One year since the fires started

KQED radio is airing some coverage of the anniversary of last year’s fires (today’s the anniversary). Here’s a California Report piece that I just heard: https://www.kqed.org/science/1932387/should-californians-be-rebuilding-homes-in-a-fire-zone and there are some other pieces at https://www.kqed.org/news/

I wish I had the time to write a longer thing about new housing that I see going up around the city and its outskirts (often displacing homeless people who camped in beautiful empty lots), and about how upset survivors are about disaster tourism (Especially when people walk around their properties! ugh), and how there are a lot of different art projects that are exhibiting right around now. I met an 8ish year-old girl last week who was a very angry and bitter fire victim. Can you imagine how hard it is to come home to live in a trailer where her family’s house once stood?

If I had a podcast, one of the people I would interview is one of our local farmers whose whole property burned down, and some who lost only small parts of their properties, and learn how the fire affected their operations, their land, their customer base… Sigh. Back to breakfast. Have to pick strawberries.

Many of us have been on edge this weekend because of the hot, dry north wind that creates the perfect condition for fire to spread…

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An example of a “dumpster fire”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary now defines the term “dumpster fire” as

“USinformal
an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence disaster” 
Here’s an example. I ordered compost and wood chips and wanted them delivered last week before the rain came. Their regular driver was on vacation, but they could use a contractor. I asked if the contractor used (North Bay) fire debris trucks, because I really don’t want to get any (more) ash from fire sites on my property if I can help it. (To the truckers who are driving remains of the Pressley Fire down my street: slow down!) Well, I got one of those delivering my stuff today. See the sticker on the left side? There’s another on the right that has the license number or whatever on it. I sure hope it was cleaned well after its last job! I recently did see an ad on FB craigslist from a company that cleans out trucks such as this one.
He dropped off the first load, which was wood chips instead of compost (and the wrong amount) and drove out to get the transfer (is that what you call the 2nd load? it was pretty cool to see how the truck transfers the container with the 2nd load into the truck bed) with the compost in it (supposed to be 15 yards but it was 12). I looked at where he’d driven and asked if he wanted to drive on those sunken tracks, or to make new ones. He tried to come in at a different angle to avoid those ruts, and, well, he got stuck. And I should have just said that our tractor (somewhere between 32 and 35 horsepower) was too weak to try to pull a huge truck out, especially since the 4-wheel-drive doesn’t work. The rest, as you can imagine and see in the photo below, is history.
20180308_155557.jpg
delivery truck and tractor both stuck in the mud. note the fact that the front wheel is only half-visible because the rest is below ground-level

That’s what I call a “dumpster fire.” (well, that’s different than the ones from protests I used to attend)

The driver was really hard to communicate with — for one thing, his boss was literally in a meeting all afternoon, and by the time the tow truck drivers showed up, he refused to even talk to them. And they went thru some things to be able to get up our driveway past the guy’s trailer! (and to let me out so I could get T at school) I don’t know what happened to my photos from when the two tow trucks got there, but I don’t have them. Fortunately, they were quickly able to pull the driver out and he somehow got his truck and the trailer out of there in one piece (I was gone by then).

What a disaster. The soil is so messed-up. Inside the gate where I put a lot of woodchips to heal the ground after the wood chips were delivered in late December, the ground has hardly any tracks visible. So the wood chips HAVE helped! Yay. Now I need a lot of free ones so we can help make the soil outside the garden more resilient.

I forgot to mention that someone “tagged” the truck (with graffiti). He thought it might have been while he was parked at the building across the street. The guys across the street said they didn’t see it (and they have security cameras). When I talked to the guy at the compost business, he said “beyond the one” tag? In other words, he had already seen that the truck had been spraypainted on. The driver was able to clean it off (diesel), but he was really stressed about it. 😦

And one more thing: the compost isn’t even fully mature! I would like to move it into the garden, but hauling 12 yards by wagon just to store it in a different place is not in my near future.

I guess our “farm” has been “baptized” or whatever by our having finally gotten the tractor stuck in mud.

 

Busy day before the rain

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View of Taylor Mountain on this cloudy and misty day

We’re expecting an inch or two of rain in the next few days — we’ll see what happens!

Today I did some mowing in the garden in preparation for my imaginary pea and fava bean plantings. Maybe I can just sneak them in without a drip tape guide if it doesn’t rain too hard tomorrow(?). Then I mowed a path to the back gate. The wildlife path is super-hard and sunken, so hopefully getting some cut grass and rain on it will loosen that soil back up. I always fantasize that we’ll put woodchips on it. In very rainy winters the low spots get puddling.

