Harvesting Rain
Dec16

Harvesting Rain

As the rain has fallen with increasing frequency through late November and now into December, we really are starting to believe that El Niño will bring us a much needed big rain year. But after four years of drought, we’re not taking anything for granted. First of all, weather experts are warning that California reservoirs and groundwater supplies are so low that it will take several years of above average rain to refill them....

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Adding Flesh to the Bones
Dec14

Adding Flesh to the Bones

After weeks of laying down the bones of our landscaping project, with time out to rebuild the mountain, we’re finally ready for the most exciting step — adding in the plants. And just in time. When planting native plants, there are a couple of rules you have to follow, rules laid down by Mother Nature. It’s best to plant younger, smaller plants. The older California Natives get, the less they like being moved around....

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Building a Landscape Backbone
Nov16

Building a Landscape Backbone

There’s a lot more going on at the Sonoma rancho than our recent project to rebuild the mountain. Actually, that project was a diversion from a long-planned major landscaping project for what will be the front of the house we are building. Construction has only just reached the point where we can landscape this area, but, in truth, our multi-year drought has been a greater factor in our lack of landscaping so far. I’ve...

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Operation Rebuild the Mountain
Nov09

Operation Rebuild the Mountain

Building a house in the hills of Sonoma is very different than building on a flat suburban lot. The issue is rain. Which, in a normal year, comes down in buckets from November to March, then shuts off. That cycle gives us a lot of months to have things dry out and get dusty then a very few months to have all that dust turn to mud. The danger is always erosion which can be exacerbated if your building has disrupted some native plants...

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Rock Stars
Oct09

Rock Stars

It’s that time again, the cusp of what we hope will be our rainy season. That means it’s time for landscaping. You see, if you are planting California Natives, and you want to keep them as drought-tolerant as they should be, you do your planting in October through November. That lets your plants get settled and — hopefully — get plenty of water from Mother Nature, then wean off water with the natural...

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Barn Angels and Others
Sep18

Barn Angels and Others

If you’ve been following along, you’ve heard that my 85-year-old mother fled California’s devastating Valley Fire with just the clothes on her back on Saturday. She lives in one of the Ground Zero communities that were hardest hit, Hidden Valley Lake. Late Saturday afternoon, the fire suddenly flared up, whipped by hot 30 mph winds, and with five minutes to spare, the sheriffs rousted people out of their houses and...

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Fleeing the Flames
Sep14

Fleeing the Flames

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that for the last several days, I’ve been dealing with the evacuation of my mother from one of the Ground Zero communities in the fast-moving Valley Fire, which fire professionals are calling one of the worst California wildfires in decades. Among the factors making this fire so dangerous: more than four years of a historic drought which has left forests and grasslands tinder dry, coupled...

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Roadtrip Wrap-Up
Aug29

Roadtrip Wrap-Up

Now that I’ve finished my East to The West Roadtrip, my most ambitious so far, and had a few days to process, it’s time to count out the highlights and maybe some of the lowlights. Just to recap, the trip started when I realized there were only three states I’ve never lived in or visited. Two of them were North and South Dakota, so they became the destination. The inspiration was Teddy Roosevelt’s observation...

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Nevada Daydreamin’
Aug26

Nevada Daydreamin’

Today was a long day mostly in Nevada. Wait! The last you heard, I was up in Yellowstone. Well, two days ago, I entered the unscheduled portion of my trip. While every other stop was booked back in January — as you must do with National Parks — that’s not my normal mode of roadtripping. Usually, I prefer to go in the off-season, have a vague itinerary and feel free to depart from it. Turns out, it was lucky I...

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Natural Beauty on the Hoof and Elsewhere
Aug23

Natural Beauty on the Hoof and Elsewhere

When I mentioned that the Lamar Valley is sometimes called The Little Serengeti of the Yellowstone, I wasn’t kidding. As spartan as the Roosevelt Lodge and cabins are — and as cold as it’s been in the morning — I’ve been getting up at 5AM and getting out on the road in this, the most remote corner of the park. I’ve been rewarded with amazing close encounters with animals. And with viewing herds of...

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