And so, on with the account.
L and I enjoyed our lunch, but I could see from where I was sitting that the three bags of Bentonite were still waiting for me in the lakebed. The hard part, pretty much, was behind us. I’d managed to stumble and stagger the 150 pounds of clay powder down the loose hillside and poise it for scattering. The next part would be easy in comparison.
And it was, except that the gods decided to miff me a bit by blowing the wind from east to west, which never happens in the Central Valley. Our plan was to stand on the west side of the puddle that Lake Marguerite had become and cast the powder as far into the water (to the east) as we could. “Let’s have some fun,” saith the gods.
The photo above shows you the results of our effort. I’m not sure if you can distinguish very well the white dusting on the ground and reaching into the water. The USDA man had said we could apply the Bentonite directly on the bare ground where it would wait for the next rain to help it swell and/or to wash it into the water where it would settle to the bottom. Since the wind wasn’t allowing much casting distance into the water, we settled for the land. The best comparison I can give you is that the Bentonite looks about like the salt on a big, soft pretzel. Our application on the ground would have made one very salty pretzel.
We tried to be thorough in our coverage, and so our effort took about an hour. In that time, the Bentonite that had been cast into the water (despite the puckish zephyrs from the east) was beginning to swell. I’ve been told that a single grain of Bentonite can swell to sixteen times its original size. The water-bound clay was on its way. The individual grains were growing in snowflake shapes. They were actually interesting to look at, though by the time I had the chance to examine them, they were growing together and losing their distinctness.
There was one more chore to be done while in the lakebed, but that will be the subject of another post.
After this, I was ready to pack up and go home, but L encouraged me to join her for a swim. Some of you may remember my post about swimming in a natural state, and I thought that this might be our last chance to swim for the season, so . . .
We changed into our swimming togs back at the truck and marched down, down, down to the water. I couldn’t find the thermocline, despite kicking my feet to bring up cold water, so I think the lake level was too low to have a temperature variant. One happy surprise was that our turtle friend made a couple of appearances. We feared that with the shinking lake level, it would move on, but I suppose transient water is a fact of life for turtles.
The fish were also growing, and they were snapping the water bugs off the surface of the water in an entertaining way. A turkey vulture circled far overhead. Birds chattered in the trees around us. Somewhere far off a dog was barking. The sun was sparkling on the water. We were floating.
And I thought, why not? It would be no trouble to slip out of my trunks and shirt and paddle about in the tea-colored water. My feet were brushing the bottom and my arms were out in front of me, my fingers dangling lazily in the water. And then . . .
Something bit my finger! It was likely a small fish. And it was really just a nibble. But, wow, was I startled. I began splashing about to scare away every little fishy within a hundred feet. It didn’t work. Something tasted my knee. Obviously, we were something new to these little fish, something to be nibbled.
Well, there was no way I was dropping my trunks after that!
And so that was probably my last chance to give ‘dipping a go for this year. Perhaps I won’t be as gun shy next summer.