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One of the new farm day participants (but someone who has been following our work for a long time) has initiated a new project.
We began construction on Saturday.
At Rainshadow Farm, we have hand-watered from the get-go. We do not have eaves or downspouts on our California-built farmhouse for installing any rain barrels. Hand-watering is incredibly time-intensive, although it does tend to conserve water because you can gauge the needs of each plant, tree, or grouping as you go. If we were a production farm instead of an educational and research farm, I’m sure I’d already be using drip irrigation. If we decide to stay here for the long(er) haul, I’m sure I’ll install drip systems.
Meanwhile, my kids water by hand and have my undying love and respect for that.
Our new participant came in with an idea and a 55-gallon barrel.
Here’s what we’re doing.
I call it our water tower because after running the idea through several participants and after beginning the work itself, the idea went through several iterations to its best form. We decided to make a small water tower catchment and supplement system for a high desert garden. A number of the towers placed around the farm could feasible water the entire orchard and many vegetable beds, even the compost pile, but we are building a prototype that may be helpful for people with a simple household vegetable garden to water in the desert. We will pick which lucky garden bed gets to be our experimental subject at the next farm day.
We’ll build a strong wooden frame for our barrel, raising it about three feet from the ground. There will be a nozzle at the bottom of the tank, with a splitter attached, allowing the connection of multiple garden drip lines. We will anchor the “water tower” frame to the ground by sinking the bottom legs of the tower 18 inches or (better) 2 feet into the ground and cementing them in. This will help the barrel and tower withstand the astounding winds we get in the high desert year ’round. It will also create a permanent installation. If someone doesn’t want a permanent water collection device, they might wish to secure the tower contraption another way. I’ve mentioned one of those ideas below.
We are in a drought right now and we are also living in the desert, so making this completely self-sustaining isn’t entirely practical currently. Still, it is a water conserving system and the more water we can save in small-scale desert gardening, the better.
The barrel will sit about 3 feet off the ground and function from gravity, slowly leaking water to the plants. We currently have 1 gallon per hour emitters to install. If someone wanted a slower drip, they might install their barrel lower to the ground. We liked three feet up. That proposed height brought out all kinds of ideas involving cinder blocks and wooden tables with rope and cement stakes, which would allow the barrel to be moved. Finally someone suggested a min-water tower set up. Her idea was the best and the most practical. It is permanent but I like that idea because it also was the most secure installation idea.
When we get near the end of this project, we plan to install filters made of cheese cloth or paint strainers at certain joints, keeping the whole system unclogged and free of debris. People who use drip know that clogging is a factor we always have to deal with.
Another feature of the design is the possibility of adding more barrels in sequence.
We will continue work on this project at our next meeting. More photos to follow.
It’s raining here. That’s good news, at least for the time being.
California is experiencing a serious drought. Our reservoirs are appallingly low. Our population is high. We are certainly overpopulated for the amount of water we have available, even at the best of times.
Here are side-by-side photos of Folsom Lake, a northern California reservoir that is near Sacramento. At least 500,000 people get their water from this reservoir. The picture all across California is not too different from this. California is in a “drought emergency.”
What is this – a drought emergency? Let’s start with damage to the California farming economy. We’re facing higher food prices, less food choice, and significant job losses. Since so much of California’s economy is tied into agriculture and California agriculture is tied into irrigation, this is a serious situation, indeed.
Farm fields will go unplanted. Some predict farmers will pull back and idle crops like cotton, wheat and corn. Maybe they will divert irrigation to orchards. If fruit and nut trees aren’t watered in California, they die. It can take up to seven years to replace their crops. California tomatoes, garlic, onions, lettuce, and melons will eventually increase in cost all across the nation. So will fruit. So will everything, eventually.
Ranchers will be hurt. Larger-scale California ranching is a fairly water-intensive operation. If grass/pasture doesn’t grow, ranchers rely on alfalfa, a thirsty crop.
Rural northern California is hurting already. Nearly twenty communities there face severe water shortages in the next two to three months. The state of California said last Friday that, for the first time since 1960 (that’s 54 years), it will not be releasing water from reservoirs to 29 water agencies serving something like 25 million people. That’s half the people in the state, at least.
