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We are Tidy!!
We are tidying this week in preparation for our big day here on the farm. Yesterday we had a crew of 40 volunteers cleaning up, stuffing scarecrows with new wheat straw, designing and building a 500-bale straw fort, erecting the tipi, painting signs, making tamales, and spreading 25 tons of mulch to settle dust and make the farmyard neat and beautiful. This week, along with our regular pick, pack, weeding and planting schedule – we are ready-ing and steady-ing for Hoes Down.
After a long and dry summer, where days were pretty intense and a layer of dust had settled over and in about everything, a half inch of rain this past week washed and polished what was looking pretty drab. One can just see the trees and grass exhale a collective sigh of relief as the cleansing moisture wiped our world clean. It was a baptism, a purification and a regeneration. We welcomed and celebrated the transition as one of the marks of the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall.
I know that you all might be inundated with Hoes Down rallying calls from our end, so bear with me, because each farm member has a different take on what the day means and why it is important for our farm and rural community. At the inception more than 25 years ago, Dru and her friends Annie Main and Caroline Scott made dried flower wreaths and then needed a way to sell them. Since then, Hoes Down was an end of the summer celebration to bring you to the farm to dance and shout with us, building a bridge between urban and rural by getting you to come up here and put your feet on the farm and get a feel for our world.
Dru was the heart of the event for many years as it became an essential fundraiser for the community, providing much needed funds for groups as diverse as The Ecological Farming Association, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, 4-H, the local library, and the land trust – nonprofits that did the good work of making this rural area healthy and diverse. Over the 26 years of the event, it has generated more than $1,000,000 in funds that have helped to fund the ongoing work of these groups.
From my point of view, the day is an opportunity to share this beautiful spot – our farm – with you. We do farm tours, workshops, hands-on demonstrations of everything from compost making to tree pruning. Our cow is milked, sheep shorn and the wool combed carded and spun – examples of timeless relationships with nature’s generosity that – universally – rural people live each day. Wendell Berry said recently “Farmers, whether they know or acknowledge it, are directly dependent on nature. Farmers who have livestock are more likely to understand this than are farmers who are merely raising crops. But farming, good or bad, can only take place in nature. Farmers who are aware of this pay attention to the natural circumstances and so learn about it.”
If you come to our farm to celebrate with us, you might catch a glimmer of our day-to-day. The farm tours are designed as opportunities to ask questions and relate the new insights that we are chasing as we try to practice our farming with a wider view of our deep commitment to the stewardship of this place. Your footsteps or dance vibrations resonate through the earth and tickle the very souls of the earthworms and critters that are underfoot. The children who brave the tunnels of the hay fort or hang on to the handle of the flying fox are doing it by their own willpower- within the supportive tribal embrace of others who are doing the same.
Hoes Down is a day for children to adventure; it is a day for adults to dance and enjoy; it is a day of great food, meeting farmers, and dancing with our farmworkers. It is a day for all of us to give thanks and revel in another summer’s accomplishments. It is celebration that will mark the cultural shift to a healthier more connected food system. I see people eating local and organic for many reasons, one being simply that we celebrate our seasons, and another that we dance harder or sleep under the stars, or walk, even for a short day, the fields that grow our food.
We invite you to put your work-hoe down, take a day, and celebrate with us – it enriches us and all of the creatures of this place. Hoping to see you Saturday, October 4th.
It is so easy to increase the amount of Full Belly in your life! CSA members can special order almost anything from our farm to be delivered to your pick-up site. Sorry, no Virginia Street special orders. If you would like to order the following items, please contact us at 800-791-2110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sun Dried Peaches – $5/half-pound bag.
Walnuts – $10/1-lb bag. Temporarily sold out – new corp coming soon!
Almonds – $12/1-lb bag. Need more than a pound? Just ask!
Almond Butter – Creamy or Crunchy - $14/1-lb jar. Nothin’ but lightly roasted nuts!
Pomegranate Juice – $10/quart. Sorry – Sold Out!
Apple Juice – $7/half-gallon or $4/quart. Order by Aug. 29th for delivery in the week of Sept. 1st. Sorry, NO home delivery.
Please place your order at least five days prior to your intended delivery date.
For those interested in our certified organic lamb we have a limited amount available for delivery to a CSA site near you. Sorry no home deliveries. Our lambs are all born and raised here at the farm and are fed 100% on pasture, organic vegetables and hay. They are sold by the half lamb (20 lbs) for $185, or whole lamb (40 lbs) for $350. (Sorry, temporarily sold out. Please contact us if you want to be put on the waiting list.)
