[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 21-22
2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,000 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]

Back to Nature | Commentary by Mari Carbajal
| Thursday, Aug 13, 2015

maricarbajalAs much as I love nature, I never really paid much attention to the little details until I moved to Agua Dulce.

Nature on the high desert seems so much different than any other place I’ve lived before. Maybe it’s just that living in a rural community forces you to pay more attention with its rattlesnakes, poisonous plants and buggy things that sting.

One of my first discoveries was a giant fuzzy ant that my neighbor said was a velvet ant. Who knew such an amazing-looking insect could sting so severely that it earned the nickname, “cow killer?” A member of the Mutillidae family, velvet ants are among the 3,000-plus species of wasp.

velvet antIt was this little insect that got me started on what I will introduce you to today.

I began noticing more and more flora and fauna as time went by. One day I was discussing yellow jackets with a neighbor, and how many there were at the time. He said he had heard an Indian myth that a large number of yellow jackets meant an abundance of rain in the coming winter.

yellow jacketI was intrigued. I decided to write down when and how many I saw. Then I wondered about other things and wrote down all of the things I would see, such as velvet ants, red-tailed hawks, venomous and non-venomous snakes, plants, etc. I kept adding to my list until one day I decided to put the list into a spreadsheet. That’s when things got interesting.

I created a spreadsheet that I titled, “Seasonal Information.” I made a column called (for a lack of imagination) “Category” and then one column for each month of the year. Then I entered all of the things from my list into the Category column.

As the first year went by, I added more and more information including weather factors, what month my horses started to get their winter coats, and when they began losing their coats in preparation for summer. I developed a rather simplistic format for identifying some things, for instance: “Was the month arid or humid? What months, if any, did we have monsoons? Did it rain? Did it snow?” And so on.

After a while, I ran into a problem of trying to chart just how much of something I’d seen. Was there only one ant in my kitchen, or did the entire colony take over my trash can? I decided a scale of 0 to 10 would be the easiest, where “0” meant I didn’t see any ants; “5” meant I saw a good number of ants; and “10” meant “Yikes! I’ve been invaded.”

I track when the yucca begins to bloom, when the ravens begin to nest, when various insects appear – and are there just a few insects or is there a large number of them?

My next dilemma was to identify what part of the month something occurred. For example, if I said it was very windy in May, I wouldn’t know what part of May it was windy; or was it windy all month long? I decided to use a lesser than (<) and greater than (>) sign with the number. No sign at all means the middle of the month.

This July, after the torrential downpours we had, many California toads appeared on my property. On the chart I marked it as >7; meaning there were quite a few toads at the end of the month.

I have several spreadsheets now, all labeled by the year. I can go back and see what happened last year or in previous years.

If the theory of the yellow jackets is true, then I will be able to look at the spreadsheets and determine whether we might get a lot of rain. If my horses’ coats start to grow in September, I can expect an early winter, and if they begin to lose their coats in February, I’ll know winter is over and spring will soon be upon us. If their coats grow in long, I can expect rain and probably a milder winter. But if their coats grow in short and thick, I can guarantee a cold winter with a strong probability of snow.

This is a fun project for the entire family, although it can (and should) go on for years. I’m not a statistics fanatic, but I do enjoy watching nature and making the predictions.

I hope you will try this for yourself. It’s not only informational, but it can also be fun to collect the data and see if you can predict weather patterns, blooms, insect invasions, etc.

Give it a try and see what interesting and fun discoveries await you.



Mari Carbajal is a docent-naturalist at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.



Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. Shay says:

    I like how you think and look forward to more posts! If nothing else, you’ll have lots of great info to share with the kids on field trips at the nature center.

  2. jim soliz says:

    This was the first time I truly enjoyed reading anything from the SCVN. Normally, its all about all the alleged criminal behavior (and they usually have a Spanish surname), how bad the liberals are, how hateful and crazy the left is ( and this is something I really find bizzarre since the only person on the “left” that has ever admitted it is a local TAX attorney), and the chest pounding of very conservative minded people (which is so boring because its always about how bad everybody but them are). So frankly, reading your article was just such a little bit of fresh air that I actually read and enjoyed it all. Thanks.

    • Mari Carbajal says:

      I’m honored. I love to write, and I love nature, so it’s a perfect blend. I really appreciate your compliments. Mari

  3. C. Harris says:

    Mari, I too have noticed how nature can tell us the up coming weather.
    Last evening August 12th a second flock of geese came by headed south. Pretty early in the year to do that traveling. All of the oak trees are dropping their acorns, again that usually does not happen until late September or October. So what is your prediction for the winter of 2015
    after checking out your horses?

