California is a place of weather extremes, but 2017 might take the prize for “Most Extreme Weather Year, Ever”. We went from dams failing in the Wettest Winter ever to a crazy hot Summer that sparked the most destructive wildfires on record. Now we are in a tight race for third place in the dismal competition for Driest December.
It’s far too early to call the winter of 2017-2018 a drought in Northern California. The reservoirs are still full — in some cases, too full to provide adequate flood protection in the case of big storms — and we had plenty of rain in November. Groundwater has risen to normal levels or higher in most places.
Southern California is a different story. The drought never ended there, nor did fire season.
December is normally one of our three wettest months, and the fact that we haven’t gotten any rain at all makes it almost impossible that we will end the winter with normal precipitation. If you don’t remember a December this dry it’s understandable, since the last one happened over forty years ago. But we’ve had plenty of dry Januaries over the last 20 years, and even a February or two. And statistically, after last year’s record rains, it was highly likely that this year would come in below average.
If you ask almost anyone who works at Terra Firma, they would choose the 2017 version of December over v. 2016. Who wouldn’t prefer to be harvesting vegetables in warm sunshine then in driving rain, wind and mud? Years like last year make us question our sanity for ever deciding to grow crops in the winter.
That said, the best part of growing winter crops is letting nature do the irrigation, and many years we don’t run the pumps from Thanksgiving until late March. But we started irrigating our winter crops on December first and finished early last week. Then we got hit with the brutal dry wind storm over the weekend, and by Monday it was time to start watering again. While we have irrigated a few crops in Decembers past, we have never had to water the whole farm even once, much less twice. And we’re not the only ones irrigating — most farms in our area have started watering their orchards in an effort to keep the ground from getting too dry.
My gut feeling is that this unusually dry December is just the last gasp of one of the most extreme weather years we’ve had in decades. I’m hoping that the rain comes back in January and that the rest of 2018 is just a little closer to “normal”.
On behalf of everyone at Terra Firma, I want to thank all of you for continuing to support our farm. In challenging years like the one about to end, it makes a huge difference for us. We hope you will continue to be part of our farm in 2018 and into the future. We wish you all a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!