We also have soup chickens for sale. These are 2-year old egg-laying birds frozen and packed with heads and feet, that are great for making broth, soup or stew. The cost is $11, delivered frozen to select CSA sites. Sorry no home deliveries. Please contact Becky – email@example.com – if you are interested.
Faces from the Fields
Maria Machado has worked at Full Belly Farm for five years, sometimes packing tomatoes and at other times picking fruits and vegetables. Her husband Sergio works at the farm as well, on the irrigation crew. Last June, Maria was put in charge of her own picking crew. We wanted to tell a little bit of her story to our CSA members since Maria is an important part of the chain of many hands and many people’s dedicated efforts, that result in the CSA boxes that you enjoy every week.
On a recent afternoon when Maria’s crew was picking padron peppers we sat and talked for a few minutes. The weather was a bit cooler and more comfortable than it has been in weeks past. From where we sat, when I reminded Maria that most of the people getting CSA boxes live in the city, and may never have worked on a farm, we couldn’t help looking around and feeling happy to see the hills on either side of us, the trees providing shade to sit under, and the sounds of the wind moving across the field. [Read more...]
The farm is shifting and easing into the start of a fall season. As days shorten, so do our work hours – now starting at 7 am and finishing by 5. The crops that we cultivate and seeds planted reflect the fall and winter approach. Andrew and Jan are planting fall greens, carrots, beets and broccoli. Potatoes are emerging and we hurry them along to size up and set tubers before any frost determines their lifespan. Gone for 2014 are melons and stone fruits. Tomatoes are beginning to show their decline as they head toward the end of a long and fruitful season.
Thoreau wrote “Love each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit and resign yourself to the influences of each.” Indeed, the conversation about seasonality is a deep and significant historical awareness that we may be remembering, in turn enriching and connecting all of us to the ‘food shed’ that supplies our communities. We may be moving to the shared responsibility that is central to a vibrant and healthy food system – where those who eat are responsible for those who produce, and those who produce know their farm patrons, acting as stewards of the resources that support those patrons. [Read more...]
Hoes Down Harvest Festival!
Another summer has come and gone. Baby goats were born, tomatoes were packed and pages on the calendars turned. The farmers on Full Belly Farm generally do not count time day to day. Instead, we see the changing seasons by the events that have become the constant reminder that another year has passed. The fall is a time when the Full Belly farmers celebrate the beautiful harvest of another year. It is a precious time, full of total exhaustion, and excitement, as we mark our calendars and create no fewer than fifty to- do lists as we plan for the celebration that reminds us all to share the beauty of rural life, and lets us share our farm with others. This year marks the 27th annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival – we hope you will join us. In case you need convincing, we have created a list of the top ten reasons to come to the Hoes Down Harvest Festival at Full Belly Farm:
#10 – The Location – If you and your family have yet to visit Full Belly Farm, this is a perfect time to do so! Not only are there walking tours of the entire farm throughout the day, but you will also get to see the animals and crops that we watch over each year. Come see a working farm get transformed into a full-on festival! [Read more...]
We have a real soft spot for babies around here. We anticipate their arrival with much eagerness and give them lots of love and treats. All of our new babies add something special to the farm, and remind us how lucky we are to have such a close connection to the cycle of life.
Pinto Bean gave birth to a healthy baby boy calf last Friday. He is perfect – complete with a dipped white tail. [Read more...]
Really Fun Fundraiser for a GREAT Organization!
When I show visitors around Full Belly Farm, they sometimes ask me about the sign that we have at the top of the road, with the logo, “Grown in the Beautiful Capay Valley.” In answer to their question, I always tell them the following cautionary tale: “There was once a very beautiful place known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight. This Valley included the largest fruit production and packing region in the world, with 39 canneries and beautiful stone fruit trees flowering every spring. As California became more and more urbanized, the name of that Valley was changed. Do you know what the new name is…? Silicon Valley.
We hope that our local efforts, represented by the sign at the top of the road, to promote the Capay Valley, will protect agriculture here, so that we don’t suffer the same fate as the Valley of Heart’s Delight.” [Read more...]
The Seven Year Itch
We received this sweet story from one of our CSA members about the community that has been created at their CSA site – University Terrace. If you have any stories of community building at your CSA site, please send them to us. We would love to read them (and share them, too!). Have a delightful week – and enjoy your box!