What about the Southland? The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is a water wholesaler for various cities and municipal water districts, serving 19 million people. Southern California has stockpiled water from diverse sources (snowpack from the Sierra Nevada and local mountains, Colorado River water, regular precipitation, and groundwater). Still, the district has asked users for voluntary 20% cuts.
Governor Brown has asked all Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20%. Mandatory residential or business cuts of 20% to 50% are in place for some communities, mostly in the north from what I’ve heard.
I want to talk about groundwater in southern California later. It’s not a pretty picture. None of this is, really.
Back to mega-drought. Governor Jerry Brown has very recently advised us that this upcoming year could bring a “mega-drought.”
We’re hearing that term “mega-drought” tossed around. It sounds like one of those D-grade films on the SyFy Channel that I sometimes can’t stop watching.
You know, though, it’s not hyperbole.
Folsom Lake, above, is at 17% of its total capacity. Two and a half years ago it was at 97% of its total capacity. Last year brought California 7.48 inches of rain. That’s the lowest amount in 119 years of record keeping. In fact, that’s less annual precipitation than my region of the southern Mojave is “supposed” to receive, as an average.
Marc Reisner once said that California had a “desert heart.”
Many have pointed out that much of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County are located in harm’s way.
Housing tracts have been placed on floodplains and in wildfire zones. Large industrial districts, entertainment complexes and vast tracts of housing, not to mention city centers, are constructed on and near filled-in wetlands and liquefaction zones (bad news in earthquakes: sands and silts give way, causing roads and buildings to collapse).
The potential for earthquake tragedy has not been fully fathomed. Mike Davis has quoted seismologist Kerry Sieh maintain (after the 1994 Northridge earthquake), “Until this last year I was never truly scared. Now, I am.”
Every year, now sometimes twice a year, Californians turn on their TVs to watch nearby wildfires eat up acres of land and often homes and businesses.
And now we are hearing about some kind of frightening mega-drought. I have lived in southern California since 1974. The real consequences of building one of the world’s economies in a region with a “desert heart” and building it with a flourish are rarely considered.
The news of the day is full of talk about “not enough water,” “I will not be able to wash my car,” “how will I take a 10-minute shower,” and potential effects on local lawns. We really need to start talking seriously about what it means to be overpopulated in an environment that cannot carry all of us.
In the Middle Ages, California experienced two serious droughts, droughts that some of my students might refer to as “epic.” And epic they would be since they lasted 140 years and 220 years.
These days we talk about long-lasting droughts of a decade, or close to a decade. The medieval mega-droughts have been carefully measured and dated in northern California, in the eastern watershed of the Sierra Nevada and they encompass a time scale unlike any we’ve been experiencing or even speculating about . There is also research in paleoclimatology that shows while the water in the eastern Sierra was drying up, the salinity of San Francisco Bay was climbing precipitously, indicating a serious lack of fresh water flowing into the bay.
Here in the south, things were not much better. In Santa Barbara, Orange County, and coastal Los Angeles, the huge droughts of the Middle Ages had an effect as well. What is now coastal Los Angeles County with its Mediterranean sort of ecosystem was a semi-arid zone backing up to the Pacific Ocean.
There is global paleoclimate evidence that the great Medieval droughts of the California region were part of a global pattern of climate anomalies.
Those droughts of the middle ages were natural occurrences, global interactions of ocean and atmosphere and polar ice, that flipped a climate switch and created a worldwide series of changes, including massive and prolonged drought in many parts of the world.
To keep things interesting, climate studies show that the normal temperature and precipitation amounts recorded in California over the last 150 years or so are at odds with any real, long-term conditions. California Gold, our mild and beautifully Mediterranean climate, has been documented over about 150 years of West Coast modernity. What we’ve documented is an anomaly. We live in a climate anomaly. We have been recording one of the wettest, yet, mildest periods of California history.
Marc Reisner was correct, in a deeply perceptive, maybe almost prophetic, way.
First, we are living with false norms as far temperature and precipitation go. Second, the reports of the UNIPCC indicate that California will suffer decreased rainfall, seasonal shifts, increased fire dangers, and potential for alternating severe drought and floods. Increased anthropogenic climate change is not going to ameliorate the potential for disaster here in the Golden State.
