How to outsmart a gopher

The Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 3, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Dominic Carrillo
Miles DaPrato
Irene Loy
Sarah Gaffney
Ric Murphy

Summary of the Day
It always feels great to put the finishing touches on a restoration project, and that was just the plan for our third and final field day at CLBL Headquarters at The Maples. We had planted 205 plants on our first two field days, installing protective tubing and a thick layer of native straw mulch around each plant to finish it off. Since our first field days, native grass seeds had been spread on either side of the pollinator hedgerow.

Our first task on this day was spreading straw over the seeded area. This was tricky – we had to spread the straw thick enough to provide moisture retention benefits, but thin enough to allow sunlight to pass through! As we were working, one of our volunteers with a background in the arts remarked that they had “never worked in this medium before”, and I found this a lovely juxtaposition of science and art.

Once we finished spreading the straw, we headed to the stormwater retention basin, where last season Woodland High School installed native hedgerows, grasses, and forbs. We found that the milkweed that had been planted didn’t do well here – likely due to a very active gopher population! To combat this, this time we planted milkweed rhizomes in “gopher baskets”, small metal baskets buried underground meant to protect the plant’s roots from pests. We planted about 100 showy milkweed rhizomes in these baskets, along with 100 narrowleaf milkweed plugs. Hopefully we have better luck this time around establishing a milkweed population – and therefore creating breeding habitat for monarch butterflies!

A zero-waste way of mulching

Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 26, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Sherri Wood – Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Beth DelReal
Thomas Steensland
Josh McCabe
Cody Hamer
Jen Knudsen
Lars Knudsen
Anna Tolle
Stuart

Summary of the Day
When I visited Patchwork Farms last summer for a meeting with landowner Sherri Wood and Yolo County RCD Project Manager Joanne Heraty, Sherri showed us a big pile of lavender stems she kept from her harvest and asked if we could use it as mulch around the hedgerow project we were planning. “Why not, it’s worth a try!” was Joanne’s reply, which brings me to our second (and third! Another double day) field day at Patchwork Farms.

I will say, this was the best-smelling SLEWS Field Day I have ever experienced – the spent lavender clippings were still incredibly fragrant. Our volunteer crew had a little aromatherapy bonus to go along with the hard work! The other bonus was this was a great way to use up Sherri’s lavender waste while providing our native hedgerow with weed prevention and increased water retention.

Our two shifts of volunteers mulched around two lines of plants, 342 plants in all. We had great weather all day, with rain beginning only as I unloaded gear at the end of the day. This rain turned into the HUGE storm we all remember in late January, with power out and damage done throughout the Sacramento Valley. With the addition of mulch, hopefully our plants can enjoy that water for a few weeks to come!

A record-setting planting day

River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 21, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
River Garden Farms
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Nick Gallagher
Brandi Goss
Gabrielle Stadem
Sarah Gaffney
Krysteen Terlouw
Peter Johnson

Summary of the Day
For our first (double) field day of the season at River Garden Farms, we were rewarded with great weather – and an ambitious day of work! Last year, Florin High School students installed native habitat under some powerlines amid a walnut orchard (blog post here: https://landbasedlearning.org/blog/2020/01/14/plants-under-the-powerlines/) and our work was continuing this project south of County Line Road. It worked out that we had volunteers for this project, as this area would be difficult if not impossible to access by school bus!

Since River Garden Farms can’t extend their orchard under the powerlines, they elected to make it an area of native habitat. There are many lines of irrigation already installed here to support the plants, so the work for the day was planting, “as much as we get through”. The ground had been turned recently so we didn’t need pickaxes this time – what a relief! – so we spread out along multiple lines and worked hard, planting through the morning and afternoon shifts of volunteers. This was the most tiring SLEWS day I can recall, but I was still SHOCKED to hear that with just 6 SLEWS volunteers and some RCD staff, we had shattered the previous SLEWS record for most plants installed in a day (450ish) – we had planted over 750 plants!

This is SLEWS’ FIFTH season of field days at River Garden Farms! Hopefully next time we’ll have a crew of high school students with us.