…we’ve had rain!

Today’s post is the second of what I think will be two, or possibly three, posts talking about the irrigation system recently installed as part of the landscaping project described in May and June.

Recently, we’ve experienced some rather heavy rains in north Scottsdale, particularly in our immediate area. In fact, reports from those monitoring rainfall in our development said they measured 1.3 inches of precipitation during a single storm on August 23rd! I heard about another strong rainstorm from our property manager just a few days ago, so the monsoon season hasn’t quite ended yet…

Unpredictable weather during the monsoon season makes having an irrigation controller capable of detecting – or being fed – highly-localized weather-related information rather appealing – if it’s raining, there’s generally no need for irrigation that day, (assuming one, or more, of the stations were scheduled to run that day). …and it eliminates the need for the landscaping company to manually toggle the controller off, then back on again, after the rains have been fully absorbed. Of course, we could be relying on a rain shutoff device similar to those described here, but there is always the possibility of an electrical and/or mechanical failure with the device itself. What we’ve opted to do is rely on a feature called ZipET to instruct the controller when to reduce the amount of water being delivered to each station based on highly-localized weather-related information sent to the controller every 24 hours.

…and speaking of rain, you can see clear evidence of the scouring effect these recent rains had in the photograph below – yikes!

This photograph, (below), was taken from just beyond the southwestern corner of the CMU wall enclosing the patio, looking north. You can see the subtle path we created in the foreground, (the low voltage lighting fixtures are set just off the path itself), winding up through the center of the image, then gently veering to the right. There was evidence of erosion in this same area dating back several years, but we were hoping to have reduced the potential for further erosion during the landscaping project by re-grading the area to the west of the CMU wall such that water flowing north to south and east to west following the natural contour of the site would now follow a wider, less concentrated path around the CMU wall and down the slope. Alas, this was not to be…

Happily, this is the first evidence we’ve seen of erosion since the monsoon season started earlier this summer. After meeting with Todd Briggs of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, to talk about what we should be considering to manage the water flow in this area, he suggested a series of dry stack stone terraces set perpendicular to the CMU wall, set at grade to effectively slow the water down as it sweeps around the northwestern corner of the CMU wall, (top of photograph), and then flows south down the slope where the pathway is located, (center of photograph). According to Todd, desert plants will reclaim this area over time, effectively masking the existence of these natural obstructions intended to reduce the potential for more erosion.

The next photograph, (below), shows the finished path winding east from the lower-level patio toward the enclosed area beneath the deck, (left-hand side of image), then forks and veers right, (right-hand side of image), up and around to the deck, again flanked by low voltage fixtures placed randomly along the path making it navigable even at night. We haven’t observed the same degree of erosion due to heavy rains along this section of the path, so we’re confident the bulk of the paths will require minimal maintenance, (except for the steepest sections).

The following photograph, (below), was taken facing southwest from the top of the driveway at dusk in late August. My intent was to show how the path winds gently down from the driveway in a diagonal fashion across the site, forking just above the A/C enclosure, (the area screened off by the corten steel wall you see in the distance, up against the very tall CMU wall of the house), to provide easy access to the heat pumps, and then bending around the low CMU wall enclosing the patio. The low voltage fixtures illuminate both the path, as well as several Saguaro cacti and the Ironwood we strategically placed just to the north of the CMU wall enclosing the patio. There is now a broader range of both cacti and plants randomly placed around the site – several types of cholla, Prickly Pear, Compass Barrel, Ocotillo, Bursage and Jojoba, most of which can be spotted in this image.

I was astounded by how quickly the new plants in the west patio enclosure established themselves this summer! In the photograph, (below), you’ll find Candelilla, Moroccan Mound, Turpentine and Desert Marigold, all doing very well, despite the fact they’ve only been in the ground about 90 days – many of those days were well over 100 degrees too! In addition, we spotted volunteer growth, including Autumn Sage and several tiny 6″ high Palo Verde trees sprouting up, likely the result of seeds from the 14 year-old tree we had removed!

Both Martha and I have now seen countless birds, rabbits, lizards and other desert dwellers making themselves quite at home amongst the new plants. In fact, there is a covey of quail we routinely spot on the path seen in the next photograph, (below), and a family of rabbits are regular visitors to the dry stack stone wall, (also in the photograph below), where they poke around in the crevices looking for food.

We’ll be sure to include photographs in an upcoming post showing all of the animals we’ve caught glimpses of during the past two and a half years!

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