Unless you’re a skier or a Water Resources Department manager, you’ve been pretty happy with the warm, dry weather this February. Let’s face it, everyone was pretty tired of wet weather after the six weeks in a row we had back at the end of 2012. Did I leave farmers off the list? Well, it depends.
Farmers in California are always worried about filling up the reservoirs that provide our summer irrigation water. But the early season rains did a pretty good job of that. And the dry weather of the last month has given everyone an opportunity to get caught up on work that can’t be done when it’s wet. But if it doesn’t rain soon, everyone will have to start irrigating permanent crops like orchards and vineyards, and grazing land for livestock will start to dry out and grasses wilt. So the vast majority of farmers would prefer that we get a few more weeks of storms before summer planting season starts in April. But not too much rain, of course. That would cause problems with the blooming of fruit and nut trees.
Here at Terra Firma though, we are on the fence. Unlike most farms in Northern California, we harvest crops in the rain every winter. But that doesn’t change the fact that just about everything we do this time of year: dig carrots, pull leeks, cut broccoli and cauliflower, bunch greens…is much, much easier to do when you’re not dressed in a waterproof suit and rubber boots, slipping in the mud, with rain pelting you in the face. If you’ll pardon the expression..DUH!
Harvesting vegetables in the dry, sunny, warm late winter weather we’ve been having is actually very pleasant work. The crops seem to prefer it as well to constant downpours.
That said…February rainfall this year was the lowest on record here and the ground is dry. We’ve had several windy days and yesterday the air for miles was brown from dust blowing. We’re all caught up with weeding and planting and other tasks we absolutely cannot do when it’s raining. So we’d like to see the weather change in March and get some rain. Otherwise, we will start the irrigation season already behind, and it’s really hard to catch up when that happens. And even if the reservoirs and groundwater basins are full, the earlier everyone starts irrigating, the faster they will drop.