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Posts Tagged ‘events’

by Charlene Burgi

Golden retriever pups in the snow

Snowy paws: The pups at 11 months old

Alarm clocks are no longer needed in our home since the pups arrived on the scene. Every morning between 5:30 and 6:30, four front puppy paws appear on the edge of the mattress to let Jack and I know it is time to get up.

Those paws, to my consternation, tell me more than the time. They also reveal the current weather conditions based on the mud or snow they track in as they race through the house after being outdoors. The dilemma is that Misty knows how to open the front door if it isn’t locked, so unwelcome tell-tale (no pun intended) paw-print signs show up all over the floor.

The bad news is the carpets and tile floors are in a constant state of being shampooed or vacuumed. The good news is the pups’ imprints tell me if the soil outside is like a sponge or in need of amendments. One could almost say their paw prints in the house are sure indicators of which outdoor areas they’ve explored. Did their paws sink into the rich, healthy soil of the garden area? (Muddy prints.) Or did they explore an area in need of more amendments, where water tends to collect or run off? (Wet prints.)

Pooling water on soil

Soil in need of amendments

Indicators help us all know what to do to create living sponge-like soil in our gardens. Marin is famous for clay soils where water pools up in level areas or runs off on slopes. Runoff carries away nutrients that plants need, erodes what little topsoil may exist, and will shorten the life of asphalt. Clay also compacts easily, trapping rich nutrients within and requiring us to buy fertilizer to feed our plants.

In last week’s workshop, Brad Lancaster mentioned various ways to create living sponges in the garden and avoid funneling precious rainfall straight to the bay. First, direct water to your plants—or as he says, “plant the rain.” This is done by grading the soil toward your plants, creating conduits to guide water to where it can soak into richly fed earth. Second, amend and mulch. Leave your clippings around the base of your plants unless the material is diseased. This natural mulch will break down and add nutrients back into the soil. The more leaf-drop and amendments left to decompose, the more sponge-like the soil will be. Compost made from kitchen scraps and added to the garden will also provide healthy and diverse life while breaking down clay soil conditions. In turn, the soil absorbs more water. This synergic process reminds me of a childhood song called “Dem Bones” that describes how our bones are all connected to make a whole!

Are you thinking of harvesting rainwater? Soaking up the rain with your soil is the first and healthiest step for your garden. Take a walk. Do you see any indicators of erosion, puddles, or salt stains on hardscapes from irrigation runoff? How much water can you save by planting it back into the garden instead of into storm drains? How much money can you save by using such amendments as home-grown compost or allowing the leaf litter and garden clippings to stay where they fall? How much rainwater can you save by keeping it on your property? Let your eyes be the indicators and use your ingenuity to come up with ways to turn hardpan clay into a living sponge.

For those ready to grow their rainwater harvesting and graywater expertise to the next level, there are two upcoming courses that may be of interest. Both are geared to landscape professionals. The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association presents a two-day rainwater harvesting accreditation course March 10-11 in Napa. And starting March 25 in Santa Rosa will be a free, four-session Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) Graywater Training. Please share these opportunities with others who may be interested!

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by Charlene Burgi

Persian water wheel

Persian water wheel near Khajuraho, India. (Photo courtesy of Ann Vallee.)

Ann Vallee, the invaluable person behind the scenes of this blog who works in Public Information at MMWD, recently took an amazing trip to India. Knowing my interest in irrigation, she sent pictures of cattle tethered to a Persian water wheel. As they walked in circles, the cattle turned a series of gears that caused a chain of buckets to lift water up from a well. The water then poured into a system of troughs that ran out to the fields to water the crops, or it could be collected in a vessel for household use.

She also spoke of public water wells in villages where people washed clothes and dishes, bathed, and filled their pots with the precious liquid to carry home—some feat as one gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds! And what can you do with just one gallon of water? (This is a test question!)

Ann’s stories reminded me of a Greek garden I designed some years back. The family was from Greece and recalled similar public water fountains from their past life. They asked me to include a fountain in the garden as a daily reminder of the luxury they now enjoy by just turning on the tap. (The garden fountain was designed with a water-saving recirculating pump, unlike the free-flowing fountains they experienced in Greece.)

