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Standard Time

by Charlene Burgi

Euonymus alatus

Euonymus alatus

A friend noted that it is time to turn our clocks back an hour before retiring this Saturday night. The message shouldn’t have been a surprise, nor was it a trick or treat! Fall is here. The evenings are much cooler, and the leaves of the trees and shrubs are showing their true colors of oranges, reds, and yellows. It seems like it was just yesterday that the Euonymus alatus in the backyard was green, yet it lost its chlorophyll overnight and is now displaying an amazing shade of scarlet red. The recent winds picked up the golden leaves of the Cladrastis kentukea (yellowwood tree) and sprinkled them around the garden. Flocks of robins have also returned to visit before moving further south.

Turning back the clocks signifies shorter daylight hours and more indoor time for making breads and homemade soups from the bounty of our gardens. However, the annual ritual also forced my thoughts back to the list of things that first need attention outdoors. Jack has already been busy rigging up the horse and donkey water troughs to thermostatic heaters. Hoses are already drained and detached from outdoor water sources, and emergency generators and lighting are ready to go as needed. Tools are sharpened for the task of pruning this winter.

But what about the garden details? Gladiola and dahlia corms as well as begonia tubers need to be lifted from the soil and stored in a dry environment until spring. The greenhouse could do with a major clean-up before we add winter crops. Lingering summer veggies are waiting to be pulled and added to the compost pile. And the compost pile could be covered with an old carpet to retain the heat. Mountains of stored manure still lie in wait to be spread out on the future garden area set up for next year. Leaves around the roses and fruit trees require raking to eliminate any fungus-carrying pathogen. The well-rotted compost could be utilized in the cold frames, not to mention that the controllers need to be reset along with the balance of clocks in the house.

Insulated pipe

Insulated pipe

We had our first freeze in Lassen this past week. It reminded me that exposed outdoor water pipes also need to be wrapped with pipe insulation for potential freezing temperatures in Marin. How well do I remember trying to leave for work in the wee hours and attempting to use the garden hose to wash off the frozen dew from my windshield, only to find the water in the hose frozen! Instead of water, the hose would spew out cylinders of ice!

The fall preparations can also include some fun planting. Garlic can go into the ground now, along with spring-blooming bulbs. Raspberry canes can also get established. And this is the perfect time to check out trees at the nursery to see their display of fall color and choose one to tuck into that perfect spot in the garden. As long as you are visiting the nursery, check out various varieties of holly to add the color of berries to the winter garden.

Who would have thought that the mere mention of turning the hour hand back would create such a long “honey-do” list!

Sonoma Marin Saving Water Partnership logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month recognized the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership as a WaterSense Partner of the Year for its commitment to promoting water efficiency. The three water districts and six cities that purchase water from the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), including MMWD, are members of the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership. SCWA is the partnership program manager.

The partnership was honored for several 2013 conservation programs, including the 20-Gallon Challenge, which featured incentive prizes such as high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, rainwater catchment and graywater systems, and custom water-wise landscape design in exchange for a pledge to save 20 gallons per person per day.

Learn more about the Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership and its programs here.

Up to $50 Each, Up to $250 for All Five

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveGet paid to save with five new rebates from MMWD! For a limited time, we’re offering our residential customers rebates up to $50 each for the following products:

  • Pool covers
  • Hot water recirculating systems
  • Organic mulch
  • Laundry-to-landscape system components
  • Rain barrels

Pick and choose the product categories that make sense for your home, and purchase one or more for a total rebate of up to $250 for all five.

Purchases must be made on or after October 25, 2014, to qualify. Single-family and duplex residential customers are eligible. Rebates are offered on a first-come, first-served basis while funding lasts, so don’t wait!

For complete details and to download an application form, visit our website.

A Deal

by Charlene Burgi

Let’s face it—I love all kinds of deals. When repurposing became the rage, I was already there. Bay-Friendly gardening principles encourage us to recycle, and I am at the forefront cheering on other followers. Pinterest.org has my full attention for other ideas on repurposing. Turning an old pallet into a planter for growing lettuce is exciting news. Bent, galvanized nails are saved to place around the base of hydrangeas to get them to turn blue. And a broken clay pot makes for great drainage material for plants that don’t like their roots sitting in water.

Future henhouse?

Future henhouse?

At times, Jack has to put his foot down to this quirk of mine. For example, I wanted to convert an old antiquated camping trailer into a henhouse. Visually, the vintage RV would be adorable—in my eyes. The trailer would be insulated and with plenty of room for chickens to move about. Plus it would be impossible for predators to enter. Additionally, no lumber would be needed to construct a new henhouse.

My guess is thriftiness is in my DNA. My mother was great at making ends meet. She could stretch a dollar to the maximum and wouldn’t hesitate to walk a mile to get the best price for an onion. Perhaps growing up during the Great Depression gave Mom a sense of saving and making the most of a situation. I will never forget her thinking she could save money by replacing the worn ticking on our feather pillows. I came home from school to a house filled with feathers floating into every nook and cranny. Years later we would still come across an escaped down feather from that money-saving adventure. Despite the mess made, years later it gave us all a chuckle when we considered the hours she spent repurposing those feathers.

Mom also saved water before it came into vogue. In need of a new washing machine, she was disappointed to learn that sud-saver washing machines were no longer available. Her answer to that problem was to insert a plug into the laundry room sink and bucket water back into the washing machine—especially during the 1970s drought. She proudly shared her water-saving ideas with the Marin Independent Journal during that time, making the front page and collecting the grand prize for the best submitted ideas.

