Kukkula Wines

Saturday April 1, 2017

be careful what you wish for (part 2)!

We knew it would hap­pen even­tu­al­ly, but after five years, one has to won­der! I start­ed to get super­sti­tious. Just don’t talk about it, and it will hap­pen, I would say.

The mete­o­rol­o­gists were con­vinced that the 201516 El Niño was going to be huge. Com­pa­ra­ble to 1997. They were sort of right. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the fire hose opened up on North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and left us with an almost respectable 20″ total for the sea­son. Respectable at least when com­pared to the four pri­or rain seasons!

I’m not sure what’s the big­ger sur­prise: the soak­er of a sea­son we’re in, or Trump’s victory.

The fall rains start­ed ear­ly and were light and steady. The hills were green by Novem­ber. Mus­tard was in full bloom by Decem­ber, as tem­per­a­tures were still quite mild until Christ­mas. By the end of Decem­ber, and all the way through Feb­ru­ary, we had week­ly rain events dump­ing 5+ inch­es in each wave. So much that by the end of Feb­ru­ary, ponds that had been dry since 2012 were full, and streams were run­ning for weeks every­where you looked. Lake Nacimien­to, at bare­ly 20% capac­i­ty in Decem­ber, is now essen­tial­ly full. Unbelievable!

It was so much of a good thing that we all start­ed almost dread­ing it. Many of you might recall my fall 2015 newslet­ter was enti­tled be care­ful what you wish for”. I was allud­ing to what might hap­pen when the rain keeps com­ing. Well, let’s see… 

• We dis­cov­ered a half a dozen leaks in our house that we had nev­er wit­nessed in the ten years since we built.

• Mud start­ed sluff­ing off of the cut slopes along our dri­ve­way. Two of my field guys were shov­el­ing mud for a week.

• A three inch main water line, six feet under the park­ing lot at the win­ery, broke, and we had to hand dig it since there is a com­pli­cat­ed web of elec­tri­cal, tele­com, and water lines all around the break. And, oh yeah, it hap­pened a day before the first major soak­er hit us in January!

• One of our cul­verts got plugged up by the cas­cad­ing mud. It’s 25 feet long and 18 inch­es in diam­e­ter and runs under our dri­ve­way next to the win­ery. Boy, that was a blast to unplug!

• Con­cur­rent with all this, our gate oper­a­tor failed us and was out of com­mis­sion for three weeks. This is the third oper­a­tor we’ve installed since we built our home. They aren’t cheap!

• We start­ed a remod­el of our tast­ing room just as the rains real­ly got going. One of the bar tops in the tast­ing room is being extend­ed. It’s made with the orchard wal­nut I’ve tak­en out to make room for our vine­yard plant­i­ngs. I’m stor­ing about a dozen trunks on the north­east quad­rant of our ranch where it’s rel­a­tive­ly flat, and thought I’d be smart and attempt to pull one of the logs out of the pile with some chains after a week of sun, just before the next wave of storms. Nev­er mind that I tell my field guys they’re not allowed to put wheels on the dirt dur­ing the rainy sea­son! I did­n’t make it a third of the dis­tance to the pile, and the truck got stuck in the mud. There it sat for the next three weeks.

• Part of the remod­el of the tast­ing room required that I remove cab­i­netry and add tiles where the cab­i­nets were removed. In the process, I noticed a loose tile at the cor­ner of the room along our exte­ri­or wall of com­mer­cial store­front glass. So I decid­ed to remove and replace it, which loos­ened the one next to it, and so on, and so on… Every tile along the glass wall and the sec­ond row in had to be removed. It turns out that the seals at the bot­tom of the glass wall were leak­ing and the heavy rains had caused water to seep under the tiles. I sup­pose I should be thank­ful that the rains revealed the prob­lem before I fin­ished the remod­el, but a one day job became a two week tile/​glass pan­el project!

• Our inter­net runs on a pri­vate net­work with a few tow­ers com­ing from Paso to our prop­er­ty. One is on a hill­top above our home. They are pow­ered by solar pan­els with a bat­tery back­up. For six years it’s been pret­ty reli­able. That all changed when we expe­ri­enced just about eight weeks of rain and lit­tle sun. Our inter­net alter­nat­ed between not func­tion­ing or bare­ly limp­ing along for much of Jan­u­ary and February.

• One Fri­day in Feb­ru­ary, we invit­ed some out of town guests over for din­ner. Of course, the day they were to arrive, our neigh­bor­hood lost pow­er. Our home is solar pow­ered with a back up gen­er­a­tor. When­ev­er we’ve lost pow­er in the past, the gen­er­a­tor did it’s job, but not this time. The bat­tery died. Our guests arrived to a dark house on a stormy night, Paula cooked much of the din­ner on the out­side bar­be­cue (in the rain), and we enjoyed the evening by candlelight.

• We were sup­posed to take deliv­ery of a thou­sand vines at the end of Jan­u­ary to replant plants that had died in a num­ber of our blocks. Being dry-farm­ers, we typ­i­cal­ly plant after some ear­ly rains and well before the win­ter rains end. This allows the plants to get prop­er­ly root­ed before the hot sum­mer months. Fat chance this win­ter! As of the end of March, the nurs­ery was still dig­ging up dor­mant plants and putting them into cold stor­age. It’s now the 10th of April, and we just got them plant­ed last week. Unless we get real­ly lucky and April turns out to be an unusu­al­ly wet month, it looks like we’re going to have to break out five gal­lon buck­ets with a small hole drilled into the bot­tom and do a man­u­al water­ing of each plant. Each water­ing will like­ly take about 2 weeks of work. No big deal. It’s not like my plate is full!

Be care­ful what you wish for! I don’t mean to sound ungrate­ful. I am thrilled with the almost 42 inch­es we’ve had thus far. Each year brings its chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties, in life and in farm­ing. The fun­ny part of all of this is, where­as I was prac­tic­ing my deep breath­ing exer­cis­es much of late Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary, sud­den­ly I’m real­iz­ing as I write about these calami­ties that I find myself smil­ing, almost laugh­ing. I guess, when it come to hard­ship, we have short mem­o­ries, and opti­mism ulti­mate­ly pre­vails. We got our rain; we sur­vived the crazi­ness. I think we might just have the mak­ings of a won­der­ful grow­ing season!



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