Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought The End


A local creek that has been dry for a long time

I wrote around 10 of these chronicles over the last two years, sort of tracking the whole experience. I really thought it was permanent. I had a moment of fear when we were told if we didn’t cut back, California could run out of water. We cut back a lot. The restrictions and warnings and increased prices resulted in a massive conservation effect. We were successful, yay!

I also was sad taking pictures of Sand Harbor because these shallow waters used to be deep enough to dive into.

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

You could still carefully wade out, but even that would be gone soon.

I walked in the Truckee River, the only outlet of Lake Tahoe.

Truckee River
Truckee River bed

The piers weren’t much use any more!

Lake Tahoe winter 2016


Tahoe sunset-4
These rocks aren’t really supposed to be part of Commons Beach

The gates at Fanny Bridge, the mouth of the Truckee River looked like this two years ago:


Volunteer anglers working with fisheries personnel caught the huge trout who lived there, put them in aquariums, moved them to the lake, and released them…before it was too low for them to live.

Now all 17 gates are open:

Gates open

Just like we couldn’t assume it would always be like the drought, we can’t assume it would always be like this past year, but it’s a massive relief. We now have a gravel front yard. Here’s a photo from the post when we first had it delivered a couple years ago.


We just have drip watering now.


Hope you have a nice week!

Memories of snow

We were up in the Sierra mountains during the peak of the snow. People were out taking photos, having fun and shoveling out.SONY DSC

Drought is determined by the level of snowpack in the Sierras in March. We went from a low of 58 inches of snow a couple years ago to about 48 feet of snow this year.


Winter recreation has been amazing this year, although there is such thing as too much snow to ski. The roads leading up to the ski areas were basically closed in February. Not just snow, but mud slides were to blame.

Road work on Interstate 80
Mud slide on Interstate 80 covered by plastic
Digging out
Buried Chairlift
Buried chairlift

There can be too much snow! But it’s nice to be out of the drought. We rid our property of all grass and only have drip watering to the plants we want to keep alive. We won’t put the grass back, but we have eased up on water rationing inside the house.

We still have a lot of snow in the mountains, and the ski resorts plan to stay open until July 4th, promising continued recreation into the early summer. Much fun lies ahead.

The best thing of all, Lake Tahoe is full again, and the Truckee River is flowing. Fish and wildlife will thrive, and the forest is a dark, rich green.


I — Inquiry and Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought

Real quick, this is how Lake Tahoe looked in March. The water was getting closer but not reaching the Truckee River.

The mouth of the river (1 of 1)

Well big news, it just flowed over its natural rim and has reached the mouth of the Truckee River.

Wow just when I was thinking I was running out of time to do my Monday post and couldn’t think of anything, but when I signed in to start a long overdue visitation round for my blogger friends, I discovered to my amazement a comment from Sheri Kennedy who writes as Kennedy J. Quinn with an invitation to do this interview, tag a few other writers, and read her amazing interview! Her answers really are good; please do yourself a favor and read through them. Sheri does everything a hundred percent, and her interview is no exception. And Sheri, thank you for reading and mentioning The Last Straw. I’ve been meaning to get that book up here on my blog, but for now, here are my answers to your great questions

