I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Beautiful and Endangered Place

They said a big storm was coming....
We waited for the power to go off, planning to cook dinner on the top of the gas stove, lighting the pilot with matches like my grandma did and thinking about how much water we would use before the well shut off. (The pump needs electricity to get the water to the house.) Then I cleaned and filled the oil lamps. The power never went off.
We waited for snow.... the wind came first, then the rain..... and then some hail. All morning we watched the weather have its way, whipping our farm into a frenzy, frightening our pups who stayed under our bed almost all morning. It didn't snow.
By noon the rain stopped and the sun filtered through the dark clouds.
I went outside with the pups.... the garden was so filled with water that the ground wasn't taking anymore in. There were puddles everywhere. If it continued to rain, as it had all morning , my garden would have drowned.
 and.... Where do you suppose all the little creatures and insects go when it rains so hard and long? I imagine them in many places. Maybe under the porch watching and waiting for a sign that it's safe to venture outside again. 
As I walked around the garden, straightening things that had been tipped over by the wind and were out of place, I passed the ceramic toad sitting in the pot of lavender.
He winked at me.... or maybe he was just opening one eye to see who was there. He surely had a rough morning holding on to that rusty leaf he was perched upon. I left him there to get some shuteye. We don't want any cranky toads in our garden.
The daffodil that had the audacity to bloom a few days ago was holding on to the little sun ornament, as if it knew that attaching itself to something in the planter was a life saving idea. I think this was wise because the daffodil was still standing upright.
A chair was down near the porch....
and one of my garden ladies was looking a bit waterlogged. 
Even Carl and Cutter were a little anxious about being cooped up all morning. They were happy to be outside for a while. 
Oh, the poor little lawn. Not enough water in the summer and most of it died, then too much water in the winter and now the lawn is a muddy mess. We are discussing the idea of a deck that will take its place. I'm tired of the lawn. It's nice to have one but it's not practical here in the dry foothills, with a well that doesn't give us enough water to keep the lawn alive in the summer.
I could hear the creek down in the canyon. It was roaring. I brought the dogs in and told the Prospector that I wanted to drive down to the river and take some pictures. I grabbed my camera and a warm coat and off I went.
As I drove down the hill, I saw little water falls and rivulets everywhere. 

For a few days we will have a beautiful waterfall at our entrance. It's coming right out of the side of the hill, permeating through some rocks. Maybe it will deposit a few gold nuggets in the hole at the bottom. I can only hope....

One of the two creeks that come together on our neighbor's property comes down from a small canyon west of our property. This is a beautiful creek anytime of the year but after a rain it's a torrent of beauty as it comes down and under the road, through a four foot corrugated drain pipe and drops down again into the lower creek. ( Another good place for gold panning when the water is low or gone in the summer.)
All of these many, seasonal creeks flow together and into the Mokelumne River a few miles away. All this water ends up here...
The photo above is looking east from the Middle Bar Bridge. The photo below is looking west, from the bridge, toward Pardee Dam.
This is a controlled river. PG&E releases water at the Electra Power Generating Plant a few miles up river. Because of the runoff right now the river was very high and was moving like molasses this morning. So much water..... smooth, deep, wide and beautiful.
I LOVE THIS RIVER!  So I'm giving all of you who care about the beautiful places in this country a gentle heads up. Please read what is going on with this river in the name of supplying more water to other areas of this state. The Foothill Conservancy is trying very hard to have this river designated as a WILD AND SCENIC river. This would protect the river from being damned with bigger reservoirs and controlled by folks that have no interest in this river except for the wasteful water uses that are prevalent in this state.
As I stood on this old bridge, by myself, looking up river and down, the beauty of it all really hit me.  My grandson has run like the wind across this bridge.
I've stood here and cried, laughed and had many Ah ha moments standing over this river on this bridge. My family has picnicked on this river's beaches and I've brought friends here to see its beauty. This is a friend that comforts me and I can share it with others. That is why I want you to read THIS.... please. 
I don't want this bridge to disappear beneath an expanded Pardee Reservoir. I don't want any of this to happen....

  • Flood the entire Middle Bar reach of the Mokelumne River, destroying the river for whitewater recreation and stream fishing and gold panning.
  • Flood the new whitewater boating takeout and parking area below the Highway 49 Bridge.
  • Mokelumne Electra Run east of Highway 49 in high flow periods, leaving a dead-zone bathtub ring the rest of the year.
  • Inundate the historic Middle Bar Bridge, restored by local governments just a few years ago, cutting off a critical emergency route for local residents.
  • Inundate the historic and cultural resources of the Middle Bar area, including a sacred place where the Miwok people gather willow for baskets and cradleboards and teach their children the Miwok language and culture.
  • Result in eminent domain proceedings against local landowners.
  • Require construction of a new Highway 49 Bridge.

