January 13, 2014

Water Worries

Dry Landscape 3

The weather forecast keeps predicting a little bit of rain next week only to update its projections to blue skies and sunny. Until recently, I have really been enjoying the beautiful California weather and now the farmer in me is starting to get a little concerned. The hills are still as golden as they were in the fall. The only difference is that the oak trees don’t have leaves and the livestock have continued to eat what it could of the dry grass. There are little pockets of green grass next to roads where a hose may have leaked, but that is it.


Late in the fall, we scurried to clean up our summer fields, get them mowed, disked and seeded to cover crops before the rains would stop our equipment from working in the fields. We were happy to have the dry weather then, but now those fields sit bare, with un-germinated cover crop seeds tucked into soil waiting for some moisture. On some of the fields, we laid out our solid set aluminum sprinkler pipes and irrigated them to get the cover crop up.

The harvest crews have been enjoying the dry weather. Harvesting the carrots, beets and leeks have been very easy to do, and our labor schedule has not had to account for a field too muddy to harvest.


The dry and beautiful weather has provided us with some short-term benefits, but they are quickly fading away. Our first tomato seeds are being sown into the greenhouse this week. With that action, it is hard not to think about the complete crop cycle of those little plants. One of our main sources of water is an irrigation project that collects surface water in a lake and reservoir. I just looked at their current capacity, and it is over 100,000 acre-feet of water less than it was a year ago, and last year was an allocation year.

Dry Landscape

Next week, we will come up with a plan to take care of our crops, assuming there is no irrigation water coming from the canal. The one thing we have working for us is that we sit on a healthy aquifer of groundwater that, if managed properly, will get us through this dry year. The big question is for how many more years will that aquifer need to support us? There exists the chance that February and March get really wet, but at this point, it is hard to assume that will be the case.

The Weather Tree

Weather Tree

Here at the farm, we are always keeping close tabs on the weather. Since it is a new year, we want to invite you to track the weather along with us.  The Weather Tree consists of twelve branches to represent the twelve months of the year and each branch / month has a leaf for every day of that month.

Choose different colors to represent various weather types and color in a leaf each day - colored pencils and felt tip pens seem to work best. At the end of the year you will have a unique record of the weather in your neighborhood.