  1. If you could write full time, would you? Why or why not. If you already do, would you want to change that? Why?
    I write full time now, and I wouldn’t change it, I’m so grateful every day for getting to write fiction and my blog.
  2. Tell me about your favorite character in literature. Why are they your fave?Sherlock Holmes. He is so logical. I love logic and logical characters. I’m also a huge fan of Spock in Star Trek and Seven of Nine.
  3. How long did it take you to write your first book? How long to get it published? Six years (I was working at the time, and had a lot of learning to do!) I didn’t publish it.
  4. What do you think the best books have in common? Great question! I have no idea how to answer it! But for me a book is great when I lose myself in it, when I am more in it than in my life as I bumble through the rituals of the day thinking about the book the whole time until I can return to it. I’m reading one like that now, and it brings me so much enjoyment, especially since several friends are all reading it and we are talking about it.
  5. What do you like to eat or drink while writing?Organic unsweetened almond milk (yes I actually like it), nuts, water. When I’m really on a hot streak, slide it under the door. When I’m struggling I spend most of my time at the refrigerator grazing, with the expected consequences.
  6. Did you ever have one of your characters surprise you? In what way? If no, why not?Oh, I love this question because it just happened to me for the first time in the book that is coming out this month, Third Strike’s the Charm. The hero had a secret I didn’t discover until the end of the third draft. Then I knew why I’d had so much trouble with his character. I didn’t understand Jason Ward until then.
  7. Regarding writing environment: Quiet or Noisy? Alone or With Others? Indoors or Outdoors? Hot or Cool?Okay, both, both, indoors, just right. LOL! I’m picky about temperature and light, otherwise, I’m flexible. I LOVE long plane rides. I get so much done!
  8. Regarding preferred stories: Happy or Complicated? Fantasy or Reality? Character-driven or Plot-driven? Scary or Funny? Classic or Modern?Happy, reality but a dramatic version, mix of character-driven and plot-driven, funny, modern.
  9. Tell me about your favorite character in your work in progress. What’s your favorite thing about them?Devin York is an arrogant emotionally disconnected billionaire CEO who scowls and broods which is interpreted by others as being domineering and tyrannical but is really caused by the tragic death of his wife for which he blames himself. He’s emerged as a Gothic character set in contemporary times, and I adore him. He breaks my heart, makes me angry, and makes me laugh, sometimes on the same page. I am finding I love writing these over-the-top characters and am very grateful Devin arrived in time to save my manuscript from the previous hero… who was a lox.
  10. Why do you write?If I had a choice, I wouldn’t. But I’m incredibly grateful that I can and do. What can I say? It’s a love-hate relationship, like every good romance!

Okay, enough about me! Here are my questions to any writer who happens to read this but specifically for the writers linked at the end, should they choose to participate:

  1. What is your favorite project that you have completed? Why?
  2. If you had to pick one book to read while you were stranded for a long time on a desert island, what would it be?
  3. What do you do when you get stuck with a story or article to get unstuck about the story or article and going all the way to the end?
  4. Do you ever write with pen and paper? If so, why? If not, why not? What do you like more about writing on the computer or about writing longhand?
  5. Who is your favorite character in literature?
  6. Do you believe in “muses” or inspiration? If so, how do you cultivate the inspiration?
  7. What made you want to write?
  8. Do you prefer reading or writing fiction or nonfiction? Why?
  9. What book, author (including blogger and journalist) has most influenced or inspired you?
  10. What would be your favorite place to write if you could write anywhere in the world?
    Here’s some inspiration for that thought!


John Holland

Cynthia Harrison

Robena Grant

Margaret Lynette Sharp

Ann of Anroworld

Susie Lindau

Ann Sandler

Marie Tuhart

Leanne Cole






Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought 10

We are on a ROLL!

From the Reno National Weather Service Facebook page:


As of January 20th: “California’s Lake Oroville reservoir has risen nearly 26 feet in the past 12 days”

“Shasta Lake came up 22 feet on pace to hit 90 percent or higher by Memorial Day.”

We’re stiDrought-1ll conserving water from hand washing, warming up the hot water and cooling off the cold. We then pour this water in the toilet tank after a flush. This practice has been building up my right arm muscles and probably core muscles too, as I lift and pour a bucket that sometimes has five gallons of water!


I spent all day yesterday working on images. Here are two that I did.

Bodie California
Bodie, a California ghost town

The third one is in my newsletter (which you can sign up for on my website if you want updates about my books, recipes, and giveaways).

What are your goals this week?

Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought 9

It has been raining in California. Is the drought over?

El Nino is coming through, delivering the hoped-for rain. The trees are gulping up life-giving water.

Rain in California-4 Rain in California-6 Rain in California-7


Tennis games are on hold.

Rain in California-2

Mud puddles abound.

Rain in California-1

The hills are green.

Rain in California-3

But is the drought over?

Folsom Lake in the Sacramento Valley gained 28.5 feet in one month. It is up to 25% capacity. ( That’s very good news, but…25%? We need more, but no flooding or landslides please.

Ground water is starting to rise in the Sacramento valley, too. But Tim O’Halloran, general manager of Yolo County’s Flood Control and Water Conservation District, says

“…while the recent rains have helped, many more storms are needed to make a dent in California’s four-year drought.”


The rain is helping, though!

Los Angeles County captured 3.2 billion gallons during this week’s storms as of Thursday afternoon…

San Diego collected about 800 million gallons this week at nine reservoirs as of Thursday morning, city spokesman Kurt Kidman said.

