Country Living Series

Friday, August 22, 2014

Beyond extreme

I've been following with great concern the historic drought in California. The situation has moved beyond extreme into the classification of "exceptional" drought. I lived in California for twenty years and Don's and my families are still there, as well as innumerable friends.

We had a successful garden this year, but it goes without saying most of it is due to the fact that our water is abundant. Clearly right now a garden is an impossibility for most people in the Golden State.

Not only is surface water drying up, but so are the aquifers, which are being pumped dry by farmers desperate to keep their crops alive.

It's bad enough for those with annual crops; but for those who raise walnuts or peaches or other tree crops, losing entire orchards (which take years to establish) must be heart-breaking.

Water issues were one of the reasons we decided to leave California back in 1993. By no means was it the deciding factor, but it certainly contributed. Somewhere in the back of our minds we knew that if we wanted a homestead, we needed to settle in a place where water was, if not abundant, at least not a crisis point more times than not.

But we left when we were young, childless, and not yet rooted. It was hard enough to leave our family and friends behind. It's harder for folks with children who are surrounded by loving extended families. For most people, there are also employment issues to consider as well.

Should a drought issue suddenly plague north Idaho, it would be a FAR more difficult decision for us to up and move, since we now have an established farm and roots in our community.

But California may face a more serious issue than whether or not to grow a garden. There's talk about relocating people as communities run out of water. What happens then? It's not like anyone could hope to sell their home to someone moving in, if people are being asked to leave. There is speculation that this drought could continue for years. It's truly a crisis.

I know many readers of this blog either farm on a small scale, or someday hope to farm on a small scale, so water availability is doubtless high in their minds. What can Californians do? For those actually living in California -- will you stay or are you thinking about leaving? What are your thoughts on the future of the Golden State?


  1. Droughts in Californiaare cyclical. There will be floods and mudslides ahead just as there was in the past and more droughts. The problem California has is unwillingness to use the resources it has. The pseudo-environmentalists have made it impossible to store water for agricultural use (build dams) and have simultaneuously mandated that more water from rivers be released into the ocean rather then used for farming. That is their choice and what we are seeing is the consequence. Simple as that.

  2. While I hope to be leaving California soon, if I were staying one thing I would do is try to incorporate some hugelkultur ideas into raised beds.

    For example, a few years ago I made a round raised bed and planted a fig tree in it. First I dug out the area then filled it will a mix of compost, soil, leaves, food scraps, torn up paper, etc. (sort of lasagna-type gardening) then planted the fig tree and it has grown like crazy. If I were to do it again or do more raised beds, after I dug out the size bed or beds my yard would accommodate, I'd fill the bottom with chunks of wood, etc. t-h-e-n all the soil and lasagna garden ingredients.

    I've read that people who build hugelkultur-type beds don't have to water hardly at all, depending upon where you live, and their gardens grow in drought conditions when most other people's die.

    Anyway, seems like it is worth a try.

  3. "Relocating" huh?


    Note to California and their friends at the EPA:
    Do NOT attempt to send them to my neighborhood.
    Put on your big boy pants, choose de-sal over high speed rail and deal with your own mess.


    1. Dear A.McSp,
      Maybe I'm misreading your comment but please don't forget that many people who live in California are conservatives with common sense who also believe in de-sal, voted against silly wasteful programs like high speed rail, and are out voted.

      We aren't all people with friends at the EPA and you have no idea how long some of us have been trying to stop this leftward drift in the state.

      Remember the author of the blog we are commenting on also relocated from California years ago.

      deb k

    2. Thank you Deb! Please don't forget California is a huge state. The people, terrain, economy, weather and the politics all very depending on where you are located. We live in a very conservative location in a town of less than 3,000 people and no stop lights. Our votes don't hold a candle to SF or LA. I have toured the redoubt and very little compares to what we have in my corner of California. As far as severe drought in the future, rain barrels, water tanks, grey water for gardening, composting toilets, and there is that lake 1000 feet from my back door.

    3. Yup. Us conservative makers are out-voted by the liberal takers on the coast. If they could divide CA in half-east versus west-it would be a different story. Those on the coast (the envirotards) think little fish are more important than people and crops for the rest of the nation. Botox Nancy and Diane Frankenstein do NOT represent the inland and mountain people's views.

  4. I don't see why CA. can't use a desalination plant to clean the water from the ocean and provide the state with the water it needs???