The upshot is that climate change along with our current drought could increase many risks of living in California.
What would happen if we were to be plunged into a drought like either of the very severe Medieval droughts? What would happen to our cities, our farmland, all of our infrastructure? Throw in a major earthquake, something the geologists have been predicting for several decades, particularly on the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault, and then what?
Good grief, I’m not an apocalyptic person. If a woman like I am, one searching out the calm ponds in life, can acknowledge this is happening, in fact can KNOW this is happening, friends, it’s time to take a long look at the disaster-prone region we have chosen to inhabit. There are no extra scraps on the table in Sacramento, sadly, to mitigate this.
Any chance we might look to Boulder, Colorado with its slow-growth ordinances intended to limit residential growth? Could we develop an interest in zoning regulations that take ecological factors into consideration in new ways? I honestly don’t see this happening. People want to build and live in the chaparral, profound fire danger be damned. Before I lived in this desert, I resided in a mountain village here in southern California that had the San Andreas fault running directly through it. In addition, the forest land surrounding the village was/is filled with pine trees riddled with bark beetles, producing a huge fire hazard each dry season. Now, it’s all dry season. We were blithe about the fire danger. We somehow considered the bedrock of our mountain a protector against shaking on the fault line. Human nature? I don’t know. At least when I grew up in Tornado Country, we all had basements and storm cellars. There was some sort of tentative respect for the elements.
So, southern California.
Are we going to stop building in ecosystems where the native plants are adapted to fire in order to germinate? Those ecosystems would be our beautiful hillsides, everywhere up and down the Golden State. Are we even going to insist upon more stability and soundness in our built environment, for everyone?
Finally, are we going to insist that our children and young people be provided with an education that not only (possibly) includes but clearly forefronts regional environmental education so that they can make intelligent and socioecologically sound, reasonable, and just decisions as the years unroll?
If we decide that’s a good idea, where will we get the money to do it? Even an old unschooler like me, even I cannot continue to run a learning center like this on a shoestring forever. Or can I?
Maybe this is exactly what learning toward a safe and sustainable way of life will look like – a series of learning centers running up and down the state, each one connected to the next in a patchwork.
Rural, exurban, suburban, urban. Maybe we will have to begin to implement environmental solutions on producing farms, in backyards, on hardscrabble country farms, in small-scale household gardens, in city yards, on donated city land.
Books to look at:
Davis, Mike. (1998). Ecology of fear: Los Angeles and the imagination of disaster. New York: Vintage Books.
Reisner, Marc. (1986). Cadillac Desert: The American West and its disappearing water. New York: Penguin.
This explains so much. I’ve heard it. I’ve talked about it in speculative tones. Here it is. This is my life.
I just realized something.
I have been getting scared when I feel my heart beating at rest.
I’m not talking about A-fib or an arrhythmia. That’s not so good and if that happens I need to get myself to the ER.
So not that. No worries.
When I exercise fairly vigorously of course I feel my heart beat. I’m not talking about that. That’s good. Yay heart. You are working. You are healing. You make me happy.
There’s a practice I’ve been doing lately. I sit (cross-legged in my case, it’s most comfortable for me), gently cross my hands over my heart, and I visualize light energy moving from hands to heart. Someone explained to me that this was an energizing practice. It is.
Sometimes when people do this, they find themselves rocking back and forth gently. Okay.
Some people incorporate this into their meditation, if they meditate. Some use this to help generate awareness of loving-kindness, healing, peace. I liked the way someone put it: “peace in the midst of chaos.” Sometimes I really need that because my head can become a chaotic place. This is a cool practice that I often begin halfway through my own meditation.
Sometime during the summer I realized I felt my heart beating when I did this exercise and it began to freak me out. The last time I did this I felt my heart beating and it freaked me out. Seems whenever I do this I feel my heart and I freak out.
I never even thought about it — why am I feeling my heart? Instead I reacted. I’d back out of the exercise.
Funny. I go to the gym or I walk or hike and feel my heart pounding. I expect that. That’s good. That’s health.
But in a practice known to energize I freak out. I feel my heart when I don’t really expect to and freak out.