Near and very dear to this heart is Lake Tahoe. I couldn’t find how much it has risen from the recent snowfall. Perhaps it has to melt back into water before the lake will really rise. However in doing a quick search, I found an interesting site with this interesting information. There is only one outlet from Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River dam. The extreme for the period of record (which goes way back) shows 1997 as a high point:

EXTREMES FOR PERIOD OF RECORD.–Maximum discharge, 2,690 ft3/s, Jan. 2, 1997,
gage height, 9.59 ft; no flow for parts of many years.

2015 was one of those no-flow years as shown in this post I did in August, Walking in the Truckee River. So 2,690 ft3/sec to 0. What a wild ride.

Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought 7 and National Novel Writing Month

Great news! We don’t have to drink eight glasses of water a day.

That should help with the drought, not to mention that water-logged feeling that drinking way more water than we really want causes, at least for me! Plus, our water is tasting like, for lack of a better word, mud.

Even better news, it poured rain for five and a half hours here this morning. Poured. And it’s snowing in the Sierras. I hope the lake level starts to rise.

Here is the photo I sent in for Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness challenge this week. The subject is clouds. This is a cloudy day in Squaw Valley, which is near Lake Tahoe. I took this photo in August 2014, and just made it monochrome for the challenge.

Mountains in cloud
Squaw Valley California

The National Weather Service had a long video about the effects of El Nino, and the conclusion was inconclusive. Apparently, the warm waters off the US western coast do not guarantee a lot of precipitation, BUT, things are looking very positive with this storm. Maybe the “storm door” has opened? We received about .75 inch of rain. I think 17 is California’s normal average. With the drought it has been down around 5, so that gives you some perspective.

I can’t complain about the rain stopping right when I had to venture outside today to meet writing friends for a birthday lunch and writing session. Lucky me!

It’s National Novel Writing Month. If you are a writer, sign up. It’s awesome. For example, here’s something from the Inspiration tab:

Writing stories is hard work. Don’t let your friends or family tell you any different. From the outside, it looks like sporadic tapping on the keyboard, distracted sips of coffee, and long stares out the window. But inside, you’re wrestling demons.

Gene Luen Yang, an author and artist whose graphic novels include American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints, and The Shadow Hero.

This is the first time I’ve officially done NaNo, signed up and everything, yet two times I’ve written 50k in November with my co-author, John Holland. (We have written a middle-grade fantasy novel and a sci-fi novel together.) So why not just sign up already? This year I did it. It’s not hard at all to sign up and figure it out, and you can have buddies. It’s fun.

Do you have any major goals that you are working on this month?

Chronicles of the #Californiadrought, some interesting articles, and more Yellowstone shots

The New York Times had an interesting article about the drought that takes a look at the situation from the federal level.

Water policy experts point to dozens of changes that could be made, starting by using climate change models to plan new water-collection reservoirs. While climate change models show that there will be less snowfall in the mountains, there may still be rainfall in other regions. The bureau, they said, could build reservoirs designed to capture and store that rain.

It would be really nice to have a planet-wide and locally coordinated effort to reduce greenhouse emissions and shift people and crops as needed, pro-actively. I don’t know how much more water we can ring out of the earth for crops in California. I’m looking forward to our drive north later this month, to see Oregon and Washington. I wonder if they will be the next big states for fruits, veggies, and wine.

The first picture is Sponge Geyser. The second two are the oozy goozy (made-up word, spellchecker!) areas around Biscuit Basin. I love the colors around Biscuit Basin. I’m hoping for an artistic idea to spring to mind for something to do with these photos. Perhaps I should just start experimenting.

Sponge Geyser, Geyser Hill, Yellowstone National Park
Sponge Geyser, Geyser Hill, Yellowstone National Park
In Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone
Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone

Chronicles of the #Californiadrought

We figured out how to get an interim read on our meter yesterday, so we don’t have to wait for our first bill since the restrictions started to see how effective our conservation efforts have been. We are on track!

Here is an article about California’s success in reducing residential water usage.

Our water restrictions are among the tightest in the state. Because of the way the calculation was done, our effective reduction was 70%. Well, we pretty much managed to do that, which amazed me.  (Our area, San Jose, is mentioned in the article as one of the top performers in the state.)

Like I mentioned before, we are very careful indoors so that we can use most of our allotment on plants. Here are two photos from our yard this morning.

Squash flower

This one is a little out of focus, but I wanted to show you the bumble bee who was feeding this morning.

