Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Lessons from the Rain: Connecting with Our Neighbors


I recently posted a pic of the gutters and downspout Dan installed on our neighbor's overhang pouring rainwater into our new cistern. The overwhelming response on Facebook was, "Good neighbors!" And Dave certainly is a good neighbor. But it was also mutually beneficial. Directing that water into the cistern prevented unwanted erosion in his yard. This story not only illustrates the importance of having a good relationship with your neighbors, but also how interconnected we are. 

Nature knows no boundaries. What grows in the neighbors' yard, may end up in ours. This morning I found a branch with pine cones on our side of the fence. We don't have a pine tree. But I benefited by using the pine needles in our compost pit! (If only we could replace our eucalyptus tree with a tree that would drop leaves that would nourish the soil. )

Last night, a gust of wind dropped a branch from our eucalyptus tree onto our neighbor's roof. They say good fences make good neighbors. But if you have one of those "widow makers" it's better to have open communication with your neighbor! A friend shared how his neighbors got mad because he took out a tree that shaded their yard. So we discussed the tree situation with our neighbors over the fence. 

A big downpour (not to mention birds) also spreads seeds. Weeds don't stop on the property line. If allowed to go to seed, they will spread throughout the neighborhood. That's why I sometimes venture into my neighbor's yard and pull out the sticker weeds. And Dave always thanks me.


I recently pulled the native grass that lines Dave's sidewalk and replanted it in our street-side catchment basin. Again, it's mutually beneficial.  (The roots of the native grass work with the woodchip mulch to create a sponge to hold the water longer. The grass also helps prevent erosion from big storms.) 

There is a right of way on our block that is covered with highly flammable, invasive buffelgrass. Just after it rains, I have been known to get out there with my little shovel and pull up what I can by the roots before they go to seed and spread throughout the neighborhood. If I see one popping up in someone's right of way, I simply bend down and pull it out. It's good exercise.

buffelgrass 

My husband likes to call me "The Crazy Weed Lady." Not sure if that has caught on with the other neighbors yet. They might be calling me "Annoying Moringa Woman" or "Edible Weed Gal" or "Water Schlepper."  Anyone who walks their dog past our house may be privy to an unsolicited lecture on the benefits of our rainwater harvesting basins or get a taste of the moringa or purslane growing in our yard. Sure, this might be annoying for some, but others have caught on and implemented rainwater harvesting in their own yards. One neighbor even planted some of our purslane seeds in her yard. I think it's worth it.  

I hope my lessons on edible weeds have kept some people from spraying Roundup. The herbicide some people spray all over their right of way doesn't just stay in their yards either. It is washed down the street in the rain. It sinks into the ground. Roundup has been detected in aquifers! That's a problem because, here in Tucson, we store our drinking water in our aquifer. The aquifer is only 5-8 feet below property near rivers. Watershed Management Group encourages people near rivers to put catchment basins in their yards to replenish the aquifer. 


Rainwater doesn't always stay in one yard either. It often runs into the street or even into a neighbor's yard causing erosion and damage to the foundation of houses. But we can put in catchment basins to slow down, spread out and sink in that water in our yard to use on our native landscaping. If your street is at the bottom of the watershed, neighbors can work together to put in street-side green infrastructure to protect and shade the neighborhood.

We can have beautiful, cooler, green neighborhoods. We just need to take a lesson from the rain and connect with our neighbors. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Before and After the Rain

Last night we celebrated the long awaited rain by taking a lot of pictures. 


There is always some preparation for monsoon season: clearing debris from the gutters to the cistern, adding more mulch to basins, and  making sure that nothing is obstructing the earthwork channels that direct water to the hummingbird trumpets. 

But this year we have had to deal with the effect of extreme heat followed by flooding on our landscape. A couple weeks ago, a "Tree Stress" alert was issued. We were encouraged to deep water all our trees to survive the excessive heat. Dan was shocked by how much water we used. 

That was followed by a "Flash Flood" warning. And down it came with a fury!

One thing I learned was that I could have held off on deep watering my native trees. I also learned that every drop of water is precious! 

Luckily Dan had already installed a small cistern to harvest the water from our generous neighbor's roof. Thanks, Dave!  . 


It was a delight to see it working well.


Dan tried to get in another cistern before last night's storm. But he only managed to get in the gutters before the downpour started. 


So he grabbed every bucket and pan he could find to catch the water rushing from the downspout. 


This was quite the gully washer! Our new cistern and the blue water barrels filled up.  It filled up our greywater basin...


Our right of way basin was quickly filling up...


Our jujube basin started overflowing...


No worry about mosquitoes... The water in all the basins sunk in beautifully (as planned) by morning! 


After seeing the effects of extreme heat on our plants, we learned that every drop of water counts.  I've gotten in the habit of checking the weather each morning to see if it is going to rain. I try to use up the water in our buckets before the next downpour. I don't want to leave water in the buckets long enough for mosquitos to lay their eggs in there anyway. 

But where to put the water?  

I used my favorite water bucket to deep water my garden and the jujubees (alternating between them so the water could have a chance to sink in and not cause erosion.) A few of the buckets had lids so I left them for later (in case it doesn't rain.) Dan is in the process of installing a bigger cisterns that won't need to be completely emptied before the next rain.  Thank heavens!  All this bucket schlepping is killing me! 

While I was out there, I also did a little damage control.  I made sure that the mulch was three inches away from the trunks of the trees so termites didn't get them. I was  careful not to disturb the white stuff (mycelium) that means that the soil is healthy.  I was also happy to see the little mushrooms around the big jujubee (that also means that soil is good.) Wow! The soil sure loves the rain! 


Checkout how these tiny "weeds" kept the mulch from washing out of the basin! The native grasses that lined our right of way basin also slowed down the storm water to prevent erosion!


The roots of the native grasses and other desert plants work with the wood chip mulch to create a sponge to hold the water longer.  These so-called weeds are a vital part of our earthworks! 

Now we're ready and looking forward to more rain! 

After more rain this happened