An Atmospheric River Makes a Real One

By Published On: March 15th, 20232.2 min readCategories: Garden

The rain brought garden work to a halt and created a spring creek in the process

muddy water runs across a small tree-lined valley

A muddy seasonal spring creek fed by ground squirrel tunnels upslope

Enough with the rain already

The “atmospheric river” that’s been pummeling the west coast for the past five days really dumped here overnight, dropping nearly 4 inches of rain since midnight.

That may not be biblical in comparison to places where rain isn’t news, but we only get around 19 inches over 365 days in San Diego. We just received 20% of that in a single morning, and we’ve totaled more than 8 inches since the beginning of March. We’re already at 155% of normal annual rainfall, and, according the to weatherfolk, the river above us still has a least a week to go before it dries up. Maybe.

Anyway, it looks like the ground has finally soaked up enough because water is literally springing from the ground.

The north end of the Acre is where foot of two hills come together to make a small valley. It’s a natural place lined with native live oaks, pine, toyon, and the like. Down the center of the valley there’s a natural drainage that leads to a tributary of the San Luis Rey river.

Most of the time this drainage is a dry, sandy path the neighborhood critters use as a shortcut between the wildlife preserve next door and the regional park in the river valley below.

Occasionally, however, after rain for four or five days straight, the hills become saturated and the miles of ground squirrel tunnels riddling them upslope become expressways sending water, sediment, sticks, and the occasional ground squirrel, into the valley below where it springs from the ground to create a muddy seasonal creek like it did today.

A lot of people would be dismayed by the mud and muck, but I take a more holistic view. Not only does the flood give the valley some much needed water and nutrients, a la the cradle of civilization, but it also gets rid of a whole lot of ground squirrels, which have been particularly damaging in the past couple of dry years.

Then there’s the strange things the water uncovers. Slogging my way out of the valley this morning, I caught this staring up at me from one of the recently created rivulets.

An muddy stuffed animal looking up from the ground

An artifact recently unearthed by the seasonal creek

I’m not entirely certain, but I think it’s an old stuffed animal (rabbit maybe?) that’d been buried years ago. I’ll know more when it’s dried out.

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About the Author

author avatar
Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.

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