Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leaf Rain; Fall at Hastings
December, right? That translates to bitter cold and deep snow in Minnesota, but yellow leaves here. This week the leaves on the valley oak and blue oaks cut loose and dropped. We were getting 1-2" a day in leaf rain. Meanwhile, the sycamore and willows went deep orange along the creeks. Fog and drizzle filled some days, but other warmed to the 70s.

As the blue oak leaves fell, I found a large fuzzy pink adornment on one of them. Joyce Gross at Berkeley reports that this is a mass of galls created by the cynipid wasp Andricus crystallinus (Crystalline Gall Wasp). The hairs make it look like one big gall but if you scrape away the hairs you'll see the individual galls. Maybe not new to Hastings, but new to me! A Christmas gall?
Clay Feet
So, the pond leaks. It never held the water we had hoped. So, this year, we added more clay to waterproof the bottom. On Monday, Eric, Jaime and I unloaded 10,000 pounds of clay and spread it around, leaving it about an inch deep, partly mixed with the soil. Now, we have a clay bottom on the pond and we are standing back and to watch. Weather predictions are for 3-5" this next weekend. Unfortunately, in Weather Service speak, 3-5" really means maybe an inch. We are ready!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Puchner Pond Update
We are expecting a load of clay any day now to improve the water-holding capacity of the pond. Originally funded by USFWS "Partners in Wildlife", the retention pond is quietly awaiting some rain. Additional funds from Professor Breen have allowed us to buy the bentonite. I mowed the area, and removed the previous rather visually intrusive electric fencing. Jaime del Valle and I dug in recycled fenceposts and installed low strands of wire to keep the pigs out. Newts and salamanders are all around. We just need some rain. The "La Nina" winter so far looks cool and dry. But one never knows.

A road culvert feeds the pond. The berm can be seen in the background. We used aged steel wire for the lower line, but a thin white string for the top line so it is visible if visitors approach closely.