Saturday, June 25, 2005

On June 11th I headed out from Altadena to the Moisture site with Emily Scott and Damian Martinez. It was great to finally get Damian out to the site after a year of working with him on our data plots. All of us were excited to get to the desert so after a quick stop at the studio to pick up supplies, we made our way to CLUI DRS. Along the way we discovered how many interests three of us had in common so we sensed this would be a special trip. We arrived in Hinkley at 11:00 AM, which gave us plenty of time to check the drip lines and explore the development of the newly planted trees at the DRS.

In comparing the growth patterns of the Moisture site to the DRS, it was apparent what a difference a drip irrigation system makes in the growth and development of native trees. The mesquite, desert willow, and cottonwood had 4 to six inches of new growth over the past 2 weeks not to mention a profusion of flowers on the Palo Verdi and desert willows. Honestly I was a bit jealous of the all the new growth and blooms. Since this was the first trip to the DRS for both Emily and Damian we wondered the grounds and made an interpretive tour of past and present projects, some under construction, and some eroding--many are in various states of entropy.
We filled up eight 7-gallon water containers with the DRS well water, picked up a few more capsules of DriWater and headed out to the Moisture site.

At the site Damian and Emily went right to work. I am still recovering from surgery to fix up my broken foot so my contribution was organizing the day’s activities and slowly working where I could. Emily dug out the cages for 5 trees on the southern rim of gardens #3 and #4, while Damian unloaded the water and tools. I made the rounds checking the levels of DriWater in all 7 gardens while looking for new growth on the trees and shrubs that we gave the nutrient packs to. I was amazed that there was up to 3” of new growth on all the trees, and the shrubs had several levels of new leaf development. This is the most growth I have witnessed since we planted 1.5 years ago.

We then set up the gator irrigation bags around the five exposed trees and slowly filled up each of the bags to its 14-gallon capacity. The bags emit water for 6 hours and we wanted to make sure that there would be enough daylight to finish the slow irrigation of the trees with the rest of the plants getting a fast top watering before we departed. The five bags used up all our water so we hopped into the jeep and headed back to the DRS for a fill-up and to enjoy a picnic lunch.

We arrived back at the DRS around 2:30PM and set up our treats on the newly built porch attached to the residence trailer. The selection of food each of us brought was delicious, varied, and balanced. Apparently, the three of us are all food-a-philes with similar ideas of great eating while on the road.

We ate lunch during the hottest part of the day. It must have been somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees. Fortunately the porch is positioned in the shade of the building during the late afternoon so it inspired a leisurely lunch and an opportunity to cool off.

Around 4:00PM we finished filling up the water containers and headed back to the site to finish our work. We drove along Santa Fe Road leading to Harper Lake Rd enjoying the sparse landscape and spotting a few mounds of blooming hairy sand-verbena along the way. At 4:30 we arrived at a intersection of Harper Lake RD and saw smoke pouring from behind the ranch complex situated at the intersection. Emily thought the smell and color of the smoke was peculiar and that maybe be should call the fire dept., but I convinced her it was probably someone incinerating trash. It is common to see people burning stuff in the desert and it appeared that there were several “working” cars at the ranch although we did not witness any persons on the property, so we continued the drive to the Moisture site arriving around 4:45PM.

As we were unloading the car we experienced periodic gusts of wind and shortly Damian noticed a big plume of smoke coming from the direction of the ranch and the pungent smell that comes with fire. We continued to work filling up plant feeding containers with DriWater, and watering the trees, that were not being fed with the gator bags, with 7 gallons of water to saturate the roots and activate the nutrient packs positioned during the last trip. We were concerned by the smell of smoke but found ourselves quickly distracted when Damian noticed that the cables to our solar panel were nearly chewed-through by some of our animal friends. Fortunately Damian was capable and able to fix all the cables with the tools and some duck tape that I always bring to the site. I was so thankful that he was along for this trip because had it been just myself and Emily I am not sure that either of us would be comfortable attempting that repair which required splicing and reattaching the wires before covering them with the tape.