Seven years ago Alix Schwartz decided that the people living at University Terrace, a condominium complex housing UC faculty and staff here in Berkeley, should start to receive Full Belly boxes. We arranged the pick-up hours to be from 4 to 7 every Friday. There were also neighbors beyond UTerrace who wanted to join in, and Pancho started delivering boxes in the large re-purposed garage on our property on August 3, 2007. [Read more...]
The day I left New York was rainy and cold. I put on my winter coat and set out to live in a place I had never been and to work at a task I had never done. When I arrived at Full Belly Farm in April as the newest intern I was overwhelmed by the scale of production and by the busyness that swirled around me. But it did not take long for me to feel at home.
The sense of community and belonging on the farm took me aback, as I was welcomed in with open arms by people willing to teach and eager to help me settle in. From the very first I began seeing, learning, and experiencing new things. Each day seems to offer a new challenge, and every person on the farm is a wellspring of information and experience that I have only just begun to get a glimpse of. [Read more...]
Letter of Appreciation from the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic
Below is a letter from the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, who we have been working with for several years, providing produce to low-income women who are undergoing cancer treatment. This program is completely run by volunteers. At some of our CSA sites, if a box is not picked up or if you call in in advance to cancel your box, that box is then picked up and taken to the clinic. We love offering this service to the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, and they love receiving the produce. Thanks so much to those of you who choose to donate your boxes!
– Jenna Muller
Heartfelt Gratitude from the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic
Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic is a state Licensed Health Clinic providing free complementary alternative medical treatments to low-income women with cancer. For many of our clients, the weekly CSA Box donation might be the first time ever trying organic produce, or the only time she is afforded the luxury of taking home and preparing healthful, nutritional meals for herself.
Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic receives a bountiful weekly donation from Full Belly Farm. Penny Marienthal is a Clinic volunteer dedicated to providing nutritious produce to the clinic’s low-income clients with cancer. In Penny’s own healing journey with cancer, the importance of quality food was a priority. Penny felt that delivering cases of fresh produce to the clinic was something she could do to support other women with cancer in hopes of supporting their health, spirits and emotions in this process.
California State Fair
A few days ago I went to the California State Fair with my niece Emi. Walking in at the main entrance, we were greeted by promotional displays of cars and hot tubs, but we soon found ourselves in the big barn, talking to farmers about their sheep and watching them groom their llamas and alpacas. Several farmers, working on a large handsome sheep standing still for them as they clipped away, called it “sculpting,” not grooming. Two teenage girls, there with their family and their sheep, were making yarn bracelets, and gave Emi and I one each, as they told us about their ranch in Oroville. Everyone was preparing for the show when their prized animals would be judged.
The livestock shows require a significant commitment from the animal’s owners who often spend almost a week at the fair. The animals get weighed and checked by a vet. There is a week-and-a-half dedicated to 4-H and FFA animals and their keepers, but then the fair opens up to all animal producers and some of the most beautiful livestock animals in the state arrive, products of farms where families have been breeding and keeping animals for generations. [Read more...]
July Photo Round Up!
We woke up this morning to cloudy skies, cool weather, and a few drops of precious rain. It wasn’t enough to do any damage to our summer crops, but enough to remind us of what it smells like after a rain and keep the dust down for a few hours. These tomatoes are just flowering. Can you even believe how many there are?! [Read more...]
Meet Hideo “Tommy” Tomitaka!
We are so lucky to have amazing groups of youthful interns come to our farm each year. They spend their time learning about all aspects of the farm, from animal care and rotational grazing techniques, to planting, to harvesting, and even a little bit of marketing. We have been participating in a program called the Japanese Agricultural Training Program for several years now. Our interns from Japan stay with us for just over a year, and we miss them so much when they leave! This week we will say goodbye to Hideo “Tommy” Tomitaka, who has been an excellent part of the team for the past year. The following is a short interview with him about his experience:
Jenna: What were your expectations about Full Belly Farm before you arrived?
Tomi: I didn’t have very much information about Full Belly before I arrived, but I did know that it has been doing a great job in organic farming and its CSA program for many years. I expected to learn lots about how to successfully farm organically and how to manage a farm. [Read more...]
We were so grateful to be recognized by the Reusable Packaging Association with an Excellence in Reusable Packaging award for our awesome CSA boxes! These boxes have helped us avoid 6.54 tons of cardboard waste per year, which results in an annual reduction of 34.1 tons of greenhouse gas emissions! Hooray! To make sure that we can continue to be as environmentally responsible as possible, please return your box to your CSA site!
We Love Our Customers!
