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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Oct 18

Meet a Western Pond Turtle-Saving Super Hero!

Posted on October 18, 2018 at 9:33 AM by Emma Detwiler

By Gabriela Guaiumi, Watershed Stewards Program Member 2018

The northern and southern Western Pond Turtles are the only native species of turtle in California. The northern western pond turtle, Actinemys marmorata, is found right here on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. In an effort to help protect this native species, we monitor the population with our Turtle Observer Program.

We also monitor non-native turtles we find on the watershed, the most common of which is the red-eared slider. These non-native turtles usually find their way on to the watershed as pets that have been released by their owners. While the owners may think they are doing the right thing by releasing their turtles in their “natural habitat” they are actually disrupting the pond turtles’ habitat and the ecosystem of the watershed.

Our Turtle Observer program would not be possible without dedicated volunteers, and we are so grateful to everyone who chose to donate their time. The volunteer who donated the most hours this year was a new volunteer, Andre. He is only 14 years old, and is extremely passionate about fish and turtles. In fact, his idea of fun is exploring different places to find and identify species. He was exploring the watershed even before he knew about our Turtle Observer program.

As a thank you for giving so much of his time to the Turtle Observer program, Andre joined me in taking the red-eared sliders from our “turtle jail” to the Sonoma County Reptile Rescue. We talked about animals for the entire drive up and back, and he was a delight to be around. He is intelligent, articulate, and his passion and curiosity are infectious.

Volunteers like Andre help keep the Mt. Tam watershed and the native species who call it home healthy and safe. Thank you, Andre, for your dedication!

 Andre Turtle  
 Andre and a red-eared slider he captured.

 Andre Turtle 2
 Andre placing a red-eared slider in the drop-off pond.

Oct 15

Rebates for Your Fall Garden Projects

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 9:17 AM by Ann Vallee

fall gardens for webFall is a great time to make garden upgrades, and we have rebates to help!

Get up to $50 for organic mulch or compost: Adding these materials to your garden helps build rich, spongy soil that can better absorb and hold on to water—a natural storage system for winter rains. A blanket of mulch can also help prevent erosion during downpours and keep root systems warm and snuggly in the event of a cold snap.

Get up to $50 for rain barrels: Make the most of what Mother Nature delivers to your property by investing in a rain barrel or cistern to capture some of your roof runoff for later use. Rain barrels are ideal for watering container plants or for use as a backup supply in the event of an emergency.

Get $2 per square foot from the State of California when you replace your thirsty lawn with water-efficient landscaping, up to a total rebate of $2,000. Fall is a good time to tackle this project as winter rains can help new plantings get established.

To learn more about all of these rebates, visit:
Oct 11

Catching Up

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 3:32 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

We’re enjoying a day of rest along the shores of Lake Como. There is so much to share from our travels through Switzerland, southern Bavaria, Austria and now northern Italy. Aside from the incredible beauty, I couldn’t help but notice the focus on conservation employed by all the towns, hamlets and cities. 

Hotel showerheads that turned off automatically reminded us of what we refer to as “Navy” showers—just long enough to get wet, turn off, soap up and then pull the cord to rinse off before the water flow stopped once again. My son, daughter and son-in-law laughed as we contemplated the mechanism controlling this concept for home use. There are some reluctant grandchildren who would find this idea a surprise!

Water was not the only thing being conserved. In our hotel rooms, we had to insert door key cards into a special slotted mechanism to attain electricity. This would be the same key card we’d need to take when leaving the room, thereby ensuring the electricity would be off. The one downside of this feature is it made it difficult to charge our cellphones if we went out for a short duration. 

rolling green in Bavaria
 Rolling green in Bavaria

 ivy geraniums
 Ivy geraniums at Lake Como
The bucolic rolling green hills in southern Germany’s Bavaria looked as if they could support large herds of cattle; however, there were never more than a dozen cows contentedly grazing at each home. Did I say home? The houses were spread some distance apart, and yet the cows nestled down in the sun very close to the beautiful homes. The themed decor of gardens in the area were the window boxes filled with masses of colorful red, pink or white pelargoniums. The sun-drenched windows sported what we know as zonal geraniums; their thick hair-like leaves retain water and protect the plants from direct sunlight. Meanwhile, the north- and east-facing window boxes were equally decorated with gorgeous smooth shiny leaves of ivy geraniums. It is no wonder the gardens were above grazing level with cattle roaming freely!

Rows of espaliered apple trees grew along the roadways, followed by rows of grapes. Terracing was common through the regions of the Dolomites, where town gardens sported fruit trees, vegetables and herbs in very small yet bountiful spaces. The soils appeared to be rich and healthy, supporting microbes that naturally feed the plants. The abundant produce was a testament to the work local gardeners put into feeding the soil. 

Visiting my cousin’s garden in Oleggio, Italy, my grandchildren were thrilled to see the variety of fruits such as kiwi growing there. The healthy, fruit-laden trees were scattered throughout a garden in what at first seemed no particular order. The pattern, however, was in the hydrozones where they were placed. My eye was also captured by the beautiful Exbury azaleas in bloom—this in October when I had only known an Exbury azalea to bloom in spring.

We plan to stay another week in Italy before returning to the US, so I expect to have even more to share. The experience of travel is rich, but the greatest gift is seeing my grandchildren embrace their heritage, explore their surroundings, and grasp the beauty found in the people of this world.