Research: Earlimart

I’ve spent three days trying to decide whether I like this place. On the one hand, all my survey points were either along a busy road, or reeking with the smell from a set of water retention ponds.

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Nothing like that pungent smell to claw you awake in the morning.

On the other hand, phalaropes.

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And stilts.

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And avocets.

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Logic headed back to Berkeley at the end of our last survey set, and will be adventuring on her own for the next week until our schedules match up again. That left me to survey the stunning utopia of Earlimart by myself. If you’re looking for a stunning morning walk past blaring traffic and a half-mummified dog carcass, then do I have the place for you!

At least there were birds. And an interesting site history. When Grinnell was here a hundred years ago he described something of a wasteland, except for a small ranch growing wheat, and a reservoir that served as “a mecca for birds.”

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Historic photo of Earlimart wheat field.

No traces of that ranch still remain. But the reservoir was replaced by a series of large water retention ponds operated by the city. And there is still wheat growing in the fields.

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During this trip I learned the fascinating difference between hay and straw: hay is lots of grasses that can be eaten, straw is leftover wheat stalk after the grain has been harvested. This is straw.

My final day broke under a heavy covering of clouds. The night before was storming all the way through; in other words, my worst nightmare. After spending months setting up the schedule for this summer, a single missed survey due to rain would be calamitous. Luckily the rain let up at dawn, allowing me to complete another successful set of site surveys. Even if I was slipping and sliding all morning long in the fine, drenched silt of the farm roads.

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My shoes were holding up so well…
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