I almost did not use “fight” as the blog title. Like many people, I am sick of all the division – the fighting over everything – like masks, which should be basic decency and thoughtfulness. The heat has been deadly, and everything, including humans, are fighting to survive. In my nearly 20 years on this parcel of land, I have never seen this level of quiet, this few birds, insects — and no butterflies. Even ants, which are hardy and reliable visitors, have been largely missing in the house, along the patios and near the house. I know it is the heat because when the temperatures dropped back into the 90s with cooling overnight, there were more bugs, and yes, we had ants inside all of the sudden. One of the most visible shifts when the heat cools, is the presence of birds – more flitting about and singing. It was a horror, truly, to see several birds during the heat wave panting, just standing on the patio with their beaks open. The filled water troughs and consistent, albeit low volume, water production in the Spring Creek have been life savers. One of the greatest miseries over the mass of 100+ degree days was the was the 9 week absence of any butterflies. On August 31, I saw my first butterfly in those 2.25 months. The next day I saw another one, and over the weekend there was another one. There should be so many more, but I am glad to see any.
I have three narrow leaf milkweeds blooming currently. The others are a little further behind. There are milkweeds that continue to grow 2, 3 even 4 times after being eaten by gophers. They inspire me to keep working, to keep watering. The narrow leaf milkweeds seem to have the most growth potential and speed than the broad leaf milkweeds. The spring continues to fight the heat to keep water moving and pooling down the creek bed. There are somehow sunflowers, lilies, and other plants that have appeared despite the heat and lack of moisture. With all of these examples of determination from in werweriam (my relatives), I must continue to have hope and some grit to keep going. I see bird poop and feathers on and adjacent to troughs. I see tracks adjacent to and shifted boulders in the creek trough. The water is making a difference. So – I get up each morning before the sunrise to check on things and work each evening until just after sunset watering and filling troughs. David is helping me cut wood so we can create mulch for the beds. The wind has blown the grass mulch off and exposed the soil. The mulch will be help retain moisture. We have to keep going and get these plants, animals and insects through to the rainy time, which we all hope is soon.
Va’am Hiapsa (Water is Life)
Without water, nothing is possible. There are only 780 gallons left in Tank 2. This equates to approximately 23 days of water. Do I use well water until the rain comes? Do I let most of the plants try to survive on their own? Do I cull the native plants that have bloomed and are closest to their dormant period despite them being green – so that other plants can continue to live longer with regular watering? Am I too over concerned about the oaks’ and their access to ground water? Can I watch all my hard work and these plants that I love so much whither and die? As I watch my tank water level decrease every day, it reminds me that I will need to make some tough choices soon.
We are making headway here. There are plants that have established very well, lots of plants in bloom and plants that grew from naturally distributed seed. Although there has been attrition due to gophers, extreme heat and simply failure to thrive, the system is functioning. It is on a much smaller scale than I anticipated when I started, but I am seeing modest progress.
Checking-In on Friends
I went to Caroline Korn’s home to check in with her and see how the broad leaf milkweeds were doing. Caroline is one of the finest gardeners I know, and sure enough, the milkweeds were doing very well. I could not believe that she pulled out all of the runners from the plant that was in the adjacent spot. She is remarkable! Caroline realized most of her blooms were from food plants and has decided to plant more native nectar plants. We will be sure to “hook her up” with some from the Xerces Kits in November. Being near a creek and having existing habitat, she is a good candidate for the kit.
With the acorn falling, it is time to think about the waterways and preparing for rain. I am going to work on some modest log dam structures or beaver dam analogs. I still need to find a good plan for how to make them. I have the logs from the couple dangling branches I had cut, and set into the creek bed. I cleared out the smaller logs so I have room to work and can build the foundation. I don’t want to create a pond. I want to slow the runoff down and back the water up a little so the soil gets a good dose of moisture.
David helped me pick up a massive load of new commercial grade barbed wire, well-used t-posts, smooth wire and clips from a friend’s family that was selling their ranch and equipment. The truck was loaded down. This trip, even with current gas prices, was well worth it. I will now have enough barbed wire to build the two riparian protection fences at a fraction of the cost. Thank you Arturo and Carolina. We wish you well in your next chapter of life!
Even with all the dust, heat and wind, there is so much beauty here. It is a constant reminder to be grateful, and it gives me the courage to even consider that the rough days will pass.