These descriptions of how people live made me think. Life in Lassen County has given me a new perspective on living conditions, but none as far removed as our friends in India or other places around the world. Things I took for granted in Marin are not as readily accessible here. I tend to think before acting now: Can I leave the lug of oranges that our dear friends shared with us in the back of the truck overnight? Or will they be solid balls of orange ice in the morning? Can I run out for an errand without carrying a heavy coat in the car? Or will I get caught by a major drop in temperature before coming home?

I am also more aware of the weather conditions. If a storm is coming in, is the generator fueled up and close by to plug into the house if the lights go out? Preparing for winter in Marin included storing a few candles and making certain there were working batteries in flashlights. The impact here is more than just losing electricity. In this valley we now call home, we are totally dependent on electricity to get water to the house—something I never worried about in Marin. Water is now stored in the garage to use conservatively until power is restored to the pump house that sits 1,100 linear feet away and 70 feet lower in elevation than the house. (Advanced test question: What is the friction loss of 1½ inch PVC pipe running 1,100 feet, and how many pounds per square inch (PSI) are lost rising 70 feet?)

Do you realize the same concerns, calculations, and need for power exist in Marin? The difference is you generally don’t need to think about it because MMWD is handling all that behind the scenes. Water must be pumped from lakes to treatment plants, from treatment plants to water storage tanks, and sometimes from storage tanks to your homes. My hat is off to the people at MMWD who assess the demands for each tank, calculating exactly how much water your neighborhood uses at any given time to assure the tanks are at the capacity needed to deliver that water to you—not to mention the engineers who calculate friction losses along miles of pipeline as well as how many pounds of pressure and gallons per minute are available per meter. The district has generators and staff ready to go at any given moment, so that even when you turn on the faucet in a power outage, you have water. It seems as easy as flipping a switch; the reality is it is a luxury taken for granted. And believe me, yours truly did just that for years!

There is someone that I mentioned last week who doesn’t take water for granted. Brad Lancaster will be in the Bay Area this coming week. Brad has taught in many Third World countries and countries that live with an ongoing shortage of water. He lives in Tuscan, Arizona—situated at the end of the tap of the Colorado River. Brad walks the walk as well as talks the talk by utilizing and maximizing available water in a fashion that would lead you to think otherwise if you saw the lush beauty surrounding his home. Come listen and learn about conservation from this man who turns soil into living sponges. Hope to see you there.

And speaking of great learning opportunities, landscape professionals may be interested in the next Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) training course starting February 25, followed by the QWEL Graywater training starting March 25. Both classes will be in Santa Rosa. See the flier for details.

As for the test questions, please share your answers below. Let’s see how creative you are with one gallon of water, and how many of the pros come up with the correct answers to friction loss and PSI loss!

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by Charlene Burgi

pile of booksYears ago when we had the nursery in Novato, our retired neighbor Danny, who owned and sold the most incredible fuchsias, would visit us on a daily basis. He would sometimes offer a helping hand, and we could always count on him sharing his Nebraska gardening wisdoms with customers. On occasion customers would come in spouting new or creative ideas to us. After they left, Danny would quip, “They’ve been reading too many books.”

I have found in retirement that I, too, am reading too many books and articles with creative, time-saving ideas for gardening and canning. Some ideas have been a flop—like the zucchini apple pie. In my defense, sheer desperation to do something with the over-abundance of zucchini made me willing to try anything! While the taste was okay, the texture was a far cry from what one would expect from apple pie. The compost bin was on the receiving end of that experiment.

Not to be dissuaded, I continued to peruse literature that crossed my path for tips to help me beat the upcoming changes in the weather. For example, composting always slows way down in the winter months due to the lack of heat. One idea I read suggested freezing all kitchen compost scraps to break down the molecular cells faster than placing the scraps in the compost, and then layering this mix with a top-dressing of brown vegetation. The same article also suggested putting all food scraps in the blender to further speed the composting process and mixing the “slush” with wood shavings.

