February is commonly our wettest month in Yolo County, and there are plenty of years when we find ourselves wishing it would stop raining for just a day or two.
Last year parts of the farm were flooded for weeks and the total rainfall for the month was over 15 inches.
This year it’s a very different story. We’ve gotten less than 10 inches over the entire winter, and at 0.00 inches, February 2020 looks likely to go down in the record books as the driest in over a hundred years. (The competition for “driest” is limited by the fact that it’s impossible to get less than zero rainfall). To make matters even worse, if we don’t get any more rain this winter, we will also tie the record for “Driest Year” in the last hundred.
You won’t hear any complaints from Terra Firma’s crew about the lack of rain. Picking winter vegetables on a cool, sunny day with no mud to contend with is a fairly pleasant task. We’ve had a few very windy days this month, but the worst ones fell on Sundays.
I always say the best thing about farming here in the winter is having Mother Nature take care of irrigation. But with no rainfall and plenty of sun and wind, we’ve had to irrigate 40 acres of winter crops twice and we’ll soon be starting on the third round. That’s a full-time job for two people that we normally don’t have to do.
What our irrigation crew normally does in winter is pruning. It is a big job on our farm that takes months: apricots, grapes, peaches and persimmons need to get trimmed. We turned the pumps on this year on February first, and haven’t done any pruning since. Some trees are beginning to flower now, meaning we are way behind the eightball.
Meanwhile, everyone else on the farm has been scrambling to keep up with harvest. When it’s cold and wet, our crops don’t grow very fast. February is usually a pretty sleepy month for the harvest crew and last year they were working 4 day weeks. This year, we’ve had a hard time keeping up with things. New state labor laws have added to the challenges.
The dry weather has allowed us to plant more than last year, but that’s not saying much. February is not really a big planting month for us — if it were, it would be a problem most years. The primary exception is potatoes. Last year we weren’t able to plant any until the end of March, which meant we didn’t harvest any until late July. This year we’ve already planted half the spuds, so we should have them in your boxes sometime in June.
With it feeling so much like spring, you might find yourself asking “when is asparagus season going to start?”. We’ve seen a spear or two pushing up out in the ‘grass patch, and we fully expect it will start to produce in earnest in early March.
If had to guess, that would be right about the time our dry spell ends and the rain comes back to California. I don’t much like having to harvest asparagus in the rain and mud, but it would be better than tying for first place in the “Driest Year in over a Century” contest.