Yesterday, I took a driving tour of a ranch along to the Middle part of the Salinas River. It was an opportunity to peer into the thicket of vegetation lining the levee. The impregnable riparian habitat stretched for hundreds of feet from the ranch into the main channel of the Salinas River. The vegetation resembled the twisted jumble of a mango grove and was peppered with discarded furnishings, appliances, large pieces of metal, hunks of cement, and trash. Nothing about it resembled the healthy watershed so touted by regulators. It was a mess. I would hazard a guess that:
- The impenetrable brush prevents free wildlife movement.
- There is limited wildlife feed because of plant shading and competition.
- The vegetation lacked biological diversity.
- The lack of plant diversity means only a few wildlife species are supported.
- All of that unchecked growth continuously transpires thousands of acre feet of precious groundwater.
- The pools that were visible were stagnant and were great mosquito habitat.
Reposted from Facebook, March 10, 2017
Today was THE DAY!
There was a major sign that spring has arrived. No, it was not the day I saw the first robin, or the first daffodil, or the last snowflake!
It WAS the first day that I saw the semi’s loaded with vegetable harvest equipment headed home to Salinas from the desert! There were convoys headed up Highway 101! The Salinas fields are ready to be cut with their first shamrock-green heads of iceberg lettuce and romaine sizing up nicely.
You will never know the difference, but very soon, your lettuce will be originating from a very different part of the world. Instead of the desert, it will be coming from The Salad Bowl of the World, The Salinas Valley.
As I drive through the Salinas Valley, I consider the precise rows of cool season vegetables and ponder emerging attitudes. Some regulators believe that growers need to find alternative crops to cool season vegetables and this will protect and conserve water.
Hmmm…What alternative crops could be grown?
- We know it is too cold for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, and most c-4 plants, such as corn and sorghum.
- Alfalfa uses too much water.
- The sugar beet market has been destroyed by fructose corn syrup, trade and labor issues.
- It is too windy for tree crops.
- Canola? Would it grow? But, it can grow on marginal land, why would we put it on high-rent, highly productive land?
- Soybeans don’t like California.
- Beans and peas will grow, but the markets are limited.
- We could grow potatoes, but potatoes, apples, and garlic are mostly grown in China, these days. But, maybe, Ag would produce more vodka?
- Grapes? Yes! We could grow MORE wine grapes!
- Hops? Maybe…
- Pot! We can transition from emerald, healthy salad greens to medicinal greens.
Bottom line? The Salinas Valley would be perfect to produce alternative crops that will either get you drunk or high. Who needs to eat?
In the fall, the trucks loaded with red Bell peppers* are intense splashes of color heading south to the processing plants in Southern California. I am especially fond of the brightly yellow Dusi Bros. trucks, carrying those crimson loads. The contrast of red and yellow against an azure autumn sky is stunning!
Note: the Central Coast is a composition of disconnected microclimate. Red bell peppers are grown in Gilroy and King City because those areas are warm and have enough heat units to produce peppers.
Colors of Summer’s Peak!
This morning, the colors at the Farmer’s Markets were shifting from fresh, cool tones of spring and early summer to warmer colors and tones of mid-late summer: intense red, yellow, gold, burgundy and aubergine.
It’s time for sunflowers and dahlias, and watermelons, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers!
Wandering Around South Monterey County:
- Rows of Garlic bins were queued in the fields.
- Bean threshers were in flailing.
- Red bell peppers were glistening.
- Fennel was being picked in a patchwork of vivid jade and faded celadon.
- Brix (i.e. sugars) are increasing as the wine grapes hang heavy on the trellis.
Veggie fields resembled vitreous green shards impaled in the dry crust of the southern Gabilan hills.
Small, impoverished communities give testimony to tattered remnants of Victorian dreams of railroads, prosperity, and hope.
Today and yesterday were just gorgeous! As we pass the fall equinox, the shadows lengthen, yet the sun is still strong. Thus, contrasts were phenomenal!
Let’s talk harvest! On the Central Coast, the crews are working like mad! I MEAN running! They were precision machines! When I asked my client about prices, he said that labor is so short the crews are really hustling.
What was being harvested today? Pearly Garlic, emerald Anaheims, ruby-red Bell peppers, garnet-red wine grapes, alabaster cauliflower, jade-green broccoli, and citron-green lettuce! It was a treasure chest of fruits and vegetables.
Thank you Mother Earth and our farmers for our bounty!
Jan. 17 – I saw an elk herd of about 30-40 elk this morning! Going east on Hwy 46 at the intersection of Hwy 41. This an area where I usually see antelope on cold and frosty mornings.
Jan. 30 – Elks revisited! I spied a second (and separate) herd of elk only about 100 yards from Highway 101, as I headed south at dusk two nights ago! The bull was regal as he stood watch over his herd!
For today’s BIG excitement, Berny, my husband, saw a mountain lion cross the highway about where the elk herd had been! It’s been a while since we have had a lion sighting!