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”!
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!
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.
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.
Many eyes are on our employee, Alex Hasbach, the young lady pictured in the back row, third from left, as she graduates with other members of her Farm Academy class on the west steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. The Farm Academy is sponsored by the Center for Land-Based Learning, which is located in Winters, Calif. My husband Bruce and I attended Alex’s graduation ceremony last weekend, along with her parents, Tom and Pat. As part of the Farm Academy, students work on a farm as an intern while attending an academic training program. Alex is interning at Rominger Brothers Farms, where she is learning all aspects of farming, from irrigating the fields to agricultural accounting. It’s a great program and we’re pleased to have Alex on our team!
My husband Bruce brought welding masks to our daughter Rachel’s school so she and her 4th grade classmates could glimpse at the solar eclipse. Like other parents, farmers volunteer at their children’s schools. This was certainly a unique opportunity! Bruce grabbed a couple of welding masks from our farm shop and drove to Shirley Rominger Intermediate School (named after his Aunt Shirley) while taking a short break from harvesting his tomatoes. I was there too, taking photos of the kids–Rachel is on the right, wearing the flamingo shirt. And of course, it was necessary to bring food to the eclipse-viewing party: Moon Pies!
My brother-in-law Rick started harvesting sunflowers. In this case, he was harvesting the male sunflower seeds. There are male and female sunflowers, and they need to be planted next to each other for optimum seed production. Behind the dried-up male sunflowers, there are taller, green, female sunflowers, which were pollinated–with the help of honeybees–to produce big seed heads, and they will be harvested a little later. The seeds will be used to produce sunflower oil. We have wild turkeys around here that hide in the sunflower field. I guess it’s fair to say that sunflower-seed production is a lesson about the birds and the bees!
My husband Bruce started harvesting his processing tomatoes. It’s a very busy time for us, as the tomatoes are harvested day and night, depending when the cannery needs them. Harvesting began as it usually does in July, but this year, our three-month harvest period will extend later into mid-October, because the wet spring conditions delayed planting. Then the weather went from wet to very hot. We had a 10-day heat wave in June, with temperatures peaking at 110 degrees. Now we’re entering another heat wave, with temperatures forecasted to exceed 100 degrees for the next 10 days.
But the really hot news is that tomatoes are part of the latest food trend: vegetable soups are being packaged as ready-to-drink beverages. Of course, Campbell’s Soup led the way with V8 juice, which is where the tomatoes pictured above will go. Drinking vegetables is no longer called juicing, it’s called “souping.” So drink your veggies!
My 12-year-old son John learned how to drive the backhoe this weekend–it should come in handy around the farm. My husband said John’s first job will be digging a hole someplace. I remember when John’s big brother Justin was 12 years old and learned to drive the backhoe. One day Justin saw me struggling with a shovel in my attempt to remove a whole bunch of cactus–a slow, thorny process. Pre-teen Justin drove the backhoe over and scooped out all the cactus in a matter of minutes. I’m thankful for mechanized agriculture and heavy equipment operators!
My husband Bruce, our son John, our daughter Rachel and I drove up in our rangeland to see how far away the Winters fire is from our property line. We drove past our flock of sheep and parked on the top of a hill, where we watched numerous Cal Fire airplanes and helicopters working to contain the fire. It appeared to be a couple miles southwest of our ranch. We are monitoring the situation, in case the wind shifts and the fire spreads our way. Bruce has a bulldozer ready in case he needs to make a firebreak.