If you live in Northern California this is a big deal. Our rivers are at risk. I know how important water is. I live with the threat of a well going dry every summer. That's why we are getting rid of our small lawn. When I see folks with big huge manicured lawns down in the flat land and the automatic sprinklers are on and water is running down the drain in the street, I want to sneak a few big cows in there and let them loose in these front yards. I want to bang on their doors and yell at them. Is that where the anger starts?
Water is a scarce resource here,  as it is in many western states, and I don't think that we just need to make our reservoirs bigger to accommodate folks that don't know how to conserve their resources. 
Anyway, this is my request. Turn your water off when you're not using it.  Do full loads of laundry and then, when you have a free day, take a drive to a nearby river and really look at it . 
The river is rainwater. The river is melted snow. It is a precious commodity and it's not going to last forever. Our rivers will tell you this story if you listen. Just think about it.  Please READ what happens to rivers when folks want more and more water.
It rained today. It was beautiful. The River is happy.... for a while.


  1. I bet you can win this, so many conservation groups exist in Cali just get the word out. I don't know the reason why they think they need it but I am with you. I'm sick of us being such idiotic consumers that we have to destroy everything. It's gorgeous.
    I enjoy storms as long as they aren't the freaky scary kind. Your photos today were just amazing, beautiful.

  2. powerful post Connie. I can feel your passion and concern and I understand. I live very near a river that feeds our community and my soul. It would make me sick to see something like this happen just down the road from us...it is all so precious, it's a gift for us to use, not to waste. I hope things will change...

  3. I agree with you whole heartly about people wasting water. I too would like to tell off some of the people you have sprinklers going even when it is raining here in Alabama, or like you said water running down the street for no reason. I saw on television where they may get snow in San Francisco with the storm you described. Lots of crazy weather every where this year. I love all you pictures. Have a blessed day and I will remember to pray that they do not dam up the river.

  4. here here and hooray. Do they still call the people from down below flatlanders?
    Now I'm one of them, but not in my heart.

  5. Connie I so hear you. Its time that people who don't know anything about conservation and our environment just shut up already.
    Just last evening our front yard was filled with deer. We have messed with their migration routes and now they must come into town looking for food. I hope for all our sakes they wake up someday and decide to do whats right. We live on a busy street and they were all over yards and in the streets. Its a wonder they weren't hit. Whats even crazier is if they are hit by a car my son,a police officer, must call the Game & Fish. The police are not allowed to shoot them when they are injured.

  6. Very well said. It's easy to see the beauty in the river and what may happen to it.

    So many of our country's natural wonders are being destroyed everyday, for what I think are selfish reasons. They'll divert water so that people can keep wasting it, and cut off the top of a mountain ridge so we can have our coal instead of looking for alternatives.
    I'm thankful that there are groups (like Sierra) that get involved. But it first comes down to learning the effect of turning on the water or turning up the heat.

    I hope the courts will listen and protect your area. We need small victories for our beautiful country.

  7. Oh Connie! Your post brought tears to my eyes. I, like you, know full well of the precious commodity of water! We are on a well here too and are EVER so careful of waste. It makes me cringe when I see someone power washing their driveway in the heat of summer! We save all of our grey water for the gardens and I make a trip to town once a week in the summer to do laundry at a laundromat (lucky for me there are 2 good second hand stores there as well!).
    I have so much respect for people who are fighting these battles of David vs Goliath and support you all in your quest. These places and old structures most definitely need to be saved. Maybe you need to call Erin Brockovitch!

  8. I am a passionate water conservationist when you grow up in an arid land like Australia you learn how precious water is.
    Have you ever found any gold.........?

  9. We have a camper at the lake and usually by mid August, the lake bed is dry in our area. Duke Power sucks it all away, in addition to the neighbors watering their lawns.

    I'm not big on development. Our town ruined my property by developing and causing flooding and erosion in my yard. Sore subject with me too.

    I enjoyed the beautiful photos Connie and good luck!

  10. Thanks for the powerful reminder. Rivers are precious to me too! I live in Western Washington where water is abundant; but I don't take it for granted. I live in a small town where everybody keeps their lawns perfectly manicured and green-everybody but me, that is! I'm determined to change the way my neighbors think and lead by example! BTW: found you via Jojo's blog. What a great site you have!

  11. Wonderful, Connie! Thank you so much. To follow up ... Foothill Conservancy did stop the East Bay Municipal Utility District from expanding this reservoir -- this time. But we are still working to secure the Wild and Scenic River designation, and could use everyone's support. It takes a community (of hearts as well as geography) to save a river!


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