With relatively mild weather and wide variation of biomes, California is home to several endemic species. Some of these species face endangerment due to construction of freeways, using wetland habitats for landfills, and suburban development. Three such species with shrinking habitats include the California Newt, the California clapper rail, and the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
The California Newt can be found along the coastline from San Francisco to Santa Ana. They are five to eight inches in length and breed in ponds along the forest. Their skin produces a toxin to protect them from predators and salamanders in the area have evolved to mimic the unique coloring of the newt. Although newt habitats have been compromised by the building of roads and homes, many efforts are being made to protect these creatures. Grasslands Ecology restores habitats throughout the bay area by planting native plants and removing invasive plant species. There are also road closures to protect newts crossing the roads for breeding season. These efforts are helping to ensure the indigenous newt population is restored.
The California clapper rail is native to the California coast from Morro Bay to the San Francisco Bay. This bird makes her home in the pickleweed and cordgrass of the California Bay Areas wetlands. These areas are quickly becoming destroyed by landfills and urban encroachment. The California clapper rail is similar to a chicken and cannot fly to avoid danger. Fortunately, awareness of the endangerment of this species has led to efforts to protect the unusual bird. Efforts by the federal and state government protecting breeding seasons and through habitat restoration efforts made possible by nonprofit organizations like Save the Bay are working specifically to restore the California clapper rail population.
Making his home in the riparian woodland in California’s Central Valley, the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle thrives in stands of elder shrubs. These elder shrubs make a perfect home for the beetle so that their young can tunnel in the inch thick upper stems. This messy pollinator helps the ecosystem by spreading the pollen to further fertilization of the elderberry seeds. The beetle was placed on the Threatened Species list in the 1980’s due to suburban encroachment. Agencies and conservationists have continued to make protection of the riparian woodland habitat a priority so that these beetles can be delisted as endangered.
Californians have the opportunity to protect the ecosystem by becoming environmental stewards. With awareness and consideration of the animals that live in our state we can support efforts to protect endemic species essential to our thriving environment. We can also volunteer or donate to Save the Bay and Grassroots Ecology to assist in efforts to restore the natural habitat of the California newt, the California clapper rail, and the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle. We can arm ourselves with information about native plants and habitats and use that knowledge when we vote.
Although the habitats of several species native to California have been threatened in the past, efforts are being made to re-establish the environment. We can protect the California newt, California clapper rail, and Valley elderberry longhorn beetle from being threatened. Through efforts by conservationists these species are being protected. We all have a role in restoring our environment. Share your knowledge, donate to a cause, volunteer, and vote to be part of these efforts. By protecting California’s environment and endemic species we can ensure the beauty we love about living here will stay for years to come.
Garden maintenance is important throughout the year. In the December months, plan to continue to maintain your garden by amending soil and adding mulch. Additionally, December is when you must protect your winter crops from pests and frost. Harvesting winter vegetables and greens will also continue through this month. Your garden will thrive with continued care and consideration.
Since Northern California experiences little rain, mulching your garden continues to be an important aspect of winter maintenance. This both preserves soil and keeps the weeds away. Be sure to water at least once a month if it has not rained. If it does rain, check your landscape for large puddles where soil may be heavier and will need to be amended. Don’t bother raking fallen leaves as they provide ground cover and nutrition to the soil. For newer plants, purchase frost cloths or old sheets to protect against the colder temperatures. Newer plants won’t have the established root system and are more vulnerable.
Although temperatures are lower and there are fewer issues with pests, slugs and cabbage worms will continue to be problematic throughout the winter months. Protect your plants with iron phosphate and copper flashing. Row covers are a solution to both protect against slugs and cabbage worms, as well as low temperatures.
Winter crops such as cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, and beets will regrow continuously through February; plants such as spinach and lettuce can continue to be cut to the root during this time and regrow. Be sure to harvest continuously. Unless there is frost, then prune and cut down plants to the root that are browning.
When you continue to maintain your garden you will also be preparing your soil and garden for the upcoming months. By watching your garden for pests, puddles, browning of plants, and by ensuring your soil is mulched and plants are harvested, your garden will continue to develop into the winter months. Happy gardening!
With the recent destruction of the Santa Barbara Cave fire with over 4200 acres burning and 0% containment in the wake of trauma from wildfire destruction throughout the state of California, Californians are left to look to our past to move forward. For thousands of years tribes throughout the state used intentional burns to renew cultural resources, create habitats, and reduce the risk of larger wildfires. Under desperate circumstances, California lawmakers look to indiginous practices of light burning to prevent future fires.
For decades laws have suppressed using fire as a preventative solution for larger forest fires, now California is looking to local tribes to assist in the effort to prevent larger fires. Native people believe that the land is a renewing resource and believe that frequent small fires maintain oak tree health, clear prairie habitats, and prepares for drought tolerance. According to ‘Fire As Medicine’ from the Guardian “In 2015, Robbins, Lake, Tripp and other indigenous fire practitioners began collaborating on a strategy to bring back native practices. Together they authored a “healthy country plan”, laying out the ramifications of fire exclusion and a path to returning indigenous burning to Karuk, Hupa and Yurok land in order to renew and maintain cultural resources, create sustainable economic opportunity, and make the land more resilient in the face of the climate crisis. That work has grown into the Indigenous Peoples Burn Network.” The idea of this healthy country plan is to bring back the health of the land, which the Yurok believe cannot be had without the use of fire as medicine. Margo Robbins, Yurok tribe member and co-lead and advisor of the Indigenous People’s Burn Network stated, “When our land is healthy, and our spiritual and cultural connection to our land is healthy, then we, as a people, will be healthy again.” Thoughtful, intentional light fires could be a solution to the larger destructive fires.
Although it remains illegal to intentionally set fires without Fire Department oversight, lawmakers are learning to embrace tribal practices. Tribes do not believe that light-burning is a solution for the climate crisis, but they do believe that it is one part of the process. They believe that fire is medicine for the land and greater habitats, and lawmakers are beginning to see the benefits to the thousands of years of experience that they bring to protecting our land.
This October prepare for spring by planting bulbs and winter crops. Now is the time to dig up bulbs and perennial flowers to prepare for superior growth. Place bulbs in a paper or mesh bag in the refrigerator for 6-8 weeks, storing them away from apples to prevent early sprouting. Bulbs should be planted once temperatures have cooled down, late October or early November here in the Bay Area. Be sure to plant them in full sun in an area with good drainage. Plant them three times deeper than your bulb is tall with the pointy side up. Organic compost placed inside planting holes ensures good blooming. Now is also a great time to plant winter crops! The Bay Area, California has the perfect autumn climate to plant winter crops such as onions, garlic, broccoli, carrots, spinach, beets, chard, and lettuce. You need less space for your winter garden and can plant seedlings closer together to prevent erosion from rainfall.
This fall Living Classroom's first grade students will plant winter vegetables while learning about photosynthesis in a lesson called "Powerful Plants". Students will plant their own seedling and will measure the growth during planting and throughout the seedling's growth to harvest. The children will harvest these vegetables during their winter "Growing Vegetable Soup" lesson. During this lesson they will make a delicious soup with the vegetables that they harvested from their own vegetable garden!
Want to see what we do where we do it? Please join our Garden Tour on Wednesday, Oct 30, at 1pm at Landels School to see our "Powerful Plants" lesson in action.
Space is limited, so please sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org