She would also take advantage of rebates that came along over the years from the Marin Municipal Water District. She replaced her high-water-using toilets with new HETs, placed bark around her garden, and exchanged her sprinkler nozzles for MPR spray nozzles, knowing those rebates would save water as well as reduce the dollar figure on her water bill.

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveMom has since passed on, but her values are well embedded in this brain. When I heard of MMWD’s newest rebate program, which starts this Saturday, October 25, I wondered how she might take advantage of the savings. She didn’t have a pool for the pool cover, but knowing her, a laundry-to-landscape system would be a great substitute for the loss of her sud-saver washing machine. Rain barrels would also be a consideration since she would always place containers under her downspout to collect rainwater. Organic mulch was refreshed in her garden every year. Yes, Mom would take advantage of these deals. How about you?

Ten months after the governor, and then MMWD, asked for reductions in water use, MMWD customers continue to respond well. Average consumption for mid-October 2014 was approximately 25% lower than it was last year. The total water savings achieved since the beginning of the year have helped to keep our reservoirs at close to normal levels.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of October 19, reservoir storage is 49,579 acre-feet,* or 62% of capacity. The average for this date is 52,290 acre-feet, or 66% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this year to date (July 1-October 19) is 1.12 inches. Average for the same period is 2.33 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of October 13-19 averaged 21.98 million gallons per day, compared to 27.86 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of September 2014 MMWD released 160 million gallons, or 490 acre-feet, into Lagunitas and Walker creeks in west Marin for habitat enhancement.

Water use and reservoir figures are updated weekly and can be found on our Water Watch page.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons

by Andrea Williams, Vegetation Ecologist

This is installment eight of a 12-part series on grasses. Read the previous installment here.

Life gets busy sometimes, and blog posts can seem a frivolous indulgence. But then things don’t match up right, and one feels further behind* than she should for not having gotten the semaphore grass (Pleuropogon) post out in time for International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19. “Why should that matter?” you might think (that, or, “You totally lost me”). Well, the genus name for this grass translates from the Greek as “Sidebeard” and I think that would make an excellent pirate name.

North Coast semaphore grass

North Coast semaphore grass (Pleuropogon hooverianus)
©2001 Bart and Susan Eisenberg (CC BY 3.0)

Like pirates, semaphore grasses are usually found near water; also, there are a lot fewer than there used to be. Marin County has two rare species, nodding (P. refractus) and North Coast (P. hooverianus), and the more common California (P. californicus) semaphore grass. Nodding semaphore grass has only been found in Marin on the Point Reyes peninsula, although suitable redwood riparian habitat exists for it elsewhere in the county, and it is relatively common in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. North Coast semaphore grass, state-listed as threatened, was once known from Ross, Lagunitas Meadows, and several spots along San Geronimo Creek; now, there is only one shrinking patch near the San Geronimo Treatment Plant. Sadly, most of Lagunitas Meadows was flooded when Bon Tempe Reservoir was built, and searches of that area have yielded no plants, so that population appears to have gone to its watery grave. California semaphore grass was also known from Ross, but can still be found in grassy wet meadows to the north and east in places such as Mt. Burdell and Hicks Valley.

Semaphore grasses’ distinctive arrangement of their spikelets led to their common name: The flowering stalk stands like a mast with the small flagging spikelets waving in the breeze. The three species we have can be told apart by how their flags are held—the semaphore’s message is up=californicus, out=hooverianus, down= refractus. Other differences help in telling these apart as well (since the flags can sometimes give mixed messages), such as habitat, and the rare species’ rhizomatous habit. But if you encounter a Sidebeard of any kind, thank yer lucky stars!

*At least I can translate the month and feel like I am still on track, since October (as I write this) is the “eighth” month.

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveThe Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) is launching five new rebates to promote water conservation starting this Saturday, October 25, 2014.

We’ll be offering rebates up to $50 each for pool covers, hot water recirculating systems, organic mulch, laundry-to-landscape graywater system components, and rain barrels. Customers will be able to pick and choose the product categories that make sense for their homes, and purchase one or more for a total rebate of up to $250 for all five.

The rebates will be offered for a limited time on a first-come, first-served basis while funding lasts. Purchases must be made on or after October 25 to qualify. Single-family and duplex residential customers are eligible.

The products include:

  • Pool covers: A pool cover is a highly effective water and energy conservation device. Regularly using a pool cover reduces water loss due to evaporation by up to 95%. A pool cover also can shrink energy bills by preventing heat loss.
  • Hot water recirculating systems: No more watching water go down the drain while waiting for the shower to warm up! Hot water recirculating systems use a pump and bypass valve to recirculate water back to the hot water heater until it reaches the desired temperature.
  • Organic mulch: Organic, plant-based mulches such as bark, straw, or compost help retain soil moisture, suppress the growth of water-hogging weeds, and add nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
  • Laundry-to-landscape system components: Reusing water from a clothes washer for landscape irrigation is one of the simplest, least expensive ways to “go gray.” Basic laundry-to-landscape graywater systems don’t require permits or alteration to existing plumbing.
  • Rain barrels: Just 1 inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof produces about 600 gallons of runoff. Rain barrels can be a great way to harvest some of this rain water to supplement irrigation needs.

For complete details on qualifying products and how to participate, visit marinwater.org/rebates after October 25, or watch for more information in your November/December water bill.

In addition to the new rebates, we will continue to offer rebates on high-efficiency toilets, high-efficiency clothes washers, and smart irrigation controllers. Visit marinwater.org/rebates to learn more.

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