This is not a very rainy winter. We have had 48% of normal for this point in the rain year, and 25% as much as we had gotten at this point last year! We’d had like 145% of normal rainfall by this point. Scary.

I’ve been trying to get more woodchips and some compost while the ground was dry (the delivery gate is at the back corner that’s visible in the above photo). I called back the company in Marin County that had flaked on returning my call “tomorrow” 5 days earlier yesterday.  They’re having trouble finding a truck with a transfer (so it can carry 2×15 yards of material) that is available because they are all busy doing fire debris removal. I don’t want my compost to come in a debris removal truck!!! But I guess it’s part of us all sharing the burden of the legacy of the fires(?). I don’t want to get compost from the place that’s like 3.5 miles away from us because it has a terrible reputation amongst gardeners (funny because they have a respected local small farmer writing their blog-type articles). I don’t want to risk having plants that seem to be suffering from herbicide damage (speaking of which, I found a wild brassica that looked like that today – maybe from the 32-degree nights?). Our trash company changed and now our green waste seems to be going to Vacaville, which is an hour or so away. I called out of curiosity to find out how much delivery of compost would be. Guess how much? $600. It’s around $255 from West Marin (CA DFA organic), and it was around that much when Waste Management was making its OMRI-listed compost in Novato. Argh!

This afternoon I got back out to the garden and collected my soil sample. There were places where the compost that I’d put on the surface had infiltrated 6 inches below the surface! Overall the soil was a bit too cold and wet for sampling with a shovel. It was hard to get a slice of soil and it was hard to break up the clods (peds) so I could take a small amount out. I’ll just have to bring in what I have when I’ve got the time. The place we send it thru is close to Z’s job in Sebastopol, but he’s so busy that I don’t think I’ll ask him to do it on a weekday.

Then I dealt with putting soil back on a low spot next to the driveway. By the end I could hardly move! So tired…

Some Feb/Mar post-fire events in Sonoma County

Two events, on Feb 24th and March 10th. I doubt I will make it to either (there are also a flower workshop and a farmers guild “guildraising” on the 10th).

Fire Recovery and Replanting: Information and Free Resources for Landowners Presentation with Laguna Foundation and Partners 

Saturday, February 24, 3:00-4:30pm
Location: Heron Hall, Laguna Environmental Center
FREE. Pre-registration required
 (see link from the above-linked event page).

Did the fires directly impact your property or do you live in the wildland urban interface and want to incorporate native, resilient plants into your landscapes? Do you need help with erosion control and assessment? Are you not sure how to assess whether your burned oaks will survive or not? Join us to find out what resources are available to you. The Laguna Foundation is teaming up with Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Sonoma Resource Conservation Districtand the Milo Baker Chapter-California Native Plant Society to restore and replant native plants in areas impacted by the October 2017 fires. This presentation will include an overview about the fire’s impacts in the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed and the region, and will provide information about soil erosion, native plants, and water quality. While the information and resources are meant especially for landowners impacted by the October fires, the general public is welcome to attend (pre-registration is required so we know how many people will attend and because seats are limited). Whether your land is a tenth of an acre or 100 acres, the native plants on your property provide wildlife habitat, prevent erosion, and improve water quality. We are growing a variety of native trees and shrubs with seeds collected locally to share with landowners next fall. Attend this presentation to learn more and to sign up for the free resources.

Speakers will include Dr. Wendy Trowbridge, Director of Restoration and Conservation Science Programs at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, as well as the Foundation’s Ecological Program Manager, Brent Reed.

Another event, on March 10th: Living Well in Toxic Times: Integrative Self-Care Tools for Fire Recovery & Resilience Registration required.

October’s urban wildfires released known and unknown toxicants into our environment. Beyond our acute exposure, we continue to be exposed to this residual toxicity. We have gathered local experts in the fields of environmental medicine, integrative health care, and health psychology to share self-care tools that we all can use to reduce exposure, naturally detoxify, and build resilient health.

Learn everyday strategies for protecting health post-fires. Nutritious snacks, herbal treats, herbal tea bar, epson salt bar free for our guests.

This event will feature keynote speakers addressing issues related to environmental toxicology, women’s and family health, vulnerable populations, and emotional resiliency. Breakout sessions will follow and provide an opportunity to learn more about gut health and detoxification, respiratory health, preconception and pediatric care, oncology, and stress reduction techniques.

