Saturday, June 26, 2021

Morning at the Lake


Do you see the egret?

After a long long time I finally went to "my" lake again this week. The last time I walked there was back in September of last year - more than 9 months ago. Hard to believe that so much time without visiting has gone by.

But on Wednesday there was nothing stopping me to finally walk at the lake again. It was good to see the old crooked tree again that I love so much. A lot of poison oak had grown up the trunk.

There were new markers for the cross country teams that train and race here. When Kaefer was in middle school she was part of her school's cross country team and I remember those afternoon or Saturday morning races along the trails.

Maintenance crews were busy trimming overhanging branches, cutting back brush and taking out the rambling blackberry bushes that are incredibly invasive and endanger our native species. I was glad to see these men and women working so hard. This work is also important for wildfire prevention.

 Some places hadn't changed at all...

... whereas others looked very different. This bench is right at the lake and often the water was licking at the base of it, but today the cattails have grown further along the shore and almost completely hide the view of the lake.

New signs were put up as well, and I was particularly happy about this one since I always was annoyed by the fishing trash I found along the ground and in the trees at the shore.

 The bench where my friend Liz and I often sit and talk for hours was still there and fortunately no cattails in front of it. Form here we often watched otters, the ducks and geese and also some ospreys.

The other crooked tree was still there as well. It's always the crooked trees that are my favorites.

Further up from the lake along a narrow trail where almost never anybody walks I have found my favorite spot. I often sit here, listen to the birds and write in my journal. It's a great spot to meditate. Often, there are deer around - and today they were lying in the shade of the manzanita. So I didn't stop here, but kept on walking, enjoying the beauty of this special place.


Monday, June 7, 2021

Saving Water


The plant in the photo above - Verbena bonariensis - is a tough work horse in the flower garden - beautiful, colorful and very drought tolerant. This is exactly what we need here in Northern California if we want to have beautiful gardens while saving water at the same time.

This year saving water is more important and urgent than ever. We are in an exceptional drought - "exceptional" being the most severe level of drought. Our last drought ended a couple years back with record rain falls, one "atmospheric river" chasing another. That drought "only" was labled as "severe".  But now we are in the "exceptional" stage and I'm wondering why our county supervisors and city council members aren't demanding mandatory restrictions. It's not like this situation is going to change to the better anytime soon since there won't be any significant rainfall before November (if even then).

We get most of our rainfall in the winter. Our 30-year annual average is 34 inches; this year, however, we only received 12.86 inches which is 39% of the average. Our main reservoir, Lake Sonoma, is at 56.5% of capacity. 

For now, residents are asked to restrict their water use voluntarily by 20%. I'm pretty sure with summer not even having started, those restrictios will eventually become mandatory.

Our household uses 2000 gallons of water on average in a month. In the summer it can reach 3000 gallons and very seldom even 4000. With these numbers we are far below the average of a "normal" household and it's getting harder and harder to save additional water since we are already pretty water savvy.

These guys are my best friends when it comes to saving water:

We use flexitubs everywhere in the garden, but their main purpose is catching the water in the shower while it heats up (of course we have low water fixtures).

Outside I have a water barrel where I store any water that I can catch.

Whenever my watering cans are empty I refill them from the barrel. And here you can see how serious I am about saving water (I guess that's the German in me!) - the barrel is leaking at the tube when I open the valve, so I put a bowl beneath it where I catch that water. Not a drop gets unused!

In the kitchen sink I have another bowl where I catch any water - when I wash veggies or the water after I have boiled eggs. Sometimes I even drain the pasta water in here and water a few plants with that - and those plants seem to like the starchy water.

So what about the garden? you might ask. First, I hand water my garden. I have a couple long hoses that I put to work about once a week, twice if it is very hot. Only the vegetables are watered more often than that - but I only have one raised bed with tomatoes, zucchini and some basils. I cut back a lot this year.

With a very few exceptions my garden is filled with drought tolerant plants. I use California natives a lot, but also plants that are native to Australia and the Cape region of South Africa. I eventually will introduce more succulents to the garden. 

A drought tolerant garden does not have to be boring, but can be very colorful.

It really depends on having the right plants in your garden. An English cottage garden certainly is not the right choice.

Clockwise from top left: Lavandula stoechas (Spanish lavender), Salvia nemorosa (Woodland sage), Salvia sclarea (clary sage), Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower) and Calamintha nepeta (Lesser calamint)
From left to right: Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy), Sphaeralcea incana (Soft globemallow) and Achillea 'Moonshine' (Yarrow)

We don't have a graywater system (even though that probably would be a great idea). If you have any more ideas how to save water, please let us know in the comments.