The last volunteer SLEWS day

Wild Oak Vineyards
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | May 20, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District
Wild Oak Vineyards

Volunteers
Gina Radieve
Josh McCabe
Dominic Carrillo
Sara Lipschutz
Weipeng Wang
Samuel Flohr
Natalie Ruckstuhl
Noreen Mabini
Karyn Utsumi
Teresa Clapham

Summary of the Day
This season (our 20th!) of SLEWS has looked different than all others before it. The glaring difference? A distinct lack of high school students. I have been extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work with a fantastic group of adult volunteers, but I know all of us are eagerly awaiting the moment we can have a field day with high school students once again.

To cap off our 2020-21 season, we held a long-awaited field day at Wild Oak Vineyards in Fairfield. This was actually meant to be a SLEWS site in the 2019-20 season, but when the project was delayed we relocated to a project at Lake Dalwigk in Vallejo (blog post here: http://landbasedlearning.org/blog/2020/03/12/urban-greening-in-vallejo/). It was fun to finally make this day happen with volunteers and Solano RCD staff!

At our opening circle many volunteers were surprised to recognize each other from class at UC Davis – what a coincidence! Amy King from Solano RCD introduced us to the project site and the day’s activities, and Sarah McKibbin presented about monarch butterfly conservation and the role of farms like this one in the effort to save them. One of our volunteers shared that she had been planting pollinator plants in her apartment complex and asked for resources to continue doing so!

After our introductions, it was time to get to work. The first task was spreading piles mulch in a future planting area – this will help prevent weed growth and improve water retention in the soil to give those plants a better foundation. There was one area that didn’t have enough mulch, so half our group stayed to cart wheelbarrows full of mulch back and forth to fill in the area while the other half started the other task – weeding. Volunteers made their way along a previously planted hedgerow of native plants and used hoes to remove weeds growing near the plants. This will reduce competition between the native and non-native plants and give them a better chance of survival. We even found a patch of milkweed that had popped up on its own!

After a vigorous morning of work, it was time to break for lunch. I enjoyed spending lunch chatting with some of our volunteers – many of whom are hoping to find a career in habitat restoration! Off to a great start, I’d say. Cheers to a great, albeit strange, 2020-2021 SLEWS season!

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!