This event is co-hosted by Daily Acts, Commonweal’s New School, Integrative Healers Action Network, Farmacopia, and Families Advocating for Chemical and Toxic Safety (FACTS).

Doors open at 9:30 am, event begins at 10:00 am promptly.
Space is limited!

Another event, on March 10th: Living Well in Toxic Times: Integrative Self-Care Tools for Fire Recovery & Resilience Registration required. October’s urban wildfires released known and unknown toxicants into our environment. Beyond our acute exposure, we continue to be exposed to this residual toxicity. We have gathered local experts in the fields of environmental medicine, integrative health care, and health psychology to share self-care tools that we all can use to reduce exposure, naturally detoxify, and build resilient health.



Please donate to help test our greens!

This #GivingTuesday, help us get our community samples into the lab!

Please donate to UCCE Sonoma‘s “Citizen Science Projects” fund and write “Produce Safety” in the comments (see the dropdown).

Here’s that link again: https://donate.ucanr.edu/pages/uccesonoma

As the group says, “We collected hundreds of produce samples from across Sonoma County while fires were still blazing.

Once we get results from the lab, we’ll be able to give guidance to farmers and gardeners across the state on the impact of wildfires and air pollution on the food safety of produce.

*** This is community-initiated, community-driven science, with the support of your local UCCE Sonoma. It wouldn’t happen without you! ***

#SonomaStrong #CitizenScience #LocalFood

HOW TO SUPPORT

Today is the LAUNCH of our crowd-sourcing campaign! We need at least $500 in community donations to meet our matching grant funding from The Pollination Project, which combined will get us half-way to our $2000 goal to get all samples from one site into a lab for analysis!

Please donate to UCCE Sonoma‘s “Citizen Science Projects” fund and write “Produce Safety” in the comments.

Link: http://bit.ly/producesafetydonate

SOCIAL MEDIA

Please like our Facebook Page “Produce Safety After Urban Wildfire: Citizen Science Initiative” and share our #GivingTuesday posts!

Link: https://www.facebook.com/Producesafetyafterurbanwildfire/  ”

 

Reportback of sorts about the produce testing project

Just what is the effect of ash from the #NorthBayFires landing on plants in our gardens? Is the food we’ve grown safe to eat?

Today I went to an event about the “Citizen Science” produce sampling project. Here’s a link to an original invitation for sites to get involved. It was really good but I can’t type up all my notes. Basically, very little is known about the effects of fires on garden/farm produce. A graduate student was “voluntold” by a produce project founder to look into air quality issues from the time of the fires so that any toxins in samples could be compared to the air quality during that time. The samples are from a nice smattering of places around Sonoma County (and, I’m sure, beyond). There is a basic list of things that are common chemicals in houses, furniture, clothes, etc, and there is a list of things they’ll test for. I seem to remember lead, PAH’s, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt. PS, more research is needed about the effects of flame retardants and the Phos-Chek that was applied.

There is at least one group doing bioremediation by putting (mushroom) inoculated straw wattles in/around streams. There will also be a project that will do soil sampling (I think they said it will be linked to the results of the produce test? or at sites that were sampled?). It sounds like sites that had more than one type of greens, ie lettuce and kale, will be prioritized. Someone from UC Davis has already collected ash from impacted sites to examine with mass spectrometry. “Science is amazing!” as the kids from the Pokemon cartoon TV show said.

I still need wood chips. Now I’m nervous about sources (were the trees from burned areas? was phos-chek dropped on them? etc) and about my compost in the future- are people bringing fire-damaged plant materials to the big composting sites? Should that stuff go to a toxic waste disposal site? It was mentioned that adding organic material to the soil is a key way to mitigate the effects of, or even basically break down some of the bad compounds into things that are not as bad. So I need to keep covering my soil 🙂

Funding for the produce project is yet to come. They figured out that each site’s produce testing will cost some $2000. There is a Giving Tuesday campaign to raise money for the produce testing project (although the project is not mentioned on the link I’m including?). The goal for this Tuesday is $2000 to be able to get one site’s samples tested, but I would like to think they will raise more. They will also be requesting grant money. Please help support the project if you can. Please comment here or contact the folks in the first link to find out more about the project.

Meanwhile, in my garden…

there are a few ripe strawberries!
there are still some strawberries!