Paradigm Shift: Gardening in a Drought

Thomas Kuhn used the duck-rabbit optical illusion to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way. Source, Wikipedia


Used to illustrate a paradigm shift. Do you see the duck? The rabbit? Both?

I’m applying those principles to my garden.  Instead of simply planting what I like year after year, I’m now thinking about water conservation first, then figuring out from there what to plant.  This isn’t a new reality for our semi-arid climate.  In an average year, our rainfall is a mere 14 to 18 inches (35 to 38 cm).

Living in a developed country, we take water for granted.  We open a faucet and water flows: fresh, safe and abundant.  Actually, the first two are correct, but as we face year two of a drought, further complicated by an unseasonably warm winter and spring, abundant may no longer be the case.

We’re making incremental steps to reduce our water usage. While these changes are small and, forgive the cliché, a mere drop in the bucket, I think they’re worth doing.

Last week we finished removing the lawn from the sidewalk strip.  This allowed us to cap off several sprinkler heads, and divert a smaller amount of water to one raised flower bed.

Over the weekend, I reduced the number of water-thirsty pots by half, then planted what remained with succulents. Native to warm, dry climates, succulents can go days without a drink.

Instead of lavender, drought-tolerant Mexican Bush Sage lines the deck.

There are a number of things you can do to improve water efficiency, but we’re already doing them:

  • Watering in the early morning
  • Use of a drip-irrigation system, delivering measured water directly to the source to avoid run off and rapid evaporation.
  • Use of native plants
  • Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil

The next logical  step is to replace the lawn.  Once a status symbol of the rich, water-thirsty lawns eventually found their way into suburban gardens.  I hope their popularity is on the way out.

Major changes are time-consuming and costly, so we are making our changes  incrementally.

Here’s what we planted:

Senecio Vitalis

Senecio Vitalis

Panda Plant Kalanchoe tomentosa

Panda Plant ‘Kalanchoe tomentosa’ from Madagascar

assorted succulents
Left, Echeveria agavoides * Upper right, Echeveria peacockii * Lower right, Rainbow Elephant Bush Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’

The other part of the water equation is indoor use. I’ve ordered a free water audit through the City of San Jose. They read your water meter, check for leaks, and determine water flow from sinks, showers and toilets. They make suggestions for laundry and dishwasher efficiency, shower duration, etc. They’ll audit our garden use as well. I’ll report back when they complete our audit next week.

Have you ever made a paradigm shift? Please let me know in the comments below.

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

heart shaped clover

Heart-Shaped Clover

Some people believe in luck; others believe you make your own.  Personally I like the idea put forth by Carl Jung that ‘luck’ is synchronicity, the idea that “the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, whereas they are unlikely to be causally related.”

In other words, through blogging, I’ve discovered a world of interesting and articulate people who might not otherwise have crossed my path. Synchronicity! I look forward to logging on daily to see what fellow bloggers have to say; unique perspectives from around the globe.

Trying to spot a four-leaf clover on the forest floor, I had a paradigm shift.  Why search for the elusive four-leaf clover, when there are pretty green hearts right under my nose?

In our not-always-pretty world, I’ve found bloggers with grace, poise, humor, advice, skill, and fascinating points of view.  The hearts in the clover. At the risk of sounding pollyannaish, I believe the world is full of good people.  My experience in the world of blogging validates that truth.

‘Lucky’ me!

felton clover

Clover: Forest Floor, Felton, California

Slinky Malinki: Garden Kitty and a Paradigm Shift

Slinky Walks

Slinky Malinki in the Garden

Slinky Malinki is a character in a well-loved children’s book by author Lynley Dodd.  Slinky is “a cat as black as midnight with a kink in his tail.”

Our beloved Slinky is a shiny black cat, too, with a kink in her tail. The resemblance, however, ends there.  Dodd’s character is a “thief in the night;” bold and adventurous.  Our Slinky spent the last two years hiding in the garden, afraid of her own shadow, and everything else.  The paradigm shift happened today.

In recent months, Slinky in the garden finally became a house cat, venturing outside for five or ten minutes a day, but otherwise spending her day asleep at my feet under the desk.  She’s come a long way from the cat we first knew.   She used to swat and bite, refusing all attempts at affection. Gradually I’ve figured out ways to stroke her chin, avoiding the business end of her claws.  As she spent more and more time indoors, I started to wonder if her hearing might be impaired.  I would call her with her back turned without a response.  Was she hard of hearing or simply aloof?  I wondered if poor eyesight might by the reason she swung at me with my hand extended.  Perhaps she was once mistreated, learning to distrust human hands.

Slinky Stretching

Slinky Stretching

The Paradigm Shift

We saw the vet today and here’s what we learned: The kitty we thought was three to five years old is probably in her teens. They ordered a geriatric blood panel, the last thing I expected on today’s visit.  Slinky is hard of hearing, picking up some sounds but definitely hearing-impaired.  She doesn’t see well either and things will likely get worse.

Our wonderful vet was decidedly upbeat.  I’m grateful there are people in the world like her. Results from the lab work will be back tomorrow.

I’ve thought about the time we shared in the garden, Slinky and me. She tentatively rounded the corner each day, then kept a watchful eye on the proceedings. Any sudden move and she was out of their lickety split.  She ran from my outstretched hand. One day Slinky gave me a gentle headbutt, a clear sign of cat affection. I knew at last we had turned a corner together.

If cats could talk, she would have her own tales to tell.  A Haiku:

Slinky Malinki
lived more winters than I knew.
Safe and warm at last.

Slinky Moves In Collage