Autumn on the Ranch

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The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and the mornings are crisp. The dog days of summer have come to an end. Now that autumn has arrived, we can finally slow down a little bit and take a deep breath after a busy season, and an especially busy September. The sun isn’t up until almost 7:00AM now, so we don’t need to be at the ranch before six anymore, and it’s nice to grab a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. Broken equipment and broken well pumps are all much easier to handle when there aren’t a million other things going on, which is usually the case on any given summer day at the ranch.

Playing around with different things as windbreaks to help keep product clean from dusty ranch roads. These heirlooms are being protected by sunflowers, while the romaine sits behind some sorghum grass.

Playing around with different things as windbreaks to help keep product clean from dusty ranch roads. These heirlooms are being protected by sunflowers, while the romaine sits behind some sorghum grass.

We have stopped the majority of planting here in the Salinas Valley for the year, and the program has moved down to the warm deserts of Southern California for the winter. While last month we were racing virtually every day to plant spring mix, we now only have a handful of broccolette transplantings left to really finish out the season.

Broccolette fields in the fog + baby plant plug in-hand.

Broccolette fields in the fog + baby plant plug in-hand.

Our focus in September was getting ground prepped and mulched for the baby greens, getting them planted, and germinated.

Rows of baby spinach + newly germinated baby lettuce.

Rows of baby spinach + newly germinated baby lettuce.

Now the bulk of work has shifted to heavy ground work behind the harvest crews, and getting dirt listed back up into beds for next spring. Everyday is disking, chiseling, ripping, and landplaning. As winter approaches, it’s a race against time to get as much done as possible before the rains start. Rain puts the brakes on everything we do, so we’ll push hard on the ground work while it’s still dry.

Tractor with landplane + a beautiful sunset over the ranch.

Tractor with landplane + a beautiful sunset over the ranch.

Another focus as of late has been getting the spring mix crops weeded. Unfortunately, we just don’t always have enough “clean” ground available to plant all of our organic baby greens, and they end up in some less that ideal dirt, weed wise. This ended up being the case for some of the crops planted in September, and it brought to the fore-front an issue that a lot of people in the industry have been talking about…a real shortage of labor. When the time came that we needed extra help to get through some weedy blocks, the help just wasn’t really there at first. Luckily, after a lot of phone calls and much searching, and as other growers slowed down, I was able to find some additional weeding crews to get us through the bad patches. The availability of labor is especially important to us in the organic world, since we don’t rely on any conventional herbicides to kill weeds on our ranches. The experience was definitely an eye opener, and provides much food for thought over the winter months as we plan our schedules for next year.

Panoramic shot of the ranch.

Panoramic shot of the ranch.

Although there’s still plenty to be done on the ranch, it’s nice to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and everyone is looking forward to putting another successful season to bed with, hopefully, an upcoming wet winter.

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