by Charlene Burgi
This morning at the ranch the world outside was covered by a white blanket of snow that glistened in the early morning sun. All signs of emerging daffodils disappeared as they snuggled under the cover of white. It was a winter wonderland out there. Little finches and chickadees thronged to the feeders to replenish the fuel they needed to survive the cold temperatures. Even Copper and Brighty, my faithful* donkeys, basked in the sun-drenched pasture and seemed to admire the beautiful landscape around them.
A beeping could be heard coming from the kitchen. The gizmo that records precipitation was letting me know that the accumulated snowmelt registered a half-inch of water. Next to that device is another weather gauge that records current indoor and outdoor temperatures, plus records the barometric pressure and predicts the weather conditions in the next 24 hours. I questioned the accuracy of this prediction as it showed rain for today, yet the sun was shining. I also smiled as I thought of the ranchers up here saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”
In Marin, my involvement with the weather was different. I didn’t have these special gauges in my home nor was I as concerned about weather conditions except for extended dry periods. Only then did I weekly check the California Irrigation Management Information System, otherwise known as CIMIS. CIMIS has many weather stations throughout the state of California that are used for calculating how long to irrigate our landscapes. If you’ve ever wondered where MMWD’s Weekly Watering Schedule comes from, it is based on data from the three weather stations in our service area. These stations continuously monitor air temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and solar radiation. In any given week, we can use this information to calculate how many inches of water were lost through evaporation from the soil and through transpiration from plants—the evapotranspiration rate (ET). This in turn tells us how many inches of water need to be replaced through irrigation. MMWD then factors in the microclimates of Marin and provides weekly runtimes based on where you live and what types of plants and irrigation system you have. We can even send you that information every week in an email so all that’s left for you to do is adjust your timer!
Here in Lassen, the closest CIMIS station to me is 50 miles away. The climate is very different there. As I gaze at the little devices in the kitchen, I realize how lucky Marin is to have this information provided. I can already foresee the need to pull from the not-so-local CIMIS station and recalibrate to local conditions so I can provide proper irrigation when the time comes. I am very thankful I bought a smart controller that will make my life even easier.
As I look outside, I know it will be a while before irrigation season starts here. Meanwhile, I will bask in the vision conjured up by my daughter’s email for me today that spoke of her daffodils, daphne, flowering plums and primrose that are permeating the air with the fragrance of spring. Spring will be a few more months away here. Then I will boast of daffodils, crocus and iris painting the landscape with shades of yellows, lavender and white from the land that is now so quiet.
*Lassen and Sierra are still roaming the ranch lands six miles away. We daily truck hay and water to them but they remain elusive. When the weather stabilizes, we will try to capture the wandering vagabonds. I am seriously considering changing the two donkeys’ names to Thelma and Louise.