About saticoyroots

I'm a fifth generation farmer in Ventura County California. The blog's name comes from the town of Saticoy, near the site of the family farm. Saticoy is slowly fading into neighboring Ventura, and we now find ourselves close to the urban-rural boundary. We grow citrus fruits and avocados at the home ranch and another near Santa Paula. Are we sustainable? After 130 years on the same piece of ground, I think so, but the word means different things to different people.

Emergency under our feet #soil #thomasfire

I wrote a little piece for UC Food Observer last week in which I noted the convergence of CA Soils Week and the Thomas fire. In short, I recognized the damage done to the soil by the fires, and the need to help them rebuild. Link here:

http://ucfoodobserver.com/2017/12/07/from-the-fire-zone-a-farmers-perspective/

Don’t soils come back on their own? Well, yes…. given time. But before they do, they are subject to further damage from both wind and rain. It is in our interest to give them a boost. If we do not, the consequences are clear: loss of topsoil in hillside orchards and grazing land, mudslides that threaten neighborhoods downhill, and sediment that impacts our waterways.

My good friend Margot Stewart has taken up the idea I suggest in the post. Laying in a stock of seed to distribute to farmers, ranchers, and hillside property owners will help us get out in front of this second wave of destruction that are sure to follow in Thomas’ wake. Link here:

https://www.gofundme.com/regrowventura

With the devastation around us, there are many ways that people can contribute. I know there are many demands for your attention and support and they are all worthy. But please don’t forget the emergency under our feet.

25972450_1512710881.2536

Advertisements

The drought that never left

Last winter’s rains were wonderful and sorely needed. But it was easy to forget that they were about average. News coverage focused on Northern California’s record rains and the drama at Oroville Dam. But for those of us in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, the drought didn’t go away… it just paused. Groundwater and lake levels are not much different than a year ago. Soil salinity is inching back up. We had was a nice break, but break time’s over. The drought is back; indeed it never left.

20171128_CA_textThe odds of a reprieve this year seem slim. As I write this on December 4 we see no rainfall ahead; only a week of howling Santa Ana winds and single digit humidity. It is probable that we will see no measurable rainfall until after New Year’s Day. My estimate is that we are going to be short 10 inches of rainfall for the season.

I’d love to think this pessimism is misplaced. I look forward to spreading this winter’s covercrop so we can make the best possible use of the whatever rainfall we get. I hope we will have the chance to take our well offline for some badly needed maintenance, but we need a good rain event to allow a break in our irrigation schedule. We shall see.

The drought continues.

Farm Lab Returns

102

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.

153.jpg

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.

162.jpg

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.

164.jpg

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

167.jpg