Behind the Scenes

It’s that time of year when farmers hold mandatory safety meetings for their employees. This one was facilitated at our farm shop by Tony Bruno of Armstrong and Associates Insurance Services and was conducted in Spanish. Agricultural employees must review illness and injury prevention, personal protection equipment and other safety measures that are critical in farming and ranching.  Soon there will be a county Farm Bureau meeting where the employees will update their skills in First Aid and CPR. It’s all part of the behind-the-scenes world of agriculture that takes place in the winter, before the upcoming crop season begins.

Visiting the Stonewall Sporthorses

My son and I went to see the new spotted foals that were born recently at the Stonewall Sporthorse breeding facility at the Rush Ranch near Fairfield, Calif. The horses are stunningly beautiful and since they are part draft horse, they are also big. We visited with Michael Muir, the breeder and founder of the Stonewall Sporthorse Registry, and I interviewed him for the book that I’m writing about the history of another horse ranch.

Agricultural Family of the Year

Our family was recently honored as the Yolo County Farm Bureau 2018 Agricultural Family of the Year. We were recognized at the organization’s annual meeting held at the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland, California. It felt great to be appreciated by our fellow farmers and ranchers, as well as our extended family members and friends who celebrated the occasion with us! There was also nice article published in the Daily Democrat newspaper.

Rominger Family Tradition

Here’s my brother-in-law Rick carrying homemade sausage during our annual Rominger family hog-butchering event. This family tradition goes back to the 1800s when the first generation of Romingers emigrated from Germany to California. We processed seven hogs this year; we put sausage in the smokehouse that my husband Bruce built, and prepared hams and bacons for curing. It’s a two-day event that always takes place in January, when the weather is cold, and includes breakfast pastries and potluck lunches. We had about 30 family members and friends join us this year–it was a work party!

Country Boys

My husband Bruce, right, took our 12-year-old son John, left, and five of his friends on a farm tour a few days before Christmas, and they stopped to check out the Goose Pond. The pond is home to a few domestic geese that we acquired a couple years ago–eight geese had been displaced by a wildfire and our local animal shelter asked us if we could provide a body of water for the evacuated birds. The boys are standing on the levee that’s being rebuilt due to soil erosion following heavy spring rains. They didn’t stand around for long, however; they ran around the hills, explored the oak woodlands, viewed Golden Eagles and other wildlife, and thoroughly enjoyed being boys in the country. By the way, one boy’s mother said this photo looks like an album cover!

First Place in Winters Tractor Parade

Rominger Brothers Farms won first place in the 3rd Annual Winters Tractor Parade in the Farm Fresh category! Justin Rominger drove our tomato harvester down Main Street in Winters, California, on Saturday, Dec. 2nd, and was joined by some of our farm employees and friends. The annual event was a big success and continues to get bigger every year. Downtown Winters was packed with people who came to watch the lighted-tractor parade and tree-lighting ceremony, and many children enjoyed visiting with Santa Claus during his appearance at Rotary Park.

“Almond” or “Am-end”?

My husband Bruce, right, and his foreman, Juan Montano, are standing in a newly planted almond orchard near Davis, California. The varieties are Nonpareil, Wood Colony and Winters, and the first nut crop will be produced in 2020. Sierra Gold Nursery provided the trees, which are planted at a density of 132 trees per acre. The crew has been working hard to get all the trees in between the rains. Just remember that Northern California growers don’t say “almonds,” they say “am-ends” because during nut harvest they “knock the L out of ’em”!

Standing guard

These two oxen belong to my husband’s Uncle Stuart and Aunt Emily Rowe of Innisfail Ranch in Dixon, Calif. Each one of these big boys weighs more than a ton–they are huge! Oxen, which are castrated adult male cattle, are typically bigger than bulls. They were traditionally used as draft animals for plowing fields and hauling heavy loads. These two have an easier life, standing guard over the red-and-white Milking Shorthorn dairy cows in the adjacent corrals. Watch out for those horns!

Evacuated Animals

Today there were a lot of volunteers at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Calif., helping take care of the animals that were evacuated during the wildfires, including these three donkeys. At right is Skip, the man who owns these donkeys; he and his wife live in Capell Valley, Napa County, and had to evacuate last week. Heather, the lady in the middle, flew down from St. Helens, Oregon to help out at the animal-evacuation center. I was at home this morning and I turned on KCRA Channel 3 News and learned that volunteers were needed at the fairgrounds, including people who have experience with large animals. Heeding the call of duty, I grabbed all the horse halters and lead ropes that we have, took the kids to school and drove about 40 miles to the fairgrounds. When I arrived, I was one of several dozen volunteers who cleaned stalls and walked the horses around so they could get some exercise. In addition to equines, there were cows, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits and chickens. Several companies and individuals donated animal feed and shavings for the stalls; other people generously brought food and drinks for the volunteers. There were veterinarians treating animals that had been injured, a construction company working on the animal shelters, and waste-management personnel keeping the livestock facility clean. It was an amazing experience to see so many people helping out those in need.

Smoke-filled sky

The nearest wildfire is about 10 miles from our ranch, by the way the crow flies. It has been very smoky here–this tractor looks like its surrounded by fog, but it’s smoke from the Atlas fire in neighboring Napa and Solano counties. It’s very windy outside and there are visible plumes of smoke west of Winters.  Calfire helicopters and air tankers are flying over our property on their way to fight the wildfires. There are 22 wildfires burning throughout California right now. We appreciate our family and friends who have been checking in with us to see if we’re OK. Fortunately, we don’t have any beef cattle or sheep grazing on our foothill rangeland right now. We’re just praying for the people who have been directly impacted by the fires, such as our neighbor’s cousin, whose home in Sonoma County was destroyed, and the 8,000-plus firefighters and other first responders who are putting their lives on the line to protect us.