    1. The enviro-freaks won't allow it and people are upset that it will impact their perfect beach views. I wish I was kidding but I'm not!

  5. One solution to some of the water issues would be the large scale implementation of permaculture principles to manage the water the do have. I have been watching Geoff Lawton's permaculture videos and he has designed systems for straight up desert - ie. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. He has designed farms in the desert there that are really amazing.

  6. We spent several days this past week filling rain barrels up and hauling them out to the fruit trees on the former tree farm nursery we bought in northern Idaho. It's dry enough to frighten me and that's saying plenty as we are moving to Idaho from Wyoming. We weathered through a drought in Wyoming and wildfires just two years ago. This year has been rainy and cool all summer and it more resembles Ireland than the arid climate I moved to in 1999.
    That said, we've been advising friends and family for several years to escape California but there was a concern about getting enough money for their homes to make it worthwhile. When dust flows from the taps and the firefighters can't put out the fires, those homes won't be worth a wooden nickel.
    A pond on our property is down 10-12 feet from this spring. We were hoping to stock it with fish but can't see any sense doing that if the water won't be there. At least I can see water from my house.
    I pray for those living in the drought areas and for the farmers who have had the feds interfere with their irrigation due to a smelt fish.
    Never thought I'd see a day when water was more expensive than gasoline, but it's coming.

  7. Well, lets see......seed the clouds? Start seriously desalinating sea water? (Consult Israel on the that one). A smart sounding gal on a past episode of The Common Sense Show said water to So. Cal is mismanaged, misdirected and the crisis is a crisis of....common sense. Now THAT makes sense to me.

  8. I live in the center of that dark red area which used to be known as the breadbasket for the world. South of Fresno. I lost seven of ten fruit trees in the past year. And all 20 of my raised beds were a complete loss. 24 tomato plants produced a total of seven tomatoes. And eight zucchini beds gave me one squash. Awfully glad to have a well stocked pantry. We are on severe water restrictions, and I have no lawn at all, only dirt and weeds. If we are seen wasting water it is a $500 fine. I would leave lf I could, but it is famiially and financially impossible. Farmers who rely on annual water deliveries to grow crops, and had been told last year their deliveries this year would be 25% of normal, and when it came time they got 0%. And it is projected to be dry again this year by Farmer's Almanac. 2 Chronicles 7:14 applies here. I think.

  9. We lived in Arizona a few years ago on a lovely, lovely piece of property whose desert view was (to us) spectacularly beautiful. Even 20 years ago, though, the area wages were depressed due to so many illegals. They were always finding the bodies of men, women, and children who were left in the desert by coyotoes with a 2-liter pop bottle of water which didn't last the day even then. I carried a pistol on my hip at all times whenever ventured outside to hike and had extra water on the truck for any unfortunates that needed it.

    The farmland was quickly being swallowed up by Californians moving in. I would drive into town and several acres of what had been cotton farm a couple weeks ago was sprouting construction.

    My husband and I had a long discussion about it because the water just wasn't there for all the people flooding into the area at the time (and the situation is now worse). We decided to sell while we could because we were history buffs and knew about the multi-decadal droughts that have happened in the past and, presumably, will continue occurring into the future.

  10. The "Golden State". Bah. This state isn't golden anymore, it's brown; the kind of brown that toilet water turns after a turd only gets half-flushed. I'm forced to live in Los Angeles thanks to Uncle Sam, and I cannot wait to leave. The people who populate this city are, by and large, some of the most selfish, self-absorbed ***holes I've ever seen in my life. They are also some of the most reality-challenged, economically illiterate people I've ever met.

    Farmers are pumping aquifers dry? Maybe that's because a non-native two-inch fish is more important to the eco-freaks who run this state than the actual well-being of the farmers who produce the food. The Delta Smelt has shut down all irrigation to the former breadbasket of California, so farmers are trying to get their water from somewhere.

    I cannot wait to leave this state. It is a festering cesspool controlled by idiots, morons, drug addicts, communists and the insane. I personally wouldn't care one whit if California broke off from the rest of the USA and sank into the ocean. After living here for two years, with one more year to go, I can say without any hesitation that I loathe this state, and I hate the city of Los Angeles with the fury of a thousand burning suns.

    1. I understand. I live a couple of hours away and I hate having to go into the city. I want out of here big time.

    2. Come on Dave, don't hold back!!

    3. I think your honesty is refreshing, similar to what my husband would write if he was sitting at the keyboard. He had to work there on the RR after retiring from the military (he was stationed there as well) and he did not move us to that state for all the reasons you just wrote.
      Land of fruits and nuts...

