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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jan 19

Catching the Rain in Hilo, Hawaii

Posted on January 19, 2018 at 10:31 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

rainwater catchment tank
 Rainwater collection tank in Hilo, Hawaii
My flight to Hawaii was still an hour from landing when the stewardess asked if I would like something to drink. Water was my choice of beverage, and needless to say I was delighted when she served me a cup of purified rainwater. The trip officially began at that moment, as I knew rainwater collection plays a big role on the Big Island. 

This fact was further reinforced as I pulled my rental car into the guesthouse in the countryside above Hilo. I gazed out at the magnificent view of the gardens and beyond, only to find my view partially obstructed by a covered water tank. 

Although I am certified to design rainwater catchment systems and have attended multiple conferences about the subject, I was struck by this new reality: During my vacation I would be living in a world dependent upon rainwater catchment for drinking, bathing, cooking and ... I was about to say irrigating, but this is Hilo where it rains almost every day. Irrigation is the one thing they don’t use rain catchment for, in contrast to Marin where many garden plants depend on our knowledge and assistance for added irrigation.

In my room I found information about the health of the water and the importance of conservation, which I appreciated. This lead to a delightful and more in-depth conversation with the owners of the property. They spoke about the importance of proper design and management of the system to ensure the healthfulness of the water for drinking. 

I, in turn, told them about the growing use of rainwater catchment in Marin for watering gardens, as well as laundry-to-landscape systems that use recycled graywater for irrigation. I described how Marin gardeners put captured rainwater to good use even during wet weather to water container plants located under overhangs or indoors. And I mentioned that MMWD offers $50 rebates to help customers purchase these systems

Our concept of rainwater catchment was as exotic to them as theirs was to me. Again, this is Hilo where the rains fall almost daily and the average rainfall is between 130 to 200 inches year. Though they’re very careful about using water wisely indoors, conserving irrigation water is not something they give a lot of thought to! Similarly, irrigation distribution uniformity is a non-stress you're here. How much more perfect can you get than the natural distribution uniformity of rainfall? Welcome to Hilo, Hawaii!
Jan 12

Lagunitas Creek Spawner Update: 1/12/18

Posted on January 12, 2018 at 11:37 AM by Emma Detwiler

As 2017 came to a close the coho run was on track to be the smallest on record, with a shockingly low count of 17 coho redds seen in Lagunitas Creek. I comforted myself that December was exceptionally dry and spawning was sure to ramp up once the rains arrived. Also, we’d observed an additional 47 redds that we didn’t classify because we were seeing pink, chum, Chinook, and coho spawning AT THE SAME TIME. Many of those redds were likely built by coho. Maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed.

So it’s with great relief that I can report that with this week’s storm (which dropped six inches of rain), the coho have arrived. Spawning activity at the Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area was intense on Wednesday, with large males fighting over females, females fighting for space, and large numbers of jacks (young male salmon) fleeing the large males and fighting with each other.

Local photographer Richard James has posted some photos and videos of the action. Coho are currently spawning in Devil’s Gulch and San Geronimo Creek as well, and we’ll survey Lagunitas Creek today and tomorrow. It’s likely that when all streams have been surveyed our count will exceed 100 coho redds, which would still be below average but no longer disastrous.

A few steelhead were also seen this week and their numbers are expected to increase into February.

Finally, check out this compilation of video clips of coho jumping at the Inkwells (mostly unsuccessfully), courtesy of SPAWN. These all appear to be coho, and the smaller fish are jacks.

Jan 12

Tools of the Trade

Posted on January 12, 2018 at 9:00 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Somewhere in the vast library of garden reading material in my life, I came across the remark that a gardener should not be without a hori-hori knife. This bit of advice stuck with me this past holiday season, as I ogled one while perusing websites and catalogs looking for the perfect gifts.

A gift from me to me sounded like a great idea. The order was placed and I forgot about it until the mail arrived. Oh my. May I say this is a tool all gardeners should find on their belts as they enter the hallows of their garden. 

 Hori-hori gardening knife

The hori-hori is a thick, tapered knife with inch lines marked along the center of the scooped blade. This scoop acts as a trowel, and the inch markers indicate just how deep you are digging for things such as bulbs. One side of the blade is smooth and the other is serrated for sawing. The tip slices into the soil like a hot knife through butter.

I immediately put this gem to the test. Some bulbs patiently awaited going into the ground, and the tool made short order of the job. One of the containers I used was filled with crusty soil and weeds that quickly surrendered to the blade. The rich soil beneath soon became friable and easy to plant within. 

Next on the test was weeding. Again, the tip of the blade sliced into the soil to easily unearth the root systems of the grasses I was removing. It would have been impossible for me to pull them by hand without just tearing the leaves and leaving the roots intact for regrowth.

I have yet to try the saw portion of the knife. It does not appear particularly sharp and I wonder about its purpose. Perhaps you, my readers, may know?

Picking the right tools of the trade is essential. Often more than one tool can get the job done, but our choice can make a task simple or more complex. Consider a handsaw and a chainsaw: Both will work, but one will take a lot longer. 

On the other hand, precision is also an important element to consider when working with tools. That chainsaw might be the best choice for removing large tree limbs, but it would not be the tool to pick up when pruning roses. The rose requires a precise, clean cut just 1/8 to a 1/4 inch above a leaf node on the outside of the branch to keep the plant growing outward in the right direction. As handy as the hori-hori knife is for other tasks, I instinctively knew it would lack the precision for the job; therefore, my roses will see never see it either.

And speaking of pruning: Pruning season is upon us. Before making any cuts, be sure tools are oiled, sharpened, and sterilized with a solution of bleach and water to avoid spreading potential diseases from plant to plant. 

As for this gardener, I will be heading west—far west—and will bring the blog to you from the Big Island of Hawaii next week. There are sure to be a few new plants to explore and share with all of you from these tropics.