- Published on Monday, 19 December 2011 23:54
When it rains in the desert, you notice. Those of us who originate from more temperate climates may not bat an eye at the daily drizzle. But in places like the Sonoran Desert and the Mexicali Valley, rain does not mean whip up some hot chocolate and sit by the fire; it means get out your canoe, 'cause you'll either be swimming or paddling, and most would prefer the latter.
This may sound a slight exaggeration unless you saw the folks on the Mexicali news last week, out looking for their submerged houses from the stern of a canoe. Two consecutive days of constant rain did a number on a city accustomed to extreme sunshine. The floodgates of Morelos Dam—the last dam on the Colorado River—were even opened.
But of course with rain comes free irrigation, and those of us working to restore the Colorado River Delta can't complain about that. Our trees looked happy for the rain, and so did we. And best of all, the only time we found ourselves in any kind of floating craft was while monitoring water quality at Las Arenitas wetland. No searching for submerged greenhouses for us!
It is a busy time of year in the Delta, and floods and rain and mud are not slowing us down. Right now we are focused on collecting cuttings from cottonwood, willow, and coyote willow trees for next year's planting season. Cuttings are the main source of native tree that we use for restoration in the Delta. They are harvested by snipping off a few branches from a multitude of healthy, mature native trees found in our work sites in the Delta. (See photos below).
After harvest, these cuttings are immediately placed in water and allowed to soak for five days, which is kind of like the equivalent of giving a soccer player a bag of ice after a collision header: a little healing and a little rest after a slightly traumatic experience in order to get ready for his "A" game next week. The "A" game for the cuttings, of course, is growing into mature, healthy trees, just like their parents.
Monday through Wednesday of last week we were planting fiends. With the help of folks from Pronatura Noroeste on Monday, we planted a total of some 8000 baby trees in three days, all planted in trays and pots and stored in the warm nest of our two greenhouses.
Our goal is to plant a minimum of 40,000 cuttings in the greenhouse before the end of January.
We are beginning to look ahead to March when planting will begin. We have a planting window of approximately two months before the calorón—or heavy heat—of summer begins. By then the nearly 20,000 trees we planted along the riparian corridor of the Colorado River this year will be well near two meters high, if not more. And any flag or tag or ribbon or pearl we used to navigate our riparian restoration site will be obscured by a forest of quaking green leaves and the smell of rich clayey moisture. It will be immensely exciting.
As the rains fall we continue to harvest, plant, water, and sing to our trees, in muddy boots and all. The sunshine will be back—indeed, it came back last Wednesday, though the air remained chilly and brisk. But in the meantime, the Delta can use all the water it can get.