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Poppies likely to be absent during annual spring festival


The state drought has spread to the Antelope Valley which this year will see practically no multi-colored blossoms at its  annual Poppy Festival set April 26-27 at Lancaster City Park, 43011 N. 10th Street West.

Poppy seedlings benefit from the rains in November and December, but because of the ongoing drought officials at California Department of Parks and Recreation lament that visitors will not have the opportunity to frolic in and photograph the picturesque vistas which traditionally come alive during early February and last through late May.

There will plenty of opportunities to hike the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat which features eight miles of trails through gentle rolling hills. The Poppy Festival is one of Southern California’s most popular events which draws thousands of nature-lovers to the Antelope Valley. Cash-only tickets are available onsite during the event; $8 for adults, $5 for children six  to 12 years and $5 for seniors. Children under 5 years are admitted free.

Benches are located along trails and provide an excellent opportunity to spot singing meadowlarks, or even red-tailed hawks circling above. A variety of desert reptiles include lizards, gopher snakes and as well as Mojave green rattlesnakes. Regarding the latter poisonous reptile, they are  most active on cool days and do not come out of their dark, shady hiding places during hot weather. If you encounter one during a hike, wildlife officials say they will often move out of your way…provided you don’t provoke them.

Because the desert climate can fluctuate wildly within a single day, the spring winds can be strong at times and therefore festival organizers suggest you bring sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, as well as hiking boots and, of course, water.

It was revealed this month that 17 rural communities spanning the state are facing dry wells and near-empty reservoirs because of the drought; the stricken areas include the tiny Lompico County Water District in Santa Cruz, to the Heraldsburg and Cloverdale regions of Sonoma County. The list of vulnerable regions was compiled this month by the state health department based on a survey of the more than 3,000 water agencies in California.

“As the drought goes on, there will be more [water agencies] that probably will appear on the list,” said Dave Mazzera, drinking water division chief for the State Department of Public Health.

The City of Palmdale has for the past few years offered water-conservation tips designed to assist residents in maintaining the local water levels, as well as to reduce your water bill. Officials suggest you water late in the evening or early in the morning to help prevent the wind from blowing the sprinkler water away and to prevent the midday sun from defeating your purpose. By “deep watering,” they say, you can force the roots of the plants to go deeper into the soil and as the plants naturally draw the water down, this can help them become drought tolerant. For example, if you have a lawn that needs 12 minutes of watering per day, adjust automatic sprinklers to three-  to four-minute intervals to allow enough time between cycles for the water to penetrate deep within the soil, and not build up and run off to the sidewalk.

Check your sprinklers on a regular basis to make sure that any necessary repairs are done in a timely manner. Also, place mulch around your plants to help prevent weed growth and to the keep the ground moist. Two or so inches of bark mulch or similar material can help stretch your water dollar.