    • Mari Carbajal says:

      Hi C…

      It’s truly amazing what you can find when you open your eyes. I don’t know about the acorns. I have no prediction at this point because our weather is so hot that the horses are comfortable. Usually they begin growing their winter coats in late September/early October. We’ll see what happens. If you want to know more in the future, feel free to contact me at mcarbajal.pcnc@gmail.com

  4. Christina Rodriguez says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pretty fascinating. I hope you update us with your findings.

  6. Roni C says:

    Hey Mari- Great article!! I REALLY enjoyed reading it. Still want to make a date and have you give me the tour of that area. But I would have thought you would be sick of spread sheets by now!! haha – Roni

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017
It was 10 years ago this fall semester that we opened the Canyon Country Campus on Sierra Highway. We are celebrating a decade of academic excellence and community impact. What a difference a decade makes.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
The Trump budget proposes decreasing funding to the Department of the Interior by $1.5 billion. Trump is calling for more drilling in national parks and monuments. He plans to open BLM land to drilling and fracking.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
We are quickly approaching the culmination of the year-long celebration of our city’s 30th anniversary. It is truly a time to celebrate all the hard work, dedication, perseverance and passion that took our City from being a tiny portion of Los Angeles County to the thriving third largest city in the county.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
This month marks an exciting milestone for the premier arts and entertainment district in Santa Clarita.
Friday, Sep 29, 2017
Kaepernick has never spoken of personally experiencing any negative interactions with the police. Appearances are he had a pretty nice life provided by people with white skin while living in a country that presented him with obvious, mind-boggling opportunities.
Thursday, Sep 28, 2017
Despite its close proximity to the city of Barstow, Rainbow Basin remains virtually undiscovered. It is well worth a visit. Visitors to the area can find scenic opportunities for hiking, rock scrambling, camping, photography, sightseeing and horseback riding.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,000 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, a sexual assault suspect was arrested Thursday night. Plus, some great weekend events. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Friday, October 20, 2017
Forever Fit SCV, a Santa Clarita sports and personal fitness training company, will host a "Pumpkin Workout" at its Centre Pointe location on Saturday, October 28, starting at 9 a.m.
Oct. 25: Pumpkin Workout Benefits American Cancer Society
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is set for Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: Hart School District Governing Board Meeting
The LA County Public Defender has won the Silver Eagle Award for its Public Defender Jail Liaison Program during the 31st Annual Productivity and Quality Awards Ceremony on Oct. 18 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
LA County Public Defender Soars with Silver Eagle Award
The Los Angeles County Health Officer has issued a heat alert as high temperatures have been forecast for the Los Angeles Basin on Monday, October 23 through Tuesday, October 24.
Heat Alert for SCV, L.A. County on Monday, Tuesday
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has received three major gifts toward the creation of the museum in Los Angeles, bringing fundraising to more than $300M, nearly 80 percent of its $388M campaign goal.
Motion Picture Museum Nears $388M Campaign Goal
Caltrans added nearly 1,200 lane miles of pavement repair and 66 bridges to its growing list of projects to be delivered sooner than planned, thanks to the imminent influx of revenue from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB 1), the transportation funding and reform package passed in April.
Nearly $3.4 Billion in Transportation Projects to Be Accelerated
The city of Santa Clarita and SCV Veterans Memorial, Inc. invite the public to attend a special ceremony unveiling the new Fallen Warriors Monument at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Wednesday, November 8 starting at 10 a.m.
Nov. 8: City Unveils Fallen Warriors Monument in Newhall
Crime Prevention deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station along with Los Angeles County Probation Department officers conducted probation compliance searches Friday throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
SCV Deputies Check Probationers, Aid in Domestic Violence Call
Here is the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station's public safety report for Canyon Country (West), aka Zone 7, for October 2 through October 8, 2017
Crime Blotter: Robbery, Grand Theft in Canyon Country West
A suspect has been arrested in the investigation of an alleged sexual assault, according to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station officials.
Suspect Arrested in Alleged Sexual Assault
Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States and a concern the California Highway Patrol addresses with its "Start Smart" program.
CHP Helps New Drivers with ‘Start Smart’ Classes
The California High-Speed Rail Authority punted one of the most important decisions during its monthly meeting Thursday, stoking concerns the entity is not moving quickly enough on the $64 billion project.
California’s Bullet Train Board Delays Award of Key Contract
