For the first time since 2019, Terra Firma looks the way it is supposed to in the winter. There are mud and puddles everywhere, the sky is greyish white instead of blue, and everything is green — not just our vegetable fields and citrus orchards. In particular, the peaks of the Coast Range to the west of us have finally sprouted a coat of grass to cover the ghastly burned soil that has darkened the horizon since August of 2020. Absent is the constant tick-tick-tick of sprinklers running all day and night. The sun, when the clouds allow it to shine, barely dents the damp chill.
With this week’s copious rain we have already passed the halfway point to our average annual rainfall. More is expected today, and then possibly a repeat performance next week. It is entirely possible that by New Year’s Day, we will have received an entire year’s worth of rainfall since October 1st. And there is still plenty of winter left — enough to get us another year’s worth of water before spring. That would cancel out last winter’s failure and make good progress on ending the current drought.
As winter vegetable growers, frequent heavy rains are a major inconvenience for us. We don’t send our crew out to harvest when it’s windy and rainy — it’s difficult bordering on dangerous to perform physical activity when you’re sliding around in the mud and your vision is obscured, especially if you’re using a harvest knife. And it’s next to impossible to retrieve large amounts of heavy, muddy vegetables from the wet fields. We work hard to avoid having people carry heavy loads even when it’s dry out, mostly by having a tractor and trailer in the field to do the drayage. But we can’t do that in the rain without causing serious damage to the soil.
We do our best to work around the weather to plan our harvest activities AND the contents of your CSA boxes. Luckily most of the crops we grow this time of year store quite well for several days in our coolers and your fridge. For example, we harvested Citrus on Saturday, before the storm arrived. And Broccoli in between storms yesterday. Then we have our “storage” crops like the potatoes, walnuts and garlic in your boxes today — harvested back in late summer or early fall.
The dry weather we saw in November lasted long enough to get almost all our “other work” done on the farm: cover crops are seeded, onions and garlic planted, and tomato trellises and irrigation finally un-installed and put away for the winter. Unlike last year, when we were still irrigating every day until (and past) December 31st, there is nothing urgent left to do this year. And there is no better time for us to get lots of heavy rain at Terra Firma than during our annual winter vacation, when it is almost always 100% beneficial. Judging by the current forecast, that is looking more likely every day. Although it may make for a dreary holiday season, it would be the best holiday gift ever for our state, which desperately needs the water.