Wading through the soon-to-be-snow-covered landscape to deposit anything into the compost bins did not sound appealing since I moved the bins to the south 40. My mind shifted to the possibility of starting a worm bin in the garage. Vermicomposting—or composting with worms—is an excellent method for quickly composting kitchen scrapes. The garage will maintain a temperature sustainable for the red worms, and I can avoid daily composting treks in inclement weather. The byproduct of worm castings and organic liquid manure will supply the greenhouse and kitchen herb garden all winter long. As you would guess, I started reading all I could about vermiculture, and it is placed high on my to-do list with the intent of blogging about it in the future.

Meanwhile, there have been some successes with testing out new recipes, and I wanted to share this winner with you. I must admit there were several attempts before finding …

Zucchini pesto soup makingsThe REAL Pesto Zucchini Soup
3 pounds of zucchini
2 medium onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup prepared pesto
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Basil leaves for garnish

Cut one zucchini into matchstick size for garnish. Cook onions until soft. Slice remaining zucchini into rounds. Add zucchini and 1 cup of broth to onions. Boil covered until zucchini is very tender. Blend these cooked ingredients until smooth in a food processor or blender. Place blended ingredients back into the pot and add remaining broth. Add pesto and cheese. You can refrigerate for two days, or freeze for a winter treat. The rating thus far has been five stars! Bon appetite.

And now onto new reading!

Join Us for These Upcoming Gardening Events

MMWD will be at these upcoming events to answer questions about rebates and our other water conservation programs. Drop by our table to say hello!

September 28: A Garden for All Seasons – Edibles
Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Ross
This all-day, information-packed event includes UC Marin Master Gardener talks, demonstrations, consultations, gardening vendors, food and refreshments. Learn how to create your own edible paradise. Tickets are $25 for an all-day pass including keynote speakers, or $10 for day pass only. Learn more.

September 29: Lose Your Lawn the Bay-Friendly Way
Sloat Garden Center, 700 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Kentfield
-or-
October 5: Lose Your Lawn the Bay-Friendly Way
Sloat Garden Center, 401 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
Learn how to tear out your lawn without tearing out your lawn! Free how-to talk by Bay-Friendly Qualified Landscape Professionals at 10:30 a.m., followed by tabling noon to 1:00 p.m., where you can get one-on-one advice from garden experts. Learn more.

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National Public Lands Day 20th AnniversaryMMWD and Mt. Tamalpais State Park are pleased to host a volunteer habitat restoration event in celebration of the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 28, from 9:00 a.m. – noon. REI of Corte Madera is donating raffle prizes!

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands. 2012 was the biggest NPLD in the history of the event. Let’s help make their 20th anniversary even better!

Volunteers will help restore shrinking native grassland and chaparral habitat along the Matt Davis Trail by removing outcompeting, young Douglas-fir seedlings. Grasslands provide habitat for native plants and animals and hunting grounds for birds of prey. Chaparral provides shelter for birds, foxes and small mammals.

We will meet at 9:00 a.m. at Bootjack parking lot, located on Panoramic Highway above Mill Valley. Please wear close-toed shoes and long pants and dress for variable weather. Mt. Tamalpais State Park will provide breakfast snacks. Bring your lunch and a reusable water bottle. MMWD will provide water and tools. Habitat restoration events are generally suitable for ages 8 and up. Volunteers under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information about this event, contact the district’s Volunteer Program at (415) 945-1128 or e-mail volunteerprogram@marinwater.org. For possible cancellation and fire closure information, call after 7:30 a.m. on the morning of the event.

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by Ariana Chiapella

It is truly amazing how much work a group of motivated, enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers can achieve in just a few short hours. On June 29, my site partner Michael Paccassi and I organized a salmonid habitat enhancement event along San Geronimo Creek. This project, called an Individual Service Project (ISP) in AmeriCorps lingo, was a requirement during our term of service with the Watershed Stewards Project (WSP). On paper, this event seemed like only a small piece of our mandated work for the ten months we’ve spent at MMWD, but in reality it was a perfect snapshot representation of everything we have done throughout our time here.

The majority of our work has been “stream restoration,” which at the water district includes spawner surveys, smolt trapping, snorkel surveys, analysis of engineered woody debris habitat, and the ensuing data entry. As a result, we in a way have been inducted into the fragile lives of the endangered coho salmon and have formed an intimate relationship with all of the factors that they depend on for survival. Consequently, the work our volunteers completed during our ISP was directly related to these important aspects of a salmonid’s habitat.