Maybe that’s okay. After all, we need to take care of our hearts. I need to be aware of my heart and what it’s doing, sure.
Regularly, three or four times a year, now maybe only twice a year (we’ll see this July, in fact) I have to have pictures taken of my heart and then talk about them with my doctor. I have to protect my heart.
Here’s something I just realized. I’m over-protecting my heart.
My doctor says the best things. In fact, he told me if I want to run, I can run. The only reason I walk and don’t run is because of other things, not my heart. Maybe I’ll run. If I lived where there was pavement I’d ride a bike, for sure. I’d ride it a lot.
So. What the heck?
I used to not protect my heart. Not at all. That would be the heart of hearts, the emotional heart. I was reckless and too trusting. I got hurt. Really hurt. That heart is healing too.
But now I’m over-protecting my physical heart.
I think I need to get to a place where I know deeply I’m strong enough emotionally and physically to feel my heart beat and not freak out. To open up (protectively) and not freak out.
My physical heart reacted to its trauma four years ago by enlarging. It’s beginning to contract back to whatever its new normal will be.
My emotional heart contracted three years ago in response to its trauma and I have to let it expand.
Protect. Contract. Expand.
Let your heart beat.
It’s all good.
I’ll start at the beginning.
I don’t date. Not really.
Or at least I haven’t for a long, long time.
Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have thought I’d be single since 2011 and divorced since near Halloween 2012 and not all that interested in dating. This just goes to show how life changes and changes us. I am not the woman I was at 25 or 30 or even 40. Or even 50.
I just can’t help it. At first there was the nightmare divorce with my healthcare held hostage, at least for a time. There were money fears. There was that last year of the doctoral program. There was a surgery. There were job issues. There were the kids.
Going back further there was my refusal to acknowledge how seriously broken my relationship with my ex was. I mean, he did that and I didn’t see? And he did THAT and I still listened to the words coming out of his mouth?
Great title for a computer enhanced image of life near a black hole.
Being honest here, I should thank the ex for moving away. I guess I did. I thanked him for our kids and I thanked him for finally walking away.
I sometimes feel a sense of shame for not being the one to leave, given the sordid details. I’ll give myself credit for filing and paying for the divorce since he didn’t want to. I wish I hadn’t had to pay for the entire divorce and still have to hear him bitch about support that he isn’t going to pay.
I’m working hard to eliminate that sense of shame. It only creeps up on me now when someone who doesn’t have the picture castigates me for not seeing what was right in front of my face.
Truth: I didn’t have the practical training in life to see that I was so close to a black hole.
The night he finally left, I saw something. I saw eyes that looked like frozen blue ice cubes. Absolute zero. Really. That’s exactly what came into my mind, the very words “frozen blue ice cubes.” And then I saw those eyes cloud over, darken and become pits. A familiar look from years of exposure. Black-hole-eyes. The window to the soul and all that.
I have taken efforts to eliminate photographs of him. I’ve given the kids whatever photographs they may want. I have some old ones for them, if they may want more later. For my own sake, I’ve removed photos from my hard drive. I saved one. Today I found it and saved it (That’s the kind of Valentine’s Day it’s been. Tomorrow I’m sure will be better, much better.). I saved it because it chills me to the bone. I don’t want to forget what I lived through. I tend to lean towards hope. Hope can get me into trouble. The photo is a friendly reminder to self of what once was and what I’m free from now. That jpg shows the black hole turbulence in the eyes five years before the man left.
But that’s past. Drifted on down that river of dreams.
So Valentine’s Day. Love and romance. Or maybe just a companionable friendship.
A couple of my kids have encouraged me for months to try online dating sites. They think I “don’t get out enough.” I tried. I tried for them and for me.
(There’s another entire story about how my ex scored his multitude of affairs via online dating sites — not the ones I used, I think, I hope — and how he “encouraged” me to try online dating when he walked out. As soon as I can see that exclusively for its humor, I’ll tell that story.)
So I tried. I don’t like it.
For full disclosure, at least one of my kids told me it would not be fruitful.
Meeting people online through a dating site feels so inorganic to me.
