Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Earth laughs in flowers”. Well, as I told you yesterday, it’s going to be a long mirthless stretch until we get a winter season with normal rainfall. There is always a chance we could get a few more rain showers later this month — but given how fast the temperatures have spiked this week and the fact that we, in California, are experiencing what may be the worst drought in 500 years — it feels as if what little winter we had is definitively over. Joshua Tree National Park and Anza-Borrego Park officials are already telling tourists not to expect flowers. Riverside’s local paper quotes wildflower experts as calling this the worst wildflower season in anyone’s memory and warning us we won’t be seeing our usual carpets of Spring wildflowers. One of my favorite bloggers, Maybelline, who keeps an eye on all things vegetable and flower down in Bakersfield, confirms that, from the Sierras to the Tehachapis, Kern County is nearly flowerless.
So that’s Southern California, which has gotten even less of the few storms we had last month. How are things doing in Sonoma — specifically in that little patch of heaven we call Two Terrier Vineyards? Much the same. Compared to past years, our Spring display is pitiful. But some of our favorites are giving it the old college try. But other favorites, usually well represented, are nowhere to be seen, including: Indian Warriors, Milkmaids, Chinese Houses, Diogenes’ Lanterns.
What are doing better are the flowers on established plants and bushes around the property, especially in the bee and insect garden we call the Insectarium. Since most are on shrubs — like the coyote brush at the top of the post — I guess they don’t really count as “wildflowers”. But we, and the bees, will take anything we can get at this point.
I should note that most of these flowers have been sown, guarded, nurtured and protected and coddled by Ranch Manager Louis and his crews — which may account for what bloom we are having. The guys have only stopped short of watering them out of season. Because we want them to be able to handle the harsh hot world they are going to live in. However, be forwarned. As landscapers, DJ and Louis have developed a “Signature Look” that involves planting succulents and cactus in every rocky corner and nook.
I want to emphasize that very few of these plants are irrigated. We do have some drip irrigation to our Insectarium, because it’s so important to our natural integrated pest management. But we’ve turned it off and hope to keep it off as long as possible. Our current plan is to water these plants only if they look like they are truly languishing.
An exception: we didn’t conserve the water in this wine barrel. After Oscar jumped around in it for half an hour, we found a dead wood rat floating in it. That would be a rat that had been in there awhile. We dumped it out. Needless to say, we certainly don’t have enough wildflowers to cover that smell.
So here’s where we are. Very few flowers. But we have hopes that the seeds that didn’t germinate will hold on until we get a rainier winter — and California native flowers are very good at doing that. In the meantime, we are relying on our established bushes which are doing a heroic job of giving us color and scent in the interim. And we are pinning all our hopes on the possibility of an upcoming El Niño. Scientists are saying there is a 50% chance that certain ocean conditions now appearing off South America could be a forming El Niño.
At Two Terrier Vineyards, all paws are crossed. Our mantra for now is “Well, this winter when we get our El Niño…”
We turned off our drip system, too, and are collecting the water until the shower warms to use to flush or to water in the garden. Every little bit helps. I had to bite my tongue yesterday when I saw a guy (suburban) using a hose to wash a few sycamore fruits off his driveway! Sheesh, man, get a broom! Daughter’s neighbor, so I kept quiet – to my shame.
We are gearing up for a massive and multi-pronged water conservation and drought busting program. But that’s the subject of another post.
We’re amazingly resilient. This is gonna hurt big time; but when it finally breaks…
So many urbanites don’t think their conservation matters. It does. Seriously, the tension in the water world is relentless. Bringing water supplies to those urbanites won’t stretch unless everyone conserves. I have never hoped for time to pass more than now. Hope the dude hosing down his driveway gets the message quickly. I’m certain that I couldn’t have bit down on my tongue. Try this next time: excuse me, you seem like a nice man. You may not be aware but we are in the middle of an historic drought. People get busy and can’t be aware of everything but we all really need to do our part. Please consider using a broom next time. Thanks.
I wonder if it could be said more effectively.
Maybelline, if this drought is anything like the last one, it’s going to mean lopsided sacrifice. Last time, San Francisco moved in with draconian reductions. Everyone was hit with a mandatory 25% water reduction — which meant that those who were water-wise to begin with had barely enough water allocation to live on. And we were one of those with buckets in our showers to collect water for our gardens and toilet flushes. But my friend from LA (well Hollywood, which may be a different thing altogether) would call up and complain that he could only wash his cars once a week. But I’m convinced the biggest water hog culprits in the residential world are lawns, gardens and golf courses. If we could target those for conservation, we’d be in better shape.
But keep us posted. Since you are in the water biz at the front lines of the desert, you are my go-to gal on water issues.
I agree with you. Local water managers down here told the public just yesterday that urban water is in good shape & encouraged citizens to conserve water. I was stunned that they didn’t voice a sense of urgency. Fortunately I work with some great people that bring a water conservation program to local schools. The kids are helping to make adults more aware. The managers I mentioned may not push conservation so much because that means less income. I’m a cynic.
Here are some awards to entities up your way. The use of recycled water seems to be working well up there.
Thanks for that, Maybelline. Good to hear that both my homes — Santa Clara County and Sonoma — are leading the charge. Maybe I’ll submit Two Terrier Ranch when we get all our cisterns and water cachement systems up and running.
Totally off topic, except that it concerns legendary smooth fox terriers named Dash (a succession of them, all named Dash) who explored with Sir Aurel Stein in late 19th and early 20th centuries sending home to British Museum ancient documents and art works. I am reading Journeys on the Silk Road.
The terrier spoken of so far rode camels, horses, whatever Stein rode. Hopped up there by him. Mastered a two level jump, stirrup to top to get on camel.Camped out in the desert. Horrendous conditions, but kept on going. I’m only about a quarter of the way in, but had to share that.
Had heard the authors on NPR and had took advantage of one of those Kindle special deals.
Thanks Kathy. I know all about Aurel Stein’s Smooth Fox Terriers. In fact, I have included pictures of them in several of my terrier posts.