Extraordinary heat roasted Molino Creek Farm and much of California these past many days. Wilting heat. Obliterating heat. Maybe if you come from Death Valley you might say ‘that’s nothing!’ We’re pretty sure it was something like 109F for hours at one point, what was it…Sunday? The scorching affects the memory. Every day it has been well over 90F inside with no way to cool down. Water out of the tap was warm out of the supposedly cold side. We’re not used to anything much over 80 outside. Normally, cool nights help chill the house and the bodies. Nights didn’t get under 80. Day after day everything solid has been heating up. It will take days for things to cool down again. They say that coolness comes back this weekend. With each consecutive heat wave, the next warm spell is worse because everything is that much drier. We hope that this is the last heat wave, but we typically have heat waves through even November these days.
The night time cricket chorus got much louder, more constant and the chirps quicker. Midday bird song is nonexistent; dawn chorus is muted…there has been no dusk bird chorus. The quail calls don’t seem to have changed, though they seem much braver. Most birds are braver- not wanting to expend much energy running or flying away if they don’t have to. All bird beaks are wide agape all day, panting.
We’ve had smokey sunsets. No fog. Odd stillness or weird winds. Off shore tiny slow breeze. So still for so long and then yesterday a big pushy wind from the southeast for almost an hour, then occasional breezes from that same direction for a bit…warm breezes!
A young coast live oak bent over ninety degrees, perhaps from 2020 fire damage. A still hot afternoon and another oak was shedding leaves more rapidly than a deciduous tree would on a windy day in fall.
The black walnut trees hang wilty and droopy, just ripening their crop of fruit.
Dust hangs in nearly still clouds after a car passes by.
The moon shines a muted pale orange from California’s wildfire smoke.
Besides the crickets, our most entertaining of insect buddies, there are others. There were eight dragonflies zig zagging above the upper orchard the other warm evening. Below them there was a buzz of yellow jacket wasps, finally building a population back to devour damaged apples. Maybe the two were related: dragonflies feasting on yellow jackets. But, maybe the biomass of insects supported by our lush organic, regenerative orchard is providing more diverse insect fare. Yellow jackets also feed on insects…they might be mopping up pests like scale, aphids, mealy bugs, coddling moth larvae, etc. It is nice to see so many predators in the orchard helping with pest control and feeding the birds.
Changes in Birds
The swallows are gone. I’m not sure when they left, but there are no more barn swallows to wake up to, I already miss their long sentences of chortling squeaky chirps. Off they went to the south land for the winter. Any bets on when the golden crowned sparrows return from their Alaskan haunts? One morning I’ll awaken to that three noted sad song some say is ‘I’m so tired’ and realize that they are back for the winter. Usually, this occurs on the Equinox. There’s an annual betting pool for their return date just like there’s a betting pool for the first significant rain (>1” in one ‘event’). Want to join in with your bet?
One by one the quail are getting eaten by the Cooper’s hawk: piles of feathers keep appearing. A couple times this week, I heard that hawk screaming, terrorizing other birds in the larger vicinity.
Two Dog Farm tomatoes are starting to ripen. They are also producing a bunch of really fine looking (and tasting) peppers. Their dry farmed squash are chugging along- they like the hot weather, apparently.
The apple crop is getting ripe and burning. Gala apples though not quite as sweet as they should be but have dark brown (not quite black) seeds, so almost ripe. They’ll put on some sugar in the next couple of weeks and we’ll be hauling them to market. The heat wave made some apples burn on their sunny sides. A few years ago when the Fuji apples burned, they regained their color and it wasn’t so shocking. Let’s hope for the best or we’ll just have some visually scarred apples for cider not sale.
-published originally on my blog at Molino Creek Farm’s facebook and webpage