I see internet dating as a throw-back to high school. He rejects, I reject. We both objectify.
I know it works for some people but it’s not working for me. Categorize, categorize. Yes, we do it no matter what. I’d still rather meet someone at a party, at any event, than through a dating site online.
Walking through life and meeting people is just what it is. Not everyone is a potential “date.” And that’s good as I see it.
Colleagues, friends, new acquaintances, the person at the plant nursery, the person in line in front of you at the store, friends and family of students, any of these or none of these may be seen as possible dates. Or not, when you’re not on a dating site.
This hit me when someone on a dating site (said he was) attending some of the same events at a regional botanical garden that I was. Had I met him? Had I spoken to him? He didn’t look familiar. Oh well. Honestly, do I need to feel stressed and anxious about online dating? I think not.
In case you’re interested, at some point I was sidelined by the guy above. I’ve sidelined people on the dating site too.
I know what did it with this guy — it was something that he wanted that was beyond my comfort level. It wasn’t a big deal, really. I wasn’t willing to talk about it. I preferred to watch the fellow drift away. So sad too bad. Right?
It’s not like me to not talk about stuff. Even with the ex I talked, I spoke my mind. Problem there was, I believed (and believed) lies. On the other hand, it feels good to simply say no if that’s what I want to say.
Incidentally, meeting someone (or getting to know someone better) on a social networking site is not quite the same for me. That, for me, usually involves common interests and some level of friendship which doesn’t have to include objectifying a person as a “potential date.”
Yes, I’m an online dating failure.
I think this was a transition I had to make from 30-plus years of marriage to voluntary datelessness to whatever it is I’m doing now.
Right now, as of this day, Valentine’s Day (or the half-hour that remains of it, to be precise), I’m not dating. I am accepting friendships. I’m affirming relationship. I’m repairing and restoring what is healthy to repair and restore. For me. I’m committing and un-committing. I’m ebbing and flowing.
Today, it seems, I’m mostly ebbing in the dating relationship zone. I’m on a temporary pause. I have some things to consider at a slower pace, right at this moment. I’m composing and re-composing. I’m learning on a new deeper level what it means to be myself. Whatever changes in the future will, well, change.
When I teach outside of the college, they call it “alt ed.”
I haven’t decided what I think of that term. Or even if I care. I probably don’t.
I’m finding that there are so many different terms for what I do. I already posted about being a beta professional when what I thought I was doing was teaching at a college.
I think I already mentioned one group of bullying full-time tenured faculty who referred to two of us adjuncts as “stinkin’ up” the copy room.
Over the last dozen years, I’ve found some tenured faculty do have that sort of contempt for contingent faculty.
Plenty of contingent faculty teach very well. There are roadblocks. This is a problem. It’s a problem that I don’t have an office. My students and I develop work-arounds. It’s less than ideal. Who suffers the most? Of course it’s the students.
If someone has contempt for (other) teachers, then what does that say about what they think about their students?
Yes, that’s an old-fashioned chalkboard.
The classroom I’m assigned has no whiteboard, no smartboard, just lots of enthusiastic students and an instructor who still enjoys it all. I do have a projector that works and internet access. Yes, that’s also less than ideal. My job is to get them through the introductory courses and ready to go on to their four-year university. I’ll do it as long as I can.
Back to “alt ed.” That’s where RSF workshops put me. Or would put me — if I were to decide there’s a good and equitable way to bring income in from this endeavor. Since these workshops are not generating income, in fact RSF itself isn’t generating income, not right now anyway, I’m only potentially working in alt ed.
For it to be education, to some people, money has to pass hands.
If academicians want to keep nudging me until they get me into that alt ed enclosure that’s fine.
I’ll open this place as a nonprofit learning center if and when I’m good and ready.
I do what I do. And I can define or redefine the terms. Learning is learning.
I feel pretty free. I had to let go of certain expectations to get to this point.
It also helped to begin to think realistically about ways that my future might look.
That’s a tough one. It has taken me two and a half years, the finalization of my divorce, hard realizations about my position in life, a loan modification on my mortgage, and (ta da!) the arrival of CoveredCA Blue Shield cards for me and EE.
That’s a start or another start that feels better than the first (new) start.