What could be better? #avocados

Just saw a social media post promoting an event that promised “Icy margaritas” and “avocados fresh off the tree.”

“What could be better?” it asks.

Picking the avocados a week earlier so they’d be ripe?

Just in case anyone is wondering why I believe people really have no idea about their food.

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Farm Lab Returns

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Of all the things we did at Petty Ranch in the last year, none has given me more satisfaction than the Farm Lab program put on by our partners at SEEAG.  Working together, we were able to bring more than 2000 local students to visit our farm. These children, mostly 3rd graders, had the opportunity to learn about the insect life on a farm, the living structure of soil, the biology of the plants that feed us, and the journey that our food takes from farm to table. The half day curriculum is based on California STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning objectives, and here’s the best part:

The program is provided at no cost to the students.

Zero.

This is possible because of the generous support of SEEAG’s sponsors, but it is always a challenging task.  The hardest part? Transportation. That’s covered by SEEAG as well. A bus trip to Petty Ranch averages about $250. That’s about $5 a seat.

So here’s my pitch: Will you help? One seat for a local student? Two? Half a bus? A whole bus? Any help, in whatever amount, will make a difference.

Here’s the link to SEEAG again. Look for the “Donate” button.

Thank you.

Friends in Hive Places #bees

It’s not unusual to see bees around me when I’m in the fig orchard. Figs don’t rely on honeybees for pollination, but the bees do like the flowering covercrop and native pollinator planting that is a part of Farm Lab.

But at a certain point it seemed louder than usual. This is what I saw when I looked up.

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It seems that a colony from our existing hive had decided the time had come to move on. They wanted to settle in the tree I was inspecting, giving me a closer look at swarming behavior than I really expected this morning. (Staying put to take this picture won me a couple of stings.)

We always want a healthy hive at Farm Lab, and had been prepping a new hive in anticipation.  A few quick texts brought Beekeeper Colin to the scene.

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While I understand the concepts of beekeeping, I am happy to involve somebody with better training and equipment… even if I probably stayed closer to the action than I should have.

Branch and bees together went into the new hive, but the bees quickly settled and allowed us to start closing up.

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Final new home pictures will be up in a couple of days, after we relocate the hive to a better permanent location.

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Why rain euphoria doesn’t last

Last Thursday we were fortunate to have a very nice rain, 1.3″ that fell steadily over night. Now it’s Monday, and I’m already considering my next irrigation. Why? This graph holds the answer.

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This is a data log of our soil moisture after the rain that fell on the night of December 15/16. The light blue line represents soil moisture at 12″, the dark blue line represents moisture at 36″. The range represented by the shading and dashed lines is the preferred range; a fully saturated soil would be at the top.

What we’re seeing here is that prior to last week’s rain we were quite dry… very close to the lower acceptable limit. We were ready to irrigate had the storm failed to deliver. Thankfully it delivered in line with expectations. Where are we now?

The rain had the clearest impact at 12″ (light blue), which is as you would expect, but it was insufficient to fully saturate the soil. At 36″ (dark blue), the rain barely registered at all. Shallow soil moisture has already dropped considerably as the rainwater wicks through the soil.

Hoping the rain forecast for next Monday turns up!

(Hat tip to our technology providers at Acuity Agriculture for a great tool!)

Ouch!

I am grateful for the rain last night, but I’m also frustrated. We only get so many storm systems a season… when one falls 50% short of expectations, that hurts. Last night’s system had the water we needed, but it stalled over the Santa Barbara Channel. More than an inch of badly needed rain fell directly into the ocean, while most of our agricultural areas and watersheds saw half that amount or less.
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