Another large piece of our required work has been community outreach and education. We developed and taught a six-week curriculum to third and fifth graders at a Title One school. The lessons were based in environmental science and included the relationships between watersheds, the water cycle, fish biology and human activity. The key messages of this curriculum were also shared at multiple outreach and community volunteer events throughout the year.

The skills we gained by engaging with the public and communicating WSP’s mission were crucial in our recruitment of over 30 volunteers for the San Geronimo Creek project. Of course it certainly helped to already have so many dedicated MMWD volunteers! We were so excited to see such a strong community turnout at the event. In addition to some familiar friendly faces from other MMWD volunteer events, we also had a great turnout of new volunteers.

The landowners’ property that we worked on was the perfect fit for a volunteer project such as this, not only because of the manageable projects it presented, but because it showed community members how they can make a difference on their own properties and most importantly because of the graciousness of our hosts.

We all banded together to tackle the invasive plants that were growing throughout the riparian corridor and squelching the vital native species that contribute to the habitat that salmonids need for survival. After eradicating the vinca, cape ivy, English ivy, Japanese knotweed and others, our group replanted the entire riparian area with fast-growing native trees, shrubs and perennial plants that, if all goes well, will take hold and restore the biodiversity needed for complex habitat and stable, non-eroding stream banks.

San Geronimo Creek habitat restoration

Before, during, after: Volunteers did a fantastic job of eradicating the Japanese knotweed and squelching the English ivy.

Thanks to a donation from Good Earth for breakfast, lunch from MMWD, and cookies and watermelon from the landowners, our volunteers were rightfully rewarded for their hard work. We could not have asked for a better group of volunteers!

In all honesty, I at first doubted the point of an ISP at the beginning of the WSP term. It seemed so unrelated to the overarching basis of our work here in MMWD’s Fisheries Department. In retrospect, it encompassed everything: endangered species protection, community outreach and education. Not only were we working to improve riparian habitat for the benefit of the coho salmon and steelhead trout, but we were doing so through community organization and action. These principles are laced within WSP’s mission, and we strongly believe that they also will be carried with anyone who has been involved with our program during the past ten months, whether through our education curriculum, field surveys or volunteer events.

Check out MMWD’s Facebook page for more photos of the event!

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by Elise Hinman

How did the natural world captivate you as a child? Maybe it was when you learned that wild blackberries are edible (and delicious), built a fort out of downed tree branches, or observed a family of bluebirds making a nest in your backyard. I remember raising Sierran tree frogs from eggs at my house, watching the tiny tadpoles sprout legs as their tails disappeared. Releasing the young frogs back into the stream left a lasting impact on my respect for Mother Nature.

studying macroinvertebrates

Young citizen scientists get an up-close look at some of Lake Lagunitas’s macroinvertebrates at Family Science Day.

We all have our memorable moments in the great outdoors; we can only hope that an excitement for nature will live on in our youngest generations. On May 25, MMWD partnered with the California Academy of Sciences on an event aimed at making this hope a reality. Family Citizen Science Day at Lake Lagunitas brought a slew of activities to the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed to stoke the fire of a new generation of scientists. Over 150 people attended the four-hour event, and judging by the excited kids and beaming parents, it was an amazing success.

Each family was furnished with a Field Scientist Activity Book and a bandana with a map of MMWD’s trails. They could play Lake Lagunitas bingo during their walk around the lake, hang out at the Lagunitas deck for hands-on activities, or participate in some of our scheduled events. Kids who completed three or more activities received one thing no citizen scientist should be without: a field notebook!

The scheduled events included two outings to an actual Mt. Tamalpais bioblitz site. There I helped kids identify a plant, carefully dig it up and place it in a plant press. Once at Cal Academy, the pressed plant will be dried and then transferred to a permanent mount, which will preserve the specimen in perpetuity—with the collector’s name on it! Checkerbloom, cat’s ear and narrow-leaf mule’s ear were a few of the flowering species collected for this fascinating project.

Kite making

A future environmental steward puts her artistic talents to work coloring an osprey kite.

