational values of relation to living things led them to apply, and keep them moving forward. I was so moved by their comments. I felt it critical to also include the voice of our other team member, Deedee Soto, the biologist with the Xerces Society with whom we work closely. It is so important to communicate to RCDs the crucial role other nonprofits play in working in under-resourced communities in terms of building trust and providing leverage for limited funds. Deedee has an absolutely remarkable understanding of how to be effective in communities and what it takes to make things work to seed, grow and sustain programming that will help achieve the overall organizational mission of stakeholders. I want to be very clear that I do not provide these accolades about the Team frivolously. I have been in the workforce a very long time from entry-level to director level. I have high standards, and am overjoyed when I see this level of quality in terms of understanding, motivation and commitment.
Outreach and Intakes/Assessments
It is fun to get our hands dirty and put plants in the ground, but it is also extremely rewarding to help others get involved in supporting the monarch butterflies and other pollinators. In this part of the work, we go out to the land of interested people and help them find a location that can help their pollinator plants, milkweed in particular, be most successful in establishing. Through the work of the Team, we now have a suite of materials to use in the field.
Nellie and Kristie are already taking the initiative in outreaching to schools and other organizations that might be a good fit to install habitat. They are creating experiences that will help to educate and expand habitat throughout this area.
The Team would like to thank the following land stewards for their interest in being a part of this project: Valerie, Josh and Santiago. Thank you again to these land stewards for their early participation: Waylon (Miwuk/Paiute), Irene (Miwuk/Paiute/Yaqui), Maggie, Fred, Caroline, and Carolin. Thank you for caring about these important relatives, without which, humans cannot survive. You are appreciated!!
Walappu’ Spotlight – Irene Vasquez
Sometimes in life you have the good fortune to cross paths with a truly exceptional person. I have had that good fortune many times in my life, one of which was a couple years after moving to Mariposa County. I met a young, vivacious, compassionate and intelligent young Indigenous woman, Irene Vasquez (Miwuk/Paiute/Yaqui). Irene is full of life, joy and love for all living things. She is empathic and cares deeply for her Tribal community. She volunteered to serve on the Council Board as Board Treasurer, a very difficult position. For work, she serves as the lead on an Indigenous forestry crew performing land restoration work in the National Park and forests that are on her traditional and contemporary Tribal lands. She was also involved in helping save the iconic sequoias from wildfire decimation this year in the Southern Sierras. I say this with complete seriousness – Irene is the kind of person that you like instantly and want to work with on -well – anything. Truthfully, if you don’t like Irene, I would recommend deep self-reflection and professional counseling! This is how amazing she is to me (and so many others I encounter) – and it is not just because she also went to my alma mater, Humboldt State, for her masters degree.
Although her work includes grueling physical labor, Irene again stepped up to serve. This year, Irene applied for and received a Grassland Kit from Xerces. When we discussed her participating in the Xerces Kits earlier this year, I thought she was going to apply for 5 or more hedgerow kits. Those included 17+ plants each for a total of 85 plants. Certainly, 85 plants takes considerable effort to plant. No – Irene chose the Grassland Kit, which included 1,500 plants and seeds! Remember, the site has to be prepared, which can take significant effort if invasive plants need to be removed. I considered that kit and decided – “no way!”. Besides the fact that I did not have the water infrastructure to establish the plants in the area that made sense to plant them, I did not have the energy to do such significant work. Thank goodness for people like Irene with the energy, vision, know-how and can-do! Because of people like her, the Pollinator Team and the people that step-up to install new habitat, we can and are making a difference for pollinators.
Irene is one of my local heroes, and this is just one of the many reasons. See the gallery below for her work on her parcel.
Odds and Ends
We are getting significant rain (and even a dusting of snow!) for which I am extremely grateful. Sadly, the professional rainwater system install was not completed prior to the storm for a variety of reasons and some of the parts had failures that prevented my two main tanks from filling and the rain-garden overflows from doing their job. David and I problem solved a short term hack to keep the first flush lines closed so that water would move to the tanks. Hopefully, that will work, and the tanks will fill. I am desperate to capitalize on the storm, and fill the tanks for use during the dry months. I never take water for granted. I have lived through some of the worst droughts and know that another storm is not guaranteed. So – I am very sensitive on this issue. Last year, a tank pipe seal failed, which led to the loss of 80% of the water I stored from the prior rain year. It broke my heart and led to my decision to invest in having professionals install a “real” system, which is massively expensive for me. For this reason, having the professional system not ready or working right away is disappointing. Of everything I do on the ranch, water capture is the item I care most about. Without water, much of the work I do is not possible.
Fortunately, the swales are working to slow the run off water in the arroyos and creeks. The soil is getting a much needed dowsing and most of the plants look super healthy from the rain. I am extremely grateful.
Finally, I want to share that I worked with a graphic designer to create a logo for this effort. It is needed to: 1) easily identify workers in the field, 2) provide a way to identify Team members when they go on site, 3) have a nice design for Team shirts as an incentive for their hard work, and 4) convey the importance in an image of this work and Indigenous visibility. The supplies line item of the CARCD grant has been fully expended, so I am personally paying for this. I think it is important that the Team be recognizable. The shirts for the Team will be 100% organic cotton because we have to walk the talk. How we live and what we purchase need to encourage production of goods and services in the least harmful ways. It is more expensive to do it this way, but it is crucial.
We are nearing the original end of the grant term. Funds are running low and/or are already obligated. This has been a stunning success. Many more people have joined the effort, which leads to more habitat being installed. Over 1000 habitat plants have been planted, and this effort has expanded well beyond the borders of my ranch. The CARCD, Mariposa RCD and other stakeholders can be proud. These grant funds have been well utilized with outsized leverage of in-kind time, nonprofit partner expertise, and significant leverage of other funding. I thank the CARCD and Mariposa RCD for supporting this work. It has been exciting and rewarding. Capacity has been built with young Indigenous women who will carry this expanded work forward. In partnership with others, I will be looking for more grants to continue this work. We need to help these women build the program further, in ways they dream of, and they will lead this effort to even bigger outcomes. Chiokoe uttesia eme’e into chiokoe uttesia baise’ebolim into hume muumum te enchi nachi (Thank you everyone and thank you for your care of butterflies and the bees).