A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Monday, March 24, 2014

Adjusting to the Drought

A couple of weeks ago as we were sitting on the porch I remarked to Rick that I was tired of dragging the garden hoses around to water the plants in the yard. I had just finished several hours of doing that. We water the yard plants almost exclusively from the cistern where we collect rain water. One hose won't reach so I have two attached. They're heavy and when it's dry, like it seems always to be, I just leave them in the yard instead of putting them back up. It takes so long to water this way that I sometimes take two days to do it. Of course, being a bit OCD, I don't like the hoses all over the yard!

In December we had 6 tenths of an inch of rain total. Since then we have had only half a tenth and yesterday we had another half a tenth. This is all the rain in the last 4 months. I told Rick that day that if we were going to turn into a desert, we might as well look like one. I wanted to move most of the plants we have planted in the yard up near the cabin and use decomposed granite gravel as a mulch for them. I would leave the Thompson's yucca, the Spanish Dagger, and some rosemary plants that are too big to move. These can all go longer than the other plants without water and I don't think they would survive a move anyway. Every thing else would be in one area where I could water it with one hose and also get more pressure from the cistern. 

An added bonus to the gravel is that it makes it harder for a rattlesnake to sneak up on me! 

So I got the pick and shovel out and dug some holes. I ordered a dump truck load of the same gravel we used for the outdoor kitchen area and the walkway to the bunkhouse. I moved the plants, mixing some leaf mulch in with the dirt. I removed most of the rocks that surrounded my planting beds, leaving only a few for accents. 

I moved the 12 yard truck load of gravel with a shovel and wheelbarrow. Rick was here one day and helped that afternoon, but most of it I moved myself. My generous friend and neighbor Scott offered to come down with his tractor, but I hate to impose my never-ending projects on anyone else! I am going to ask him to come down one day and move a really big rock that he moved once before for us. I want to put it on a place to the right of the front steps where I have gravel but no plants. The hose won't easily reach there and I'm sticking with my watering plan.

I had enough of the gravel to cover the area in front of the bunkhouse and to make a walkway on the side of it. I was even able to put a little up under the bunkhouse porch! I also surrounded the yuccas and rosemary plants in the middle of the driveway with the gravel. By the cabin where the plants are I put cardboard under the gravel and it's several inches deep so I shouldn't have a problem with weeds. Under the cardboard I have leaf mulch, hoping this and the cardboard will improve and cool the soil.

The small birds love this little star cut into this stone. I fill it with water when I water the plants and they come take a bath in it, though they barely fit! Every thing loves a bath, especially out here in dry country. I scooped up some native horsemint that was coming up by the steps and put it in the bucket. It's a beautiful wildflower and I hope it grows.

The weather forecast for the upcoming year shows the drought across the western US only continuing. We are off to a bad start here. I'm trying to resign myself to living with that. As we say all the time, "it is what it is." Some day, but not in my lifetime, our country may wake up to the fact that we need more water in the west and less in the east, and devise a method to move it. If we want to continue to grow our own food, both plant and animal, we need to do something. No matter what you think the cause of climate change is, we need to address it and see if we can improve things. 

Over time, nature makes her own adjustments. It may be that all the trees out here, both cedar and oak, need to be killed by drought in order to make the land fit the resources. A hundred years ago that was the case, with trees mostly along the draws, creeks, and rivers. It's not likely that all the landowners will be able to manage land to fit the water. People don't always have the time or money needed, and often not the knowledge. We may one day look like the high desert country around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, without the nearby mountains to provide some relief. 

But for now, I'm just trying to make it easier on myself and at the same time be able to have some flowering plants. If the ones I have now don't flourish I'll have to go to cacti. We made a trip to the nursery this weekend and replaced a couple that didn't look like they had much hope of surviving but the salvias seemed to make the move without a problem. I can't wait to see how it all looks once the weather really warms up and they start growing. I'll post some photos then.

I love how it turned out! And even though the rainfall has been a disappointment this Spring, the birds have not been. We've had so many cardinals, finches, cedar waxwings, titmouses, rufus sparrows, flycatchers, wrens, and a beautiful vermilion flycatcher. The birdhouses have birds going in and out feeding the babies. The turkeys are back and the gobblers are showing off. A few peach blooms have survived, the potatoes are up, and the poppies and larkspurs are growing. 

"We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to." Climate Silence


  1. Since all (23) of the rose bushes have steadily died off but one (that I'm going to cut back by 4 feet) I'm going with all native. If it can survive in North Texas on it's own then it should survive in our yard being rained on or watered when we soak the foundation once a week. I miss living in a pier and beam house. Your yard looks awesome.

    1. Thank you, Judith. I'm sorry your roses didn't make it. We tried some of the knockout roses here inside the garden fence but they didn't do as well as when we had some in Houston. So we got rid of them. I've seen some gorgeous Lady Banks roses in town. Between the deer and the water we don't try. There are so many pretty natives when you don't have to worry about deer! You'll have fun at the nurseries!
      We decided against building on a slab for several reasons. One, of course, is the money was more. Being from Houston where there is always flooding, it stays with you. In fact, my house flooded one time many years ago. Even though we are on top of a rock hill, it just never leaves you. And we like the look of them.
      By the way, congratulations on your new job! I retired from working for school districts and I know it's hard to make a change. I had to make several and I learned one thing - the job can be great or make you miserable, for sure. I was lucky to have a couple of great people to work for at the end. It wasn't always so. Good luck!