At the wooden deck on Lagunitas Dam, the kite-making table was a popular stop. Here, kids had the opportunity to color their own osprey before folding it into a kite complete with a tassel tail. One mother (a science teacher no less) even improved upon our design by adding weight to the tail, giving the kite more stability—way to go! Running back and forth on the dam, participants chased the breezes that would lift their kites sky-high.

Luckily, the commotion on the dam didn’t faze the turtles sunning themselves on logs floating in the lake. Family Science Day participants studied these reptiles through binoculars and determined whether they were native western pond turtles or invasive red-eared sliders. Such data is important for MMWD to keep track of each species’ population size. Toward the end of the event, one bold turtle swam near the wooden deck area to take a closer look at the festivities, to the delight of lake-gazers.

Other kids made a bee-line for the macroinvertebrate table, where Cal Academy’s Alison Young pointed out fascinating water bugs hiding among the lake’s aquatic vegetation. Equipped with a waterproof magnifier, kids could get up close to these critters and see how they move through the water.

Once an hour, my fellow watershed aides, Jaimie Baxter and Jen Stern, and I led families to the redwood grove at the bottom of the dam to meet a tree. What does it mean to “meet a tree?” Well, one bold participant would be blindfolded and then led on a winding path to a mystery tree in the grove. Without eyesight, she had to touch the tree, smell the tree, listen to the sounds around the tree, and remember as much as she could about the tree, Trusting her guides, she was led on a different winding path back to where she started. She could then remove the blindfold and accept the challenge of finding “her” tree! The kids loved this activity and played multiple rounds, I was surprised by the trust blindfolded kids placed in their leaders; they walked without hesitation into anything their guides led them through, even if their guide was four years old and more excited about the activity itself than making sure her sightless partner made it to the tree unhurt. It was a hoot!

Family Citizen Science Day filled me with hope. In the time I spent observing the activities from afar, I saw smiles, heard laughter from both kids and parents, and felt curiosity and joy emanating from the families at the event. I listened as kids asked questions about the natural world, unable to contain their excitement at the knowledge they gained. This day wasn’t successful because it brought a crowd of people; it was successful because we helped nurture a new generation of environmental scientists and nature-lovers. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Family Science Day is an annual event on the watershed. Next time you visit Lake Lagunitas please stop by Sky Oak Watershed Headquarters and pick up a free Sprouting Scientist Field Activity Book. Elise has completed her season with MMWD and headed off to Syracuse University to earn her Ph.D. in Biology, studying the evolutionary ecology of invasive plants.

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by Michael Paccassi and Ariana Chiapella

San Geronimo Salmon Habitat Enhancement Project flyer

Click the image above to view the event flier

As AmeriCorps members with the Watershed Stewards Project, we have had the unique opportunity to work with MMWD biologists in helping to protect, monitor and educate the public about the importance of salmonids like the coho salmon and steelhead trout. Though we aren’t all given the opportunity to work so closely with these beautiful and unique fish, as members of the community and stewards of the land we all share the responsibility of ensuring the survival and well-being of these endangered and threatened species.

Guess what? You’re in luck, because we’ve organized an event that will provide the community of Marin with the opportunity to do just that!

MMWD and the Watershed Stewards Project want to welcome you to a special riparian habitat enhancement project happening along the San Geronimo Creek. Come out and join us this Saturday, June 29, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to show your support for the salmon you all know and love!

To encourage habitat recovery and reduce stream bank erosion, we will be removing non-native and invasive plant species along a section of the San Geronimo Creek. We also will be replanting with native California plant species and using tree shelters to encourage the growth of larger trees to provide shade and habitat for our finned friends in the creek.

We will meet a little before 9:00 a.m. across from the Two Bird Cafe at 625 San Geronimo Valley in San Geronimo. All ages are welcome, so please bring the whole family. Tools, water, snacks and lunch will be provided. All you need to bring is a pair of sturdy boots, some sun protection, a reusable water bottle and your enthusiastic, hard-working self.

To pre-register or for more information about this unique opportunity, contact us at volunteerprogram@marinwater.org or (415) 945-1188.

We look forward to seeing you out there!

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