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.

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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A thought…

Archaeologists believe that writing may have been invented to facilitate crop reporting and tax collection. I believe that complaining about government paperwork was invented by farmers not long thereafter, although I have not seen any scholarly work on the matter.

Seeking #Edible #Covercrop

 

There seems to be a fair amount of interest these days in 021.jpgedible cover crops. We’ve experimented with a few, most notably sugar beets. (Read about them here !) And some we know are edible but aren’t practical to eat, like barley. Finding a cover crop that is both effective  and  marketable has been a challenge.

 

 

 

We’re taking another stab at it with daikon radishes. We’ve been very pleased so far. They grow very rapidly, and seem to be able to out-compete weeds. The deep tap roots are great for getting down into the soil, and they are reputed to give some nematicidal effect once they have been turned under.

 

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Quick growth also makes them well suited for a market crop. Other crops we have tried as covers need 100 days or more to reach maturity. Inevitably, they will get trampled in the course of orchard operations during such a long period. Daikon radishes only need about 45 days. With a little planning, we can work around that time frame in the fig orchard. (Lemons or avocados might be a different story.)

 

This week we will start to make daikon radishes available to our customers. Like any cover crop, we don’t expect to harvest all of it. A cover crop exists to feed the soil, not the people. But we’re looking forward to being able to add a little variety to our program.