Bumble bee in squash flower
Bumble bee in squash flower

I like that we are helping bees and humming birds with the garden and birds with the little opening in the pool cover.

Actually, we aren’t watering this particular agapanthus, which decided to grow in an invisible space between the outside patio and the screened patio. Agapanthus

Agapanthus 2

I hope you are enjoying your July so far. This is my favorite month of the year and not just because it is my birthday month. What is your favorite month of the year, and why?

Chronicles of the #Californiadrought

I decided to rename this series because California is not necessarily overcrowded. I’m not sure if it is or it is not. In fact, 80% of our water usage goes to farming.

We have a farm. Not quite, but my husband is a great gardener and has expanded our garden this year. We are already enjoying chard, tomatoes, and squash. We’ve decided to squeeze indoor water usage to the minimum in order to water these plants and some of our landscaping. We eliminated lawns a while ago. We will eventually find out if we made it under the allotment. You can’t really tell with water until the bill arrives. With electricity, you can look at your usage as you go along.

We have a smart meter for electricity, and today is a smart day. These days occur when the temperatures get really high, as they have today. A number of years ago, we had rolling blackouts because of a power shortage. Air conditioning on week days when businesses are cooling their buildings drives up the demand on the power grid. Voluntary reduction of power usage during these peak times helps the grid. So, it’s hot, there’s no AC, and we can use very little water. But I’m happy. I love California!

Here are the things that I enjoy about the drought and heat:

1. A sense of community. We are all in this together, finding ways to reduce water use.

2. Water use is being looked at very carefully, which was really needed.

3. A lot of sunny days. I’ve always liked California and could even imagine myself living in the desert because of the blue skies.

4. Appreciation for and awareness of water. I am aware of every drop that slides down the drain and capture as much as possible to use for other necessities.

5. With hot days I can go for a nighttime walk in shorts and a t-shirt.

Here are some photos of beautiful California:

High Sierra meadows



South bay area

San Diego


Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt California
Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt California
Lake Tahoe


Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley
Lake Tahoe
San Francisco


San Diego



Chronicles of an Overcrowded State, #Californiadrought

Written June 12, 2015

A Tale from the Drought

We opened up the pool today because it’s a “Smart Day” meaning we are to use the minimum possible amount of electricity. These Smart Days occur on the hottest days. The combination of heat and not running the air conditioner enticed us to spend the water needed to remove the pool cover and float all day on a raft. Well not me, actually, just my husband. I am here writing this instead of working on one of my manuscripts, which I do not understand. Perhaps my lapse is because this whole scene unfolding outside my window is interesting and making me want to report.

The scene in the yard is full of bird action. The open pool seems to have attracted birds from everywhere. All kinds of species are landing on power lines and tree branches, fences, and the roof, then calling out to each other. I think the first birds discover the water by flying around searching in general then call out the location when water is spotted. The message is understood by other members of his species. Of course some non-species members have worked out the meaning of other species’ bird calls, for survival reasons, and so members of these other species start to arrive as well. I’m not sure if this is how it actually works, but it is my theory, and I did hear this recently about birds understanding other species’ calls.

Waterfall during flush years
Waterfall during flush years

The total number of birds is limited, though. The population seems to adjust to the amount of resources available in a region, so I think only birds in about a four-house radius are coming for the water.

Birds bathing in the pools
Robin bathing in a pool (which no longer exists due to not running the waterfall)

I think that California is going through an adjustment like the ones the birds make naturally. California has cut residential water limits to the bare bones. Logically, if the state continues to grow in population, the water managers will have to cut more deeply next time we are in this situation. There is already a lot of development in the pipeline, but once that dries up, I think there will be a hue and cry from voters to put a stop to development. Or perhaps fewer people will be attracted to move here knowing they are moving into tightening water restrictions. Or both. In this sense, the drought is probably not entirely bad. Not that I want to limit California’s population, but I think if we want California to be a sustainable state, growth has to be constrained to the amount of resources available in the area. Birds in nature distribute themselves over an area in numbers appropriate for the resources available. California can manage with the amount of water expected, but only through careful management. I hope that when the rains come back, which they already are starting to do, we remember this lesson and have better informed public policy on development.

Here’s a newsflash. Apparently there is something else we can do to increase the number of people who can live here in California. Eat veggie burgers! Check out this statement from Governor Brown: