About that drought…

Let’s be clear– This is the third major drought we’ve experienced in twenty-five years. The issues are as follows – an increase in population and water usage without any commensurate preparation on the part of our state government and our municipalities whatsoever. Because, yeah, right, the state figured we’d never have another drought. Idiots. And that’s all I’ll say. There are reasons for that lack of preparedness but I’ll just say– Idiots.

We’re better off in Napa. We are not going to run out of water. The seasonal streams will dry up quick, but we don’t depend upon them for water or irrigation. (Will impact the newly resurgent salmon population.)

We moved to California in 1990. California, at that time, was in the midst of a serious drought. It lasted five long years. We couldn’t water our lawn. In order to keep our shrubs and vegetable garden alive (barely) we did the following:

1. Kept a bucket in the shower to catch the water, soap and all, for watering plants.

2. Washed dishes in a bucket so we could strain the water and pour it on shrubs.

3. Bathed the three little kids together and used the water for the vegetable garden.

In addition we:

1. rarely flushed toilets. (Use your imagination.)

2. only washed super full loads of laundry.

3. only washed super full loads of dishes.

4. stopped washing cars.

5. kept showers to under five minutes.

6. bought bottled drinking water.

7. let the lawn die, front and back.

At the time we couldn’t afford to modernize our plumbing or redo our landscaping. We’d just moved from Utah, where the cost of living is low, to California, where the cost of living is high. We had three little kids, a HUGE mortgage, and my husband didn’t make much more money than he’d been making in Utah.

Remember, most of California is a desert. Always has been. It may be a fertile desert, but it’s still a desert. The Central Valley can grow pretty much anything and everything if there is water for irrigation. In all seriousness, even though the soil smells disgusting it’s amazingly fertile. A single tomato seedling stuck in my garden grows up to be the tomato plant that takes over the world.

Much of the nation depends upon California agriculture so this isn’t just a California-specific problem.

But take heart! This is a temporary situation. After the first drought we experienced, we survived five solid years of flooding– flooding so severe we were FEMA’d. We, personally, lost our retaining wall, were forced to re-landscape the entire backyard and add French drains. Our county has spent a number of years completing a flood control project which not only saves water, provides wetlands for birds and fish, but also keeps our town from flooding in wet winters. Basically it’s feast or famine around here. Now it’s famine. A few years ago it was feast.

Thus this isn’t a forever drought, it’s a for now drought. But just like our local governments prepare for wet years, they should prepare for dry years.

So far we haven’t been given any water restrictions. But it’s not like I ever wash my car…

Last year we replaced the grass in our backyard with Heavenly Greens. Two years ago we pulled most of our sprayers and replaced them with drip. Doesn’t work as well but it does save water. I deep water the un-dripped shrubs once a week, we water our small patch of grass in the front twice a week, and I water my garden three times a week. We’re back to not always flushing toilets and I save all extra water in big tubs to give my flowers an extra drink. (Plus we have water-saving appliances and low-flush toilets.)

Wish us well, but don’t worry too much. We’ve been through this before and we’ll go through this again. Like I said, California is a desert. Sometimes a wet desert but a desert nonetheless.

Take away message – When the Midwest and the East Coast are wet, we tend to be dry. Weather patterns. Ocean currents. No big surprises hereabouts.

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12 thoughts on “About that drought…

  1. Roberta

    You do all the correct things. Sounds like your local government has some brains. You will survive. One other idea – in place of grass grow cacti…..lots and lots of cacti. Keep us up dated.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Some people do grow cacti, Roberta, but that makes it look like Arizona! Some years it’s way too wet for cacti!

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  2. Marylin Warner

    Well done, Julia. I love your examples, especially the waiting to flush and having 3 young daughters bathe together and then save the water. You and the girls could team up and write a column about surviving a drought until the next flood!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Well, Marilyn, it was two girls and a boy but they were close in age so they didn’t know the difference! We had to get creative if we wanted to keep anything alive.
      I have to say that’s how it is here. Either we’re having a drought or we’re flooded. Nothing in-between. I do love the rain though. The more the better.

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  3. Diana Stevan

    What’s Heavenly Greens? I know that you’ve had drought before, but it is worrisome with climate change and all. I hope this is as you say, cyclical.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Don’t worry, Diana. It is cyclical. Heavenly Greens is fake grass but it looks real. So no water. You and I could have quite a discussion about climate change. The climate is always changing. Just ask the people who lived in the Calamitous Fourteenth Century. I do not fear climate change. We’re more likely to have another ice age than we are to be negatively impacted by global warming. I’m waiting for the Canadians east of the Rockies to move south as the glaciers cover Canada once again. 😉
      If you look at weather patterns in the last big ice age, 17,000 years ago, they were very similar. When water is tied up as snow and ice north and east, the west coast experiences drought.

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      1. Diana Stevan

        I know the climate is always changing, but what’s going on now is significantly different. We have major ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica all due to greenhouse gases and the warming of the planet. On Vancouver Island, while the east got colder and snowier, we’ve had no snow. The last few years have been very pleasant, less stormy and less rainy. Our rhododendrons have been blooming two months early. And our salmon runs are being affected big time. You just have to read about various insects, amphibians, to realize that there’s not just the usual cyclical stuff but major changes afoot unless we do something drastically about all the fossil fuels we’re burning.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. juliabarrett Post author

        I do read about it, Diana. Don’t worry. It’s really okay. It will be okay. You have to take the long view. We’ve been in an interglacial warming period. These things have happened before and they will happen again. Atmospheric temps peaked in 1999 and it’s been cooling since.
        I’m serious. I used to believe as you do, and then I remembered my history and I began to read everything I could find on the actual empirical data. I’m no longer worried about catastrophic climate change. Not even on my list.
        I’m much more worried about water pollution and over-fishing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Greta van der Rol

    We know all about drought in Australia. Sounds to me you’re doing what you can. The only other thing I’d suggest is replating the garden with tough natives which can adapt to whatever the weather throws at them. And yes, droughts end. Here in Australia, usually with a flood. But that’s another story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Our plants are drought tolerant, Greta. We replaced them years ago– except for one patch of grass and the vegetable garden. Our droughts tend to end with flooding as well! Interesting!

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