picture of lovely drought resistant landscaping
California is a bit of a mess right now. OK, more than a bit. I’m sick of this damn drought, as I’m sure everyone else in the state is.
Everything is dry dry dry. August is generally dry. We rarely get any measurable wet between May or June and October. But this was the dryest winter on record, so we started out dry. Ugh. We’re under orders from our Governor to reduce our water use, which is a good thing. But it sucks. So many dead lawns everywhere. Then there are the people who continue to water their lawns, oblivious to the suffering around them. One green lawn, reminding us of the way things used to be, surrounded by brown dead lawns, reminding us of what is. Then there are those who landscape with bark and drought tolerant plants, reminding us of how things ought to be. We don’t have a lawn, we have a tiny front area and a small back area, both more patio than yard, and it’s all bricks. We have a hodgepodge of plants around the perimeter of the back patio, filled in with potted plants. There once was a theme to the perimeter plants, meaning there was some sense of cohesiveness, but there are goddamned eucalyptus trees on the other side of our fence, and they pretty much do their best to kill whatever is below them. So the plants that we put there on purpose have all died years ago, and whenever I get a potted plant that outgrows its pot, in the ground it goes, and good luck fighting the eucalyptus. None of that is due to the drought, just the neighboring trees and my general neglect (don’t water enough, don’t fertilize often).
So here we are, taking our drought showers and saving water in the sink (like when you rinse an apple) in a pitcher to water the plants, and I assume that we’re all in this together. Until I find out that we’re not. The central valley, my home for many years of my mis-spent youth, is fertile ground for many many crops, including the big money maker, nuts. Mostly almonds and pistachios, which are big deal money makers. If you’re a tomato farmer, or a corn farmer, you can decide to let your fields go fallow in years of drought. But trees need water, you cannot fallow that field. You can let your trees die perhaps, but that’s awfully expensive, and I don’t really expect anyone to do that. But then I heard the other day that some farmers are actually PLANTING almond and pistachio trees now. NOW, in this horrible drought, when there is simply not enough water. Why? Because the drought has driven prices up, so there’s good money to be made. But wait, you may ask, how will they water these trees, if there is no water? The answer is depressing. There are some huge aquifers under the valley, vast underground lakes, which are being pumped dry. These aquifers have been there for generations, and farmers generally do pump some water out in dry years. But they’re pumping so much out, they now have to get much bigger drills, the ones used for fracking oil out of tar sands, in order to reach the shrinking water levels. Which is making the valley sink. How can we possibly be so damned stupid? I mean, yes, you have to feed your family, you want to employ people and keep the economy from collapsing around you. But to increase production now of all times, seems beyond selfish. It makes me want to take a long bath, and I hate baths. How, you may ask, does the government allow this? Because they’re elected by the farmers, and our water rights in California were put in place almost a hundred years ago, and not much has changed. There are changes coming to the water rights rules, but those won’t be in effect for at least 5 years (I think maybe it’s 10, but I’m not positive), so what use is that?
And then, of course, there are the fires. Fire in California in the summer is pretty much a given, but this year’s fires are acting differenttly than they have acted in the past, likely because the trees are SO dry, and the weather is generally hotter than it has been before. So that’s fun. Last Saturday, we decided to get out of dodge, which was a good thing because the wind had shifted and was sending smoke down our way from the lake fires, which aren’t really that close. Our town is at the foot of a mountain, and you coudln’t even tell there was a mountain in the area, it was so smokey. It smelled bad, and made me worry for those with breathing and heart problems. We went to Monterey, which is right on the ocean and lovely and cool and just what the doctor ordered, aside from the long drive getting there. It took us almost 3.5 hours from here, which would generally be a bit over 2 hours. Ugh. We should have spent the night. So the fires are burning, (not just here, the whole west coast), and they are using active duty military to fight the fires, as well as convicts. It’s a mess.
The question, of course, is “will it rain this winter?” Will we have a real nasty beautiful wet winter, the kind that puts water in our reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and streams? The kind that erodes coastlines and sends people’s houses sliding down hillsides in a bunch of mud, and floods the same towns that always seem to flood in wet years? We need one. We need an ugly winter, the kind that punishes a lot of people who live or drive or walk in the wrong place at the wrong time. We may get it. There’s talk of a strong El Nino brewing off the coast. But there was similar talk last year, and it didn’t happen. There’s talk about that high pressure system that sat off the coast of California last winter, forcing the jet stream north, forcing the wet and cold to punish the rest of the country with record snowfalls, while we sat here with gorgeous weather, watching, longingly. That high pressure system that may or may not be out there again this winter.
I love California. I love San Francisco and Tahoe and Monterey. I love Napa and Bodega Bay and Sonoma. It hurts to see my beloved home in such dire circumstances. Sometimes we talk about moving, to get away from the drought. Wondering if we wait to see how things turn out, if we’ll blow it and our house will be worthless. Hard to believe with current housing prices being so stupidly high, but I guess it’s possible. I don’t want to move. I love it here. I want to stick it out and see if things get better.
Did I mention the little earthquake we had last week? It had the decency to wait until almost 7am, and wasn’t a big one, didn’t do a lot of damage. (My friend’s hat fell off of her bookcase) That was the only damage I heard of at first, but then it turned otu that several water mains busted. Maybe because of the earthquake, maybe because the pipes are 90 years old, I don’t know.
Poor California. I hope things get better, soon.