  11. " is famiially and financially impossible.."

    That sums up our position.

    Where my parents are we are. My job is here and I don't see that changing soon.

    I have a plan an materials for loss of tap water, but not surface water. If I cannot draw from the local creek and haul with my heavy duty bike trailer, I am out of luck.

    The PRK has been in water trouble for a l-o-n-g time. I participated in the early (first?) "Earth Day" before conservationist were thrown out of the movement, to be replaced by Preservationist an in turn replaced by Communists (Idon'treaalygiveadarnabouttheearthists) who use appearances to control (Agenda 21).

    W-a-y back then we fought something called the "Peripheral Canal" which was intended to send N. CA water south. It didn't store water, it only redistributed it. That idae has now mutated into Gov. Moonbeam's tunnels..

    We don't do anything about production (one word: Resevoirs).

    The real problem is that the true cost of water is hidden.

    It is a welfare of sorts - except who has the really big lush gardens in L.A. Not the poor folks.

    Water costs are subsidized. Stop it.

    Farmers would probably be willing to pay more for their water IF:
    Everyone pays for what they use according to the costs involved (storage, transport, treatment and delivery)
    The get guaranteed delivery. (This is a big deal. No water doesn't mean no lawn, it means no farm!)

  12. Here is yet another example of how insane it is here. The state is releasing an enormous amount of water into the Klamath river because the drought is affecting salmon. Nevermind that farmers are losing their crops and food prices nationwide are soaring. We don't want to stress the fish. People first!!!!

  13. Well, my husband and I want to leave CA as soon ASAP. Our once beautiful desert and military town has become a prison town. A neighboring small city has many prisons from private to federal. With prisons comes prisoner families. Plus, our area is a dumping ground for sex offenders on release form neighboring counties through some sort of good old boy network. We are hoping to be able to move next summer as it is very difficult for teachers to find work mid-year, if they find work at all. But, that is a whole other topic.

  14. I am in San Diego, CA and I would leave in a heart beat. However, my family has been in Southern California for five generations and I just can't leave my family.

    Drought is a definite and frustrating issue. There is a new desalination plant being built in Carlsbad (North San Diego area) and hopefully the success of the plant will spark interest up and down the coast. The plant is scheduled to begin operating November 2015. Environmentalists don't like it, but I think we should build as many as we can and get water independent. Being so far south, all of our water is imported and costly. Many inland have wells, but in my city we cannot drill a well.

    I have thought many times I'd like to tear up our concrete driveway, install a cistern under the driveway to harvest more rainwater from our roof and pour a new driveway over the cistern. Every house should have one, right? Average rain is about 10-12 inches and if we capture on a 2000 sq. foot roof, we can get about 13,000 gallons of water to use for irrigation. Every drop helps, even in years of drought. Solar and rain harvesting are the future. (We have solar and love it!)

  15. I am in San Diego, CA and I would leave in a heart beat. However, my family has been in Southern California for five generations and I just can't leave my family.

    Drought is a definite and frustrating issue. There is a new desalination plant being built in Carlsbad (North San Diego area) and hopefully the success of the plant will spark interest up and down the coast. The plant is scheduled to begin operating November 2015. Environmentalists don't like it, but I think we should build as many as we can and get water independent. Being so far south, all of our water is imported and costly. Many inland have wells, but in my city we cannot drill a well.

    I have thought many times I'd like to tear up our concrete driveway, install a cistern under the driveway to harvest more rainwater from our roof and pour a new driveway over the cistern. Every house should have one, right? Average rain is about 10-12 inches and if we capture on a 2000 sq. foot roof, we can get about 13,000 gallons of water to use for irrigation. Solar and rain harvesting is the future. (We have solar and love it!)

  16. I currently live in SoCal, but we saw the water crisis coming eight years ago. So when the recession hit and property prices plummeted, we purchased property in a much wetter state (where our kids live, although drought can happen anywhere). We will move to it when we retire in a couple years, unless conditions become intolerable here first. While I realize the rest of the country doesn't want us moving in, fortunately it's still legal to move from one state to another.

    We are doing something a little unique in today's culture. We are currently building a multi-generational home for three families on the property. Our kids are in their late thirties, and this has made the cost for each of us much more feasible. We homeschooled our kids years ago when nobody had ever even heard of homeschooling, and for us the greatest benefit has been the close family bonds that were built and still exist between us. We were also very blessed to get amazing son/daughter-in-laws who are just as loving & accepting as our own. We believe that as societal supports continue to break down, we will need our kids as we age. But in the meantime we hope to be a tremendous support and help to them. Family was God's idea and it is the bedrock of a functional society. We need to get back to those roots. However our family does NOT see this new home as a fortress or a bunker, built for our survival. It is our prayer that God will use it as a place of living water, flowing out to minister to a hurting world. We believe that begins at home and is most effective when it echoes out from there.

    As for CA's water problem, while I don't agree with A.McSp's "don't come here" attitude, I do believe CA should "choose de-sal over high speed rail." It makes perfect sense. Which is why our governor & legislature will never get it done. But before those of you from other states get feeling too smug, remember: If any of us could figure out a way to make government do the right thing, this whole country wouldn't be in the mess it's in. Yet God is even bigger than our mess. His purposes will be accomplished.

  17. We farm large-scale in Missouri. We had an awesome spring, with abundant rain, but within the last 4 weeks, it has been dry. Now it is hot. Thankfully our crops are already past the point of needing rain.

    Here's the thing: people are farming ground that would not sustain agriculture if it weren't for the ground water. We have family in NW Oklahoma who irrigate all winter just to get enough moisture to plant. They have wonderful growing conditions, except they don't have the rain. Every drop comes from aquifers. I think if God had intended us to farm there, and so many other places like it, that the average rainfall would be sufficient to grow their crops.

    We are fortunate here. My husband has built rather large irrigation lakes to get us through the dry times and to boost our yields. Some years we almost empty those reservoirs, and others we barely turn on the water. One thing I am certain of is that one day those underground lakes so many farmers depend upon will dry up. The farmers in those areas will go broke. Your food will be even more costly. There will be an ever increasing gap between the "haves" and the "have nots." Producing, and preserving, your own food will become ever more important.

  18. In complete honesty - I think the vast majority of the population has no clue how this drought will affect their food prices now, very soon, and for years to come. It's rather scary when I stop and think about it. Thankfully we do a little more than the average Joe to feed ourselves. But I would be kidding if I thought my smallish garden and 7 hens could produce enough for us to eat well and not be hungry. We need to ramp things up a bit. And I'm on the other coast :)

  19. We have been in a three year drought in this part Oklahoma. Some of the lakes are in bad shape & some are in good shape. It all depends on which part of the state you are in. There is a small lake east of here that is in bad shape.We haven't had heavy rains for years just small storms that dump a half inch or so. The oak trees & maple trees have been dying all around our town. The wheat crop was terrible but there was rain in July & it was cool all month. August has been very hot & dry as usual. We are praying for the fall rains.

  20. 5th Generation Californian who had to relocate to Texas to work. Miss both of our families and some specific things but overall not a great deal. My parents have acreage that I love in California that I hoped to live on some day. Not sure it will happen now.

    Most people living there now don't have memories running back to the 1970's and the last drought there (with a whole lot less people). Things will probably get interesting.

  21. 3rd Generation Californian who moved to a great state on the eastern side of the country and doesn't regret it for a minute. I just wish we could convince my parents and my siblings to leave CA. At least my mom did away with her "English Garden" 10 years ago for xeriscaping. Other than that, they're all living in denial, and refuse to think about leaving for a more rural [and greener] environment. There are SO MANY opportunities in the city!! [feel my sarcasm here]. When my brother and his family visited us this summer, the kids were actually afraid of the heavy rainfall ["It's raining too hard!!!"]. It was a typical summer shower, but they hadn't experienced anything like that. Going outside in the rain was out of the question. And don't even get me started on their reaction to visiting our friends who have a working farm. My kids viewed them as strange creatures from another planet.

    Californians are going to have a HUGE wake up call pretty soon. Kudos to those of you who are staying for whatever reasons, but have made or are making changes to your life to accommodate living under severe drought conditions! Heaven help my family [and I mean that literally].

  22. Last year we bought 10 acres with home, barn and irrigation in Idaho. I retired but hubby works and has all his contacts in California. Cannot wait to leave next year. Have already planted fruit and nut trees in Idaho. Our 2 "pastures" have tri-grass plantings on them. Ready for couple of cows next year. In Cali we are going to rip out our grass (NorCal in foothills) and either put in rock or AstroTurf. Then sell it for whatever the market will bear just to get out. At least we have a life line towards another state.