Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Be Still My Heart!

Yes, its true -- California's 52 day massive high-pressure system is about to get it's butt kicked by a storm that's marching towards us from Hawaii.  The likelihood of rain by Thursday started out at 20% last week and has since crept up to 40% and now is at a solid 70%.  It's not quite a slam dunk yet, but it's looking like the storm door might be opening before our "rainy" season is over for the year.  Last week, our governor officially declared that we have a drought in California and water officials have been scrambling to conserve as much water as possible.  The talk was getting more serious about what might be the consequences if it didn't rain at all this spring.  This hasn't happened ever in our state's recorded history, so the full impact could only be guessed at.  On a personal level, I pretty certain that one impact would be that our well may very likely run dry.  But now things are cautiously looking up.

By way of celebrating, I rushed outside to plant one of the larger oaks when I got home from school yesterday.  The sun was already just behind Gopher Ridge when I trundled the 15 gallon potted tree down the driveway in a handcart.  15 gallons of tree doesn't sound all that heavy, but I could barely wrestle it into the cart.  As I wheeled it down the sloped drive, there was one exciting moment when it appeared that the tree in the driver's seat was going to send the cart careening off without me.  I was very much in the moment as I slowed down the runaway tree by steering the cart diagonally across the drive.  But eventually the tree, cart, one shovel, two dogs and a cat arrived at one of the holes that Bruce had augered out the day before.

And soon after that, I discovered that the hole wasn't deep enough.  And that there was a sturdy layer of quartz and shale at the bottom of it.  As I'd had to cut the pot down the sides in order to pull the tree out, I couldn't change my mind about planting it right then.  So I trudged back up the hill in the fading light to turn on the hose so I could put water in the hole in hopes that it might soften up the surrounding dirt a bit.  I worked on it for a bit longer, then went back up the house -- this time for a pick ax and a flashlight.

I have never used a pick ax in the dark before and this is what I discovered: when you whack it against stone, sparks shower out.  There was a veritable 4th of July thing going on down there with every clang of the pick.  Being surrounded by acres of dry grass, it occurred to me how surreal it was to be worrying about fire danger while digging a hole in January.  But there it was.

However, I was determined to get that tree in the ground.  Actually, to be honest, I kept looking out towards the highway as I worked, hoping that one of those sets of car headlights zooming down from Vista Point belonged to Bruce's car.  I very much wished that he was the guy wielding the pick and then I could be the person helpfully holding the flashlight so he could see.  But this didn't appear to be anything that would happen in the near future.  So I balanced the flashlight on the edge of the cart, and kept hacking away at the hole and scooping out dirt and rock chips with my hands.  From time to time I'd lower the tree into the hole to see if it was deep enough.  The first three times, the root ball was above the ground level but the fourth time I didn't have to haul it back out again.  By now Seal and Max the cat had gone back up to the house and only Murphy was left.  He lay close by and watched with an interested expression as I shoveled in the dirt around the roots and then tamped and watered everything in.  And then I loaded up the tools back into the cart and Murphy and I made our final trip back up to the house.

I closed the chickens up in the coop and had just herded the geese back into their stall for the night when headlights came up the drive.  And there was Bruce.  When I asked him if he'd seen the tree as he drove up the drive, he said, "No."  But he came with fresh cracked crab from the store, so I forgave him.

When it rains, it will fall on my newly planted trees -- a nice thought, to be sure.

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