An extensive investigation by the county of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs in conjunction with the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has resulted in a lawsuit announced today by the Attorney General against retailer Curacao.
AG Sues Retailer Curacao for Allegedly Preying on Consumers
1873 - Santa Barbara lawyers Charles Fernald and J.T. Richards purchase Rancho San Francisco for $33,000 (75 cents an acre) in a sheriff's sale [story]
CHESTERFIELD, MO — NewGround, a St. Louis-based experiential design-build firm, recently teamed up with Logix Federal Credit Union to work on a large scale facility project, a new corporate headquarters building for the full-service credit union in the Burbank, California area.
Valencia Will Soon be Home to Logix Federal Credit Union Headquarters
The CSUN women's volleyball team (10-9, 4-3 Big West) opens the second half of the Big West season this week as the Matadors head up the coast this week for road tests at No. 23 Cal Poly (17-2, 7-0 Big West) and UC Santa Barbara (4-15, 3-4 Big West). CSUN, coming off a tough five-set loss to Hawai'i at home, is 3-4 in seven road matches this season but has won two of three Big West road contests.
Matadors Volleyball Testing Their Skills on the Road
No. 5 College of the Canyons defeated L.A. Mission College 3-0 on Wednesday to earn its eighth consecutive match and fifth straight sweep. Set scores were 25-15, 25-11, and 25-20.
Cougars Volleyball Earns Fifth Straight Sweep
CSUN Women's Soccer (7-4-5, 3-1-1 BWC) looks to move up in the Big West standings this week as it hosts UC Irvine on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
Matadors Get Ready for Big West Matchups
Behind Julio Rubio's goal in the 11th minute CSUN defeated UC Riverside 1-0 in Big West Conference men's soccer action Wednesday night.
Matadors Lone Goal Enough to Hold Off UC Riverside
Northridge, CA – CSUN Athletics officially opened its new satellite athletic training facility on Thursday at an event featuring Athletic Director Dr. Brandon Martin, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Steven Grech, student-athletes, coaches, staff and campus partners.
Matadors Student-Athletes Welcome New Training Facility
Want unique gifts and a shopping experience unlike any other?
Nov. 18-19: City’s Annual Two-Day Fine Craft Show
City officials gathered Wednesday for the Grand Opening of "Three Oaks," the first 100 percent affordable family development in Santa Clarita.
Affordable Housing Comes to Santa Clarita
The Gibbon Conservation Center will celebrate Halloween for the first time on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 28: Gibbon Conservation Center Celebrates First Halloween
California State University, Northridge is partnering with the California State University Entertainment Alliance to host a morning of workshops designed to offer students and members of the public advice on building successful careers in the entertainment industry.
Oct. 23: CSUN Workshop; Succeeding in Entertainment Industry
Spotlight Arts Center, a local non-profit that provides free performing and visual arts classes to children in the Santa Clarita Valley, will hold its Fall Festival, Sunday, Oct. 22 from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Oct. 22: Fall Festival Spotlight Arts Center
The College of the Canyons Athletics department is inviting all players, coaches and cheerleaders associated with a Santa Clarita Valley youth sports league or cheer organization to attend Saturday's Cougar football game free of charge.
Oct. 21: SCV Youth Teams Invited to Free COC Football Game
College of the Canyons freshmen Joanna Roecker and Cassandra Lee both turned in scores of 79 to lead the Cougars to a second place team finish at the Western State Conference (WSC) event hosted by Glendale College at Brookside Golf Course on Monday.
COC Falls Short at WSC Glendale
Beginning Monday, October 23, 2017, the city of Santa Clarita will increase the frequency of street sweeping throughout all areas of the City.
Oct. 23: City Begins Increased Street Sweeping Frequency
In a battle for Western State Conference, East Division supremacy, it was College of the Canyons that came out on top Tuesday night, as the Cougars scored two second half goals to secure a 2-0 win against visiting Antelope Valley College. Justine Hoeft and Jennifer Roney collected goals for the Cougars (11-2, 2-0).
COC Secures Win Against AVC With Two Second-Half Goals
The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Buckweed Fires offers Santa Clarita residents a reminder of the ever-present fire danger in Los Angeles County, as blazes ravage the northern half of the state, as well.
Officials Reflect on 10-Year Anniversary of Buckweed Fires
Deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, with help from a Smartphone GPS system, were able to locate a lost hiker Wednesday night at Towsley Canyon.
Smartphone GPS Locates Lost Towsley Canyon Hiker
Dreamation Craft Guild will be hosting a boutique at Canyon High School, Nov. 18, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to benefit the family of John Phippen, the Santa Clarita resident who was killed in the Las Vegas shooting.
Nov. 18: Holiday Marketplace Benefiting John Phippen Family
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – To ensure drivers, passengers, and children are properly restrained while traveling California’s roadways, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has partnered with the California Office of Traffic Safety on a new traffic safety campaign entitled, “California Restraint Safety Education And Training” (CARSEAT).
CHP’s New Traffic Safety Campaign Focuses on Saving Lives, Reducing Injuries