News from the Fields
February 17, 2017 Waiting for the Big Storm
This morning the wind is freshening out of the south and is now blowing 15 mph gusting to 23 mph. Barometric pressure is now 29.75 and dropping. I expect this storm will bring our season's lowest barometric pressure reading to date and the lowest in quite some time. It feels like a storm is arriving soon and we are as ready as we can be. We picked strawberries and the vegetables for the store ahead of the weather which will help some. If the storm as forecast moves in and out quickly the damage will not be too bad to our strawberry crop and most of the green vegetables we grow love rain, excepting the iceberg and butter lettuces which blow up with too much moisture. If this storm lingers and another storm tracks in soon after then we lose strawberry fruit.
I am looking at the radar and up the coast a bit in Santa Barbara and they are getting hammered by heavy rain at rates of an inch per hour with hours more to come. The barometric pressure there is 25.54 which is pretty low. I grew strawberries up there for a few years back in the early 80s which was long before I knew anything about anything.
One of the years we grew strawberries there was the 1982/83 El Nino winter. The 1982-1983 El Niño was the strongest and most devastating of the century, perhaps the worst in recorded history according to many.
It rained over 50 inches that season in Santa Barbara and we were growing Chandlers strawberries then, a very soft and easily damaged by rain fruit. It seemed it rained every day for weeks at a time that season. We spent most f the year picking rotten fruit and throwing it out.
In comparison the few inches we are getting this season in Orange County have been mostly beneficial and for the most part we have been able to work around the storms. The only real problem to date is our heavy soil becomes too wet for too long and we are unable to work. We must wait for drying to allow us access back in to perform cultural operations. This will create some gaps in our vegetable production and of course also delays our U Pick days. For now we wait, standing off, waiting for the storm.
January 23, 2017 Rain and Water: Farmer Observations
We are receiving some normal rainfall amounts this winter's rainy season. If it keeps up is anyone's guess. For now though we are grateful for the sweet water which is rain.
Sweet water you say? Yes. We call rain sweet water because it contains no salts. It is HOH, pure and simple, water.
Irrigation Water, Salts and Drought
These last 5 years have brought little rain so irrigation water has been the only source of moisture for growing out crops. Irrigation water in CA contains roughly 1 ton, that is 2000 lbs of salts, per acre foot of water applied. We apply about 3 acre feet of water per acre per year. That is now 6000 lbs of salt per acre per year.
Now since it has been 5 years since we have had "leaching sufficient" quantities of rain here on the farm we could extrapolate the numbers to now be: 5 years at 6000 lbs per acre of salt per year gives us 30,000 lbs applied to the soil per acre in these last 5 years. 30,000 lbs of salt times our 22 acres of farmland gives us a grand total of 660,000 lbs of salts applied to our soil via irrigation water over the last 5 years of farming.
660,000 lbs is a lot of salt. That applied salt changes the biology and chemistry in our soils. In the good old days we would apply extra irrigation water to every application of water. The extra water applied we referred to as a leaching quotient. By adding extra water past the saturation point of the soil we could chase the salts applied in the irrigation water away from the root zone of the growing crops.
Those days are over. In this city, San Juan Capistrano, irrigation water is very expensive, probably the most expensive agricultural irrigation water in the country. Compounding the exorbitant water rates is the mandate to use less water now due to the drought. The irony of this is not lost on a farmer: A drought is when we should be applying more irrigation water. But we can neither afford to do so nor are allowed to do so.
Water is not created equal. Soil and Weather are different between farms and locations. We have great soil in this valley and a wonderful Mediterranean climate too. It is very nice to finally get some great, sweet water to put it all together again.
Thanks for reading this. Hope this was informative.
Thursday january 12, 2017
10 am and the rain has begun, again. Sitting in my office trailer looking out at the fields I think about how long it has been since we had a wet year. I keep thinking how good it feels to have a wet year. But, the local streams and creeks are still not flowing. Thus we cannot yet say, believe or even think it has been a drought buster season in southern California. I have no idea if it is going to keep raining and the local streams and creeks begin to flow for a few months and replenish, refresh, rebirth the local aquifers. But we hope so. In the meantime we are enjoying the seasonality, the change, the rain.
Tuesday January 10, 2017
Weather is mostly sunny this morning and a mild 53 degrees this morning. We received another .7 inches of rain overnight Sunday into early Monday morning.
What the weather folks are now calling an "Atmospheric River" we used to and I still do call the "Pineapple Express." Their term connotes moisture but the old expression adds tropical tones. It is those tropical tones keeping the low temperatures so mild.
More rain is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday and then a drying trend to follow for a week or so. The wet and mild weather has created ideal conditions for the cool season crops we have planted and continue to plant.
Next week we begin our Romanesco harvest. Rain or shine we have to harvest, pack and ship it. Here are some pictures taken this morning. A few more days and the Romanesco heads will be sizing up and we can begin harvest. f you cannot make it our farm stand to buy some local Whole Foods stores will be offering these delicious and nutritious gems at their stores in the southern California area.