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From the Fields® - December 22, 2021

By Jocelyn Anderson, Glenn County walnut and almond grower

We're super thankful for the rain. The fields are wet. Before the rain, we took care of our after-harvest prep, which was strip spraying our almonds, so getting all the almonds sprayed and the leaves off. We got all of our hedging done in both the almonds and the walnuts.

As soon as the fields dry up after these rainstorms, our plan for the next couple months is to work on getting into the walnuts and start pruning. We'll also get the mummies taken care of and knocked off of all our trees. We're trying to get pruning done as quickly as possible as soon as the fields are dry enough to get in there.

Once frost season starts around mid-February, we have to pay attention and make sure we're able to turn water on for our trees. When the trees bloom, we'll have to really pay attention to frost protection.

Related to harvest this year, we were lucky enough to get all our walnuts harvested before that big (October) rain that came through and dropped 4 or 5 inches in places. Not everyone in our area or in the Central Valley was quite as lucky to get everything done before the storm, so there was definitely some higher mold counts if rained-on walnuts were brought in. For us, we were lucky to get it all done.

Almond harvest went pretty well for us. We will wait on final numbers as they start to come through over the next couple of months. It was a decent year and nothing big or low in terms of yield, so we're right in the middle of where we normally are.

Even after harvest, you can see the little buds start for the next year. We'll see how everything goes, but you know farming: You never know; you just always have to be on your toes.

By Domenic Carinalli, Sonoma County winegrape grower and organic dairy farmer

On the winegrape side, we had a decent crop this last year, and harvest went smooth. We didn't have any smoke or fire issues of any kind, in my particular area anyway. The rains came the night after we finished picking, so that part worked out real well. We're up to about 20 inches of rain, and last year I think we had less than 1 inch.

If it's not raining, we always start pruning on the Monday after Thanksgiving. We're moving along with that. When it rains, then we tie (grapevines) and do some other odds and ends. We keep busy. I've got about the same people I've had in the past, and they're moving along; that part is doing good.

The dairy is moving along. The dairy industry is in a tough position right now. Hay and feed are so expensive. Most of the feed is coming from other states. There is hardly any hay in California. I've got to buy organic feed. I bought enough hay this summer to take me through the winter, so I'm not having any hay issues myself personally. But the industry is really pushed for hay.

The pasture's doing good. It was still warm enough when we got that first rain. In four or five days, everything was nice and green. Over here in the hillside, there was actually pretty nice grass. We're getting pretty good feed that way. That part's been very good because we don't have to use as much (supplemental) feed. The heifers and the dry cows are doing pretty well out on pasture. We just supplement them a little bit, but we've got a lot of grass coming.

We have plenty of water. The fields are really wet. They're talking about another big storm coming in. There's lots of water out in the field. Out in the grapes, there's water standing everywhere. Hopefully, this is the end of the drought, but we'll see what continues through the season.

By Shaun Crook, Tuolumne County forester

It seems that we complain about the weather a lot in agriculture, and the timber industry is no different. While we desperately need rain and snow, it makes logging much more difficult. The weather affects operations differently depending on where you are in the state.

Most of the roads on the coast are rocked, and you can still haul logs in the winter. A lot of the operations there are high lead, and they don't have to worry as much about equipment getting stuck, compaction or violating forest practice rules. Towards the northern end of the state, the cold is crucial to winter operations. As long as there isn't much snow and a deep freeze, operations can continue.

Here in the Central Sierras, winter pretty much ends most operations. We usually have multiple feet of snow and can't access the areas where operations were occurring.

Many contractors are working on fire salvage cleanup and will try to continue and work with the winter conditions. We are working on the east side of the Sierras and won't know until after the next round of storms come through if we will be able to continue. We are also working on fire salvage that will impact a state highway, so it is considered an emergency, but the weather will be the deciding factor on whether or not we can continue.

If loggers aren't actively working in the woods, they are most likely in the shop taking care of winter maintenance. Down time is one of the most difficult things to deal with when we have short seasons, and taking care of your equipment in the winter is crucial to having a successful season next year.

By Thomas Chandler, Fresno County diversified grower

This week, we are still mummy shaking our almond trees. Mummy shaking is done with an almond shaker that drops the leftover mummy almonds that stayed on the tree prior to harvest. The mummy almonds need to be removed and destroyed by mowing them up in order to kill any worms that may have taken up residence in the leftover mummy almonds.

Our harvest of Washington navels has been delayed because it's just too wet from all these rains. The crop set on both mandarins and navels is light this year, which is a function of harvesting so late last year and the fact that we are coming off a large crop the prior year.

The good news is all this rain caused our air to clean up enough to give us approval to finally burn all our almond trees that had fallen over postharvest that had been piling up.

It also feels good to be able to see snow finally in the mountains from the valley floor. Recently, our irrigation district released results from their monitoring wells that our groundwater dropped an average of just over 5 feet compared to last year. It could have been much worse if our district had not decided to run the little water they had into recharge basins throughout the district.

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