July Fourth was one of those epic clear days. On the drive out to the coast, we marveled at the clarity, took out binoculars and spotted ‘individual trees’ on the Monterey Peninsula way across the Monterey Bay. The Dorrance Ranch homes were Right There on the side of Mt. Toro. Peak naming phone software corrected the location of the very clear Pimkolam Peak, the farthest off. It was clear but yet surprisingly little wind. It was clear like a winter breezy day. Point Sur where the lighthouse sits in Big Sur was also very nicely visible: a curious dome, seeming like an island out past Monterey.
Wildlife on the Farm
Since then, some of summer weather has been normal; other bits not so much. As normal, morning fog has returned. Of note was the abnormal June-gloom-lessness: no fog in June! Very Odd. Now, we mostly wake to a gray-capped sky, a fog deck sometimes dipping low enough to pour small wisps over the ridges north of the Farm. Then, the fog breaks apart, pieces here and there and then gone. A breeze picks up…and then becomes abnormal: wind land! We are increasingly living in wind land. Not pleasant breezes but hearty menacing gusts, whipping up bits of dry hay and dust devils, setting us on edge about the potential for fire. The wind dies and then breezes commence as ‘normal’….and then after a bit (or not) in no pattern whatsoever, another gust event alerts us to the presence of the out of doors. Sundown brings a welcome calm, the nights peaceful and the fog steals in again by dawn.
Wildlife on the Farm
The cutest of cuties- baby bunnies are proliferating, returning to pre-fire numbers and helping graze the grass for fire control. Weeds nipped off: no expense! Bonus: kind black shiny eyes gazing at you framed by the softest mottled brown fur with a most curious jumpyscoot run only when warranted. Tiny Baby Bunnies. Everywhere: roadside, field side…
There are no deer, still. For the other fuzzy creatures, we mostly see only (fresh!) footprints. Well, there was one report of a daytime fox out the road a bit a few days ago. Oh, and MICE! Millions of mice: voles, deer mice, and harvest mice – leaping, scurrying, scuttling and squeaking away through their grassy tunnels, their woodshed nests, and as evidenced by their chewed up fabrics left only briefly outside. Underground rodent friends aka pocket gophers- still abounding like never before.
Red tailed hawk is having a field day, but just one red tailed hawk will not do it…enter the gopher snake. Huge fresh snake tracks in the dust are a common sight. Yellow bellied racers are the other regularly seen snake. Snake sign, in general, is regular: we have lots of snakes! We hear snakes or lizards or mice startled through the dry rattly leaves along the road or trail side every few strides: a wave of critters running from our shadows when we take walks.
Rows upon rows of lanky but sturdy tomato plants are settling into their summer growth. Molino Creek Farm just watered its young tomatoes, as normal- the ‘one watering a year, after planting.’ The farmers carefully place the aluminum irrigation pipes at the right distances between the tick-tick-ticking spray of the rainbirds. Hit the buttons at the Well and out flows so much water…for hours. How deep is our soil? How deep does the water go? How deep are we saturating? Deep enough. Deep experience suggests that this is the way to go….and then on to withholding water the rest of the season. Contrast this with Two Dog Farm’s dryland farming of tomatoes: not a drop of irrigation, relying solely on the previous winter’s soil reserves of moisture. Two ways to do it, diversity in practice, and experiment in motion….Oh, and yes, you’ll have to wait another month for the first tomatoes!
“It seems like all we do with our spare time!” It has become critical fire clearance time! The late (March) rains grew tall grasses and now we gotta clip it down. Brush clipping, too. Truck loads piled high with precarious brush mounds are hauled out to the middle of a spare field, out away from any mischief they might cause. In 2020, the brush piles ‘burned themselves’ but it will be up to us to do that next rainy season, returning the ashy minerals to areas where we can grow hay for the orchard, cycling the farm nutrients from one corner to the next.
We had a fire clearing work party recently, many neighbors chipping in to clear to ‘bare mineral soil’ around one of our three water tank complexes. Plastic 5,000 gallon water tanks with plastic pipes going into them…all very vulnerable-flammable. So, no fuel can be left anywhere nearby. Again, trucks hauling piles of grass, leaves and branches to safe places. The Great Biomass Transportation Scheme is in motion. Same with around peoples’ houses, the barn, our outbuildings. Living in the Country isn’t what it used to be…(or is).
Many well wishes to all our friends around the American West as we set off into another hot dry fire season.
-post originally published on our Molino Creek Farm website.