Like many areas of California, we had some crazy weather here at the farm over the weekend. Not only did we experience the widespread damaging windstorm that many other areas saw on Sunday, but prior to the wind’s arrival, we got over 4″ of rain in just 12 hours. For a short period, we had the highest daily rainfall of any site in California. Definitely not a distinction that I was happy about at the time, but after seeing how much rain ended up falling in Southern California, I now feel that we dodged a bullet.
Here in Winters, and in much of state, we are on track to have our second “above-average” rainfall winter in a row. That hasn’t happened since 2011. Our precipitation year-to-date is now at “average” through the end of February, and the rest of the month does not look particularly dry. In fact, it started raining again just after I wrote that sentence.
The effect of two back-to-back wet years is very apparent to anyone who works with the soil. Last year, following several drought years, it took months to fill the soil profile with water to the point where it began to pond and run off. But following that very wet winter, the soil never really dried out down very deep. So even though the rain started late this winter, it only took a few inches before we had puddles everywhere. And with the weekend’s storm, runoff began in earnest. All of the creeks, ditches, and dry washes in our area were running higher on Sunday than they ever did last year — even though by this point in 2023 we had already received far more rain.
From a farming perspective, this has been a challenging winter and that will likely continue into the spring. By this time last year, we were in the midst of a month-long spell of sunny and mostly dry weather. We had already planted most of our spring potato crop, and were preparing fields for tomatoes, zucchini, watermelon, corn and other summer crops. And by the time the rain returned in March of 2023, we had planted lots of onions, spinach, lettuce and other spring crops.
This year we have done none of the above. The fields where we hope to plant spring crops are overrun with weeds that have grown lush with all the moisture and warm temperatures. We’ve haven’t even been able to hand-hoe crops like garlic that have now been in the ground since late October.
It’s even been challenging to schedule harvest of many of our crops due to the persistent rain and wet soil. We picked many of the items in today’s CSA box last week, prior to the storm. That ended up being a smart decision, as the wind knocked out power to our washing facility for several days (our packing shed and coolers are at a different site, which often seems inconvenient but in this case was fortuitous). We are also lucky to have squirreled-away supplies of nuts we can send along this week.
Despite the violent wind and extreme amounts of rain on Sunday, the farm overall seems to have held up okay. None of our fields were seriously flooded and so far, we haven’t seen any wind damage to any of our crops. And we’re supposed to see a small stretch of less-wet weather next week to get back out into the fields and harvest some of the items out there that we were unable to pick for you this week. For the foreseeable future, your boxes should continue to be relatively full and abundant for February.