The rains were very late this year. After the dry season, I wait for the first rains of fall to soak the ground, which allow me to fork, hoe, and plant it for winter. Because of the drought and water uncertainty, I’ve tried to keep irrigation to a minimum and so about half of the farm was fallow during the summer. Usually the ground becomes workable in late September/early October, but this year we received a string of fall rains that either dissipated before arrival or didn’t exceed 1/3″ and resulted in very superficial soakings, which were quickly dried by the warm sun. I’ve never seen a fall this dry. Even on Thanksgiving, the ground wasn’t fully soaked!
Enter December and the almost non-stop rains. Last week we had a monster storm that was supposed to have been the biggest since January 4 2008, which had such high winds that the raindrops were moving horizontally and a semi truck was blown over on the Bay Bridge. The forecast called for gusts of up to 60mph. Here at the farm we prepared accordingly, trimming branches, filling sandbags, cleaning gutters, taking weakened plastic off old greenhouses, sealing the doors on newer greenhouses, covering compost piles, getting gear and seeds into rubbermaids and garbage bags and weighing them down. Normally for heavy rains, I would cover up the sensitive tiny plants with greenhouse plastic stretched onto mini-cold frames and weighed down with sandbags, but did not want to risk wind damage and so left everything uncovered. Luckily the winds did not live up to the hype of the forecast and there was no structural damage to the greenhouses, gear, and my dwelling which is positioned under a giant Coastal Cypress. The rains however surpassed the forecast, which was bad news for the greens and flowers, but great news for this parched state. Whereas going into December I was unsure about the irrigation supply for next season, I am now cautiously optimistic that we can move away from drought conditions and production is possible this summer.

What a transformation to go from an unusually dry fall with bright skies and parched soil to a month of nearly continuous rain

What a transformation to go from an unusually dry fall with bright skies and parched soil to a month of nearly continuous rain

In preparing for the massive rainstorm last week, a major objective was to keep the tarp from blowing away and preventing the nutrients in the compost from leaching. Since the forecast said winds up to 60mph, I wanted to do everything possible to protect the compost.

In preparing for the massive rainstorm last week, a major objective was to keep the tarp from blowing away and preventing the nutrients in the compost from leaching. Since the forecast said winds up to 60mph, I wanted to do everything possible to protect the compost.

After cutting back the tops and digging the crown and tuber, which form a large root ball, the tubers and crowns are teased apart delicately so as not to snap them.

After cutting back the tops and digging the crown and tuber, which form a large root ball, the tubers and crowns are teased apart delicately so as not to snap them.

A massive tuber. Cylindrical roots are useful for slicing, which make cracker substitutes. Adding different herbs and toppings to these slices makes a great appetizer, similar to a crostini

A massive tuber. Cylindrical roots are useful for slicing, which make cracker substitutes. Adding different herbs and toppings to these slices makes a great appetizer, similar to a crostini

Roots, pruners and Lagunitas Brown Shugga. One of the only times I am thankful for gopher activity is when a gopher hole avails itslef as a cup or bottle holder out in the field.

Roots, pruners and Lagunitas Brown Shugga. One of the only times I am thankful for gopher activity is when a gopher hole avails itslef as a cup or bottle holder out in the field.

Methodically separating the tubers from the crown, while I was trying to dig up the root balls without slicing into anything with the shovel or causing any of the tubers to snap from levering them out of the ground with the shovel.

Methodically separating the tubers from the crown, while I was trying to dig up the root balls without slicing into anything with the shovel or causing any of the tubers to snap from levering them out of the ground with the shovel.

After painstakingly hand trimming and inoculating this pine cone and then burying it for 3 years, it is finally producing extremely rare and highly sought after truffatake mushrooms...JUST KIDDING! this was a random find that deserved attention

After painstakingly hand trimming and inoculating this pine cone and then burying it for 3 years, it is finally producing extremely rare and highly sought after truffatake mushrooms…JUST KIDDING! this was a random find that deserved attention

A typical day at Earthworker Farm

A typical day at Earthworker Farm

Hunting for red worms in the older pile on the left and using them to seed the 10yds of organic dairy manure on the right.

Hunting for red worms in the older pile on the left and using them to seed the 10yds of organic dairy manure on the right.

Mature yacon plants. They produce tiny yellow flowers at the end of the growing season, but I've never seen them produce viable seed. Do they need a species of pollinator that we don't have? It would be great to grow out some new genetic combinations that result from pollination. At the moment, the whole patch originated from dividing one crown, which means they are all clones, yet there is still a range of different tuber shapes

Mature yacon plants. They produce tiny yellow flowers at the end of the growing season, but I’ve never seen them produce viable seed. Do they need a species of pollinator that we don’t have? It would be great to grow out some new genetic combinations that result from pollination. At the moment, the whole patch originated from dividing one crown, which means they are all clones, yet there is still a range of different tuber shapes