Rain Comes – More Needed

Swale Pond full at last

There were several days of rain over the last two weeks, with two continuous days of rain last week that were the real soakers. In those two days, we received 4.5 inches. It has been much needed. We are still in drought though, with a dry year predicted. Rain years are calculated beginning on October 1. So far, this rain year we have had 7.625 inches of rain. According to historic documentation, the average precipitation is 14 inches in Hornitos. We still have a way to go, and hopefully we go beyond that. The worse year of the five year drought this past decade was 9 inches. I don’t want to see that again. It was horribly dry, and that was the year the large spring on the mid section of the ranch finally dried up. I never thought I would see that. Our cattleman even had to haul in water.

Heather reconnects pipe that had become disconnected

The winds were so terrible that my rain water catchment system failed. My husband and I went out three times to fix it. In a storm where the tank should have been full, it is only at half its capacity. So disappointing! The first occasion, the pipe had split in its mid section. The second occasion, the pipe had blown away from the downspout in one place and had disconnected in the mid section again. The third time, I found that the tank exit pipe had somehow gotten unglued and had been leaking the entire time. When I banged on it, it came completely off and the precious water collected began gushing out. I re-nested the pipe back over the other with all my strength. I got soaked in the process. Fortunately, my husband was out there with me that time, and ran to get the wet glue, which can still stick pipe together even when wet. He ultimately fixed it. The ground was soggy, and it was difficult to balance the ladder on the decline, especially in the wind. I almost fell off one time. I was able to keep the ladder upright as I followed the inertia and “walked” it down hill to a solid place before getting off. I got soaked on that one too. All I can do is hope that we get more rain without ferocious winds to fill the tank. I will need this water to keep the plants alive through the long, dry time.

Cottonwood and cage still there

After the storm, I hiked around the property to check on the plantings. With the two straight days of rain and wind, I wanted to be sure the cottonwood and cage were alright as well as the plantings and branch fence and Odom Creek plantings with brush pile protections. I planted most of the plants close enough to the creek bed to get a soaking during high water, but not so close that the roots were in water all the time in the winter. I looked at the neighbor’s cottonwoods and my own buckeyes to see where they were successful in relation to the creek bed and followed that example.

Fortunately, the two days of rain did not flood the spring creek and take the branch fence with it. There were a couple filler branches that moved downstream with the flow. I ended up replacing only three branches to fill a couple bare spots in the fence. Overall, I was really happy with the outcome. There are a few bulls on the ranch now along with the cows (It is that time of year for love.), and I have some concerns that the bulls will just push through it to get to the long blades of grass on the other side. I will keep watching.

I also checked Odom Creek. There, I thought the flow would be greater with more of a chance that the brush piles over the willows would be washed away. To my surprise, it did not look as though the water reached the plants on the east side. Although the ground was wet, the dirt did not look dark as if the water line reached them. The water clearly soaked the willow on the west side. Each brush pile was intact. All plants were present and accounted for – four willows and one mule fat.

Other Monitoring

Looking for a. California sprouts with Andy and Bibi

I have also been checking the a. Californica site closest to the house for sprouts. Last year, there was no rain in February, which I am thinking stunted grass grown allowing the a. California milkweed to get a head start on growing. This year, with rains in February, I am concerned that the grass may grow faster than the milkweed. I want to watch for its remarkable leaves and trim the grass in that area to give it a chance. That early milkweed will be important for the monarchs.

Planning for Spring Planting

Ron Allen, UC Master Gardener and Co-Owner of Mariposa Native Plants

Ron came over to discuss the next plant order. I asked for his guidance on my plan and showed him the areas where I was thinking of focusing this Spring. He also got a chance to see what was doing well, and what didn’t make it. Overall, things looked good. I placed an order for 89 plants. We are continuing to go big for the monarchs.

Already wildflowers have bloomed. I see blue dick stems and poppy leaves sprouted. The primrose never stopped blooming. Spring is around the corner. I am going to plant anything I can for February. The milkweeds won’t be ready, but there should be some nectar plants available then.

The storm made for some dramatic photos and clouds. I end my blog with some select shots that I hope you enjoy.