We were able to finish up in a timely manner and pack up the car before we witnessed the beautiful change of light to twilight, always the best photo opportunity. We left for the DRS to store the water containers just before dark.

As we came close to our turn-off at the junction of Harper Lake and Santa Fe, we noticed that the County Fire Dept had blocked the road. The land around the ranch compound, as well as land across the street, was blackened and still smoldering. Embers were burning on a precariously leaning electrical pole. Suddenly, we realized that what we thought was a controlled trash burn late that afternoon was the beginning of a fire that eventually spread to 5 or more acres. We decided it was best if we stopped to tell the fire inspector what we had seen earlier. My guilt for not calling the fire dept when we first saw smoke overwhelmed me and I wanted to help the inspector if I could with timelines and placement of the fire early on.

Emily kindly reassured me that it is not that unusual for folks in the desert to burn trash so we clearly thought that this fire was probably a controlled burn. The curious point was that people were home on the compound but didn’t call the fire dept. For a good hour after we saw and smelled smoke, it
poured from behind the buildings without letting up. I have since learned that it is illegal to burn anything from 12noon through the night. The circumstances were very suspicious and I hope the county was able to discover the source. The Fire inspector said there had been a rash of fires in the Hinkely area. Sure enough, as we were pulling onto Highway 58 to head back home, we saw another large fire just beginning near another open ranch field. It was all very surreal and suspicious.

On the Drive home we all suffered from smoke irritation, but fortunately for us, Damian always carries clear-eye with him. We were able to start relieving the pain early on the trip back. We stopped in Victorville for dinner, and then drove straight through to Pasadena, and then Altadena. Even though it was past midnight and we were tired and smoke filled, Emily stayed for a small while chatting with Claude and myself. It was a great adventure and I thank both Emily and Damian for working so hard on the project.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On Sunday, May 29th, at 8:30am, Deena and I headed out to the site from Altadena. We stopped off at the studio in Alta Loma to get three cases of DriWater and the recently purchased Gator Bags. Back on the road by 9:30am, we arrived at the CLUI DRS by 11:30am after making an unwise decision to grab something to eat at Del Taco.

We found Matt Coolidge working away, in seclusion, on the CLUI newsletter, but he took a break to talk with us while we waited for Bernard and Laura to show. Matt allowed us to listen to the Brian Eno (Long Now) speech being broadcast from KDRS—Steve Rowell’s current transmission—and we took a look at the trees living off of the newly installed drip system. I filled the eight water containers, and when Bernard and Laura arrived we hit the road shortly after 1:00pm.

We made it to the site by 1:30pm. It was as windy as hell! I found it almost impossible to get work done or to keep a hat on my head. After unloading all of the water and other gear, we starting filling the brown Gator bags while Bernard removed the tree fences. Laura helped with the filling and we soon had one of the bags placed around a small tree. Six bags were ultimately filled and put in place for the six-hour soak.

During our last visit, we forgot to replace a few DriWater capsules so we tended to that need right away. As the Gator Bags were providing the slow soak, I loaded the Jeep with the empty containers and headed back to the DRS to refill. I took Santa Fe road, which was in great shape, and arrived back at the DRS around 4:30pm, at which time I saw Jim and Julianne who were heading back to the Double J Ranch. I filled the containers and headed back to the site around 5:20pm.

When I returned, Bernard and Deena has placed some small tubes into the ground for
experimental soaking. The Gator Bags were mostly empty by 6:15pm so we pulled them away from the trees. We used the water from second fill-up to activate the Nutripacks Deena had placed next to the root-balls, and after that, Bernard and I replaced the fences. Activities wrapped by 7:00pm. Bernard and Laura left a few minutes before us, and then we headed to the DRS to drop off the water containers and the unused DriWater capsules. We tried to get Matt to go and grab a bite with us, but the newsletter needed to be finished.

Deena had surgery on her foot on Tuesday, but she plans to be back out to the site with Emily in a few weeks. More details later.


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