Water for the Thirsty

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By Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

The rain these past few weeks has been an incredible blessing. Us “old timers” at the farm were getting pretty anxious about the lack of water this winter – already planning to cut back on crops in fields where water is in short supply.

Our farm relies upon water from Cache Creek to do much of our irrigating in the hot summer months and without an adequate supply of rain the reservoirs that feed Cache Creek will be dry before the end of the summer, leaving farmers without enough water for thirsty crops. Sweet corn, for example, is a heavy water user so we may cut back on corn acreage as well as a few other crops. Our first priority has been to develop really efficient ways of irrigating – using drip lines instead of sprinklers, irrigating at night when evaporation is at a minimum, growing cover crops that hold precious water in and avoiding run-off. Our neighbors down the road, Harmon and Greta Tabor have been keeping rain and temperature records for the past 120 years when Harmon’s great grandfather (Harmon J. Taber) started recording in the fall of 1889 as he first settled here in the valley. 2012, thus far, is the third driest season in their records! We see rain in the forecast for all of this coming week and keep our fingers crossed for a few more inches.

Despite the lack of water our flowers that were planted in October are looking wonderful –already blooming with bright, vivacious colors. It is a true miracle what these flowers have endured throughout their short lives. We planted them in mid October –burying bulbs deep in luscious brown soil and seeding others in the top inch of the earth. After planting, these seeds and bulbs have endured 30 mile per hour winds, icy cold mornings (down to 20 ° in Dec) and only a half an inch of rain in a period of over a month! The seeds sprouted and hung on for dear life for the next two months and began growing stronger in the warmer January days.

Now is the glory time! Tulips are shouting out in reds and yellow and pinks, ranunculus are popping out in their colorful array, anemones are nodding open in red and purples. And then –there are the sweet peas! So many colorful stems of sweet smelling blooms!. We planted over 3 acres of flowers for this spring flush. The flower picking crew is really excited to dust off their clippers and start the flower season. In the height of it all we will have over 6 people picking and bunching flowers all day six days a week for many months of the year. They have all become true artists in their bouquet making and all of them feel like there is the BEST job at the farm!


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