If you live west of the Carquinez Strait, you may have heard rumors about a number of intense heatwaves impacting areas away from the coast. Even normally cool places like Tahoe have been hot, and the Pacific Northwest went through an off-the-charts event that killed hundreds of people and did tremendous ecological damage including massive wildfires.
One thing that climate change is revealing is that the areas least prepared for intense heat can no longer count on geography to protect them from it. In the Sacramento Valley, we’ve always lived with episodes of intense heat and are prepared when they occur.
Here at Terra Firma, in the transition zone between the cool coastal areas and the hot interior, we’ve had plenty of very hot days this summer but we’ve been lucky enough to cool off most nights. Areas just north and east of us — including our subscribers on the east side of Sacramento — have not been so lucky, experiencing record high temperatures for days along with very hot nights.
We didn’t come away completely unscathed. In particular, we lost about half of our table grapes, which are sensitive to very high temperatures just before they start to ripen. The 111 degree day we suffered through in mid-June turned many of the grapes into raisins before they had even developed any sugar.
The timing of excessive heat is critical to our farm. We send our outdoor employees home when it hits 100 degrees, which can dramatically cut into our ability to get work done. When this happens on a Monday or Tuesday — our busiest work days — it means that we can’t get all the ripe fruit harvested. And when it’s 105 or hotter, a ripe tomato, melon or peach will spoil in a single afternoon.
So we’ve really lucked out that all but one of the hottest days — the crazy hot days — have been on the weekends. Most other days we’ve been able to get in a full workday before it gets too hot.
Many of our crops seem to actually be enjoying the hot days and mostly cool nights, especially the tomatoes. But it is warm nights that really kick our melons and watermelons into high gear. So it was predictable after a very hot night last Saturday that we would be greeted on Monday by a veritable flood of melons. You’ll find one in your box today.