Summer has officially started at Full Belly Farm – as evidence by the truck loads of melons, tomatoes, beans, eggplant, and dark circles under the eyes of every farmer. Exhaustion is a common side effect of the summer months, which can, on occasion, lead to a grumpy farmer or two. Luckily, glee outweighed grumpiness last weekend as we had a surprise calf born on the farm. A handsome and dark red fellow, he was born late into the night on Independence Day, perhaps forced into the world a day early by the sound of firecrackers or a Piccolo Pete.
Receiving feedback from our customers has never been easier than now, with the invention of social media. Just a few hours after the new calf was born, we posted a picture of him on both Instagram and Facebook, asking for name suggestions. The below photo and caption elicited the following responses:
Baby boy calf born late into the night on Independence Day. We are thinking of calling him Firecracker. Any other suggestions? [Read more...]
Conservation Tillage and the Drought
Many conversations turn these days around the question — “how are you doing for water this year?” Water and California’s prolonged drought are subjects central to long term well- being for all who live in the Golden State. Seldom has attention been so clearly tuned to our intimate relationship with the cycles of climate and the vast system that delivers rainfall and snowpack to your tap. Drought becomes a moment for social focus and attention with the potential to re-think our relationship to resource use, when that resource seen previously as so abundant becomes constrained by scarcity.
We have built much of California’s abundance on the thinking that basic resources were unlimited. Oil and water are now mixed in the same fishbowl where abundance driven systems and design expectations are demonstrating real limits. From transportation systems, how we designed our cities, to the food systems that have evolved, patterns of consumption are based on a history of plenty and the expectation that the good of the moment and the need to keep an economic engine stoked to the maximum trumps long term thinking. [Read more...]
Summer Time is Yummy Time
One of the things I love most about summer is how simply yet sumptuously we eat without much time devoted to food preparation. In the winter time when it’s cool outside it’s fun to spend long hours over the stove, simmering and slow cooking and taking the time to really bring out flavors, but in the summer, it’s all about letting the freshness and coolness sing. Often all the produce needs is a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of salt. Breakfast this morning was a toasted Acme baguette with fresh mozzarella and sliced New Girl tomatoes, with a bit of salt and basil. It couldn’t have tasted any better! Let me know if you ever need any ideas!
Amon and I love cooking for events in the summer. Above are pan fried padron peppers and zucchini fritters, below are goat cheese and Jimmy Nardello pepper croustinis. [Read more...]
Congratulations to Full Belly farm kid Hannah Muller on her graduation from the University of Oregon with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Anthropology. Hannah has returned to the farm to become our head florist and begin her career as a floral designer! You can visit her beautiful blog – blossombellyfarm.blogspot.com to see her work!
Raising a Family on a Farm
There are several people more qualified than I to talk about raising kids on a farm, but I’ll offer my perspective as a (relatively) new mom. Whenever people find out that we live on a farm with a baby, their immediate reaction is “Wow! Your kid is so lucky! All that open space to run around!” This sentiment is completely true and one of the things I was most looking forward to before my baby was born, but it doesn’t begin to describe the full experience of having kids on a farm. The truth is, there are so many more blessings and challenges to raising kids on a farm than I ever imagined. Rowan is now 22 months old and has really come to love being a farm kid!
I love watching my child interact with our crew and pick up a little Spanish. I love that he is hearing another language on a regular basis. He is so eager to be able to communicate with them. Sometimes in the afternoons we go out and help the flower crew and he will start to spout off all the Spanish words that he knows. “Buenos Dias!” “Caballo!” “Gracias!” He knows that Catalina is always good for a piece of fruit and Isobel keeps crackers and cookies up on the shelf. He has learned many of the crew member’s names, and knows which trucks they drive. He was lucky enough to be offered a ride on the farm’s biggest and newest tractor by Pancho last week, and I think it was the highlight of his year. Our crew has watched many farm children grow up, and I relish watching him delight in the crew and the crew delight in him. It is really fun to see him making so many new friends. [Read more...]
This weekend we welcomed CSA members, their family members, and Full Belly Farm friends to the farm for our annual Open Farm Day. Though temperatures topped out at 105 degrees, we snacked on strawberries, chatted about soil and sheep, and traversed the farm on our covered wagon.
There are periods of the season when we get caught between the ending of one crop cycle and the beginning of another. The end of May and beginning of June is perennially one of these times. We are in the middle of transitioning from spring to summer as we find interesting crops with which to fill your boxes.
Bound by weather and temperature, the slowly disappearing hard C crops –kalecollardscabbagecarrotschard – make their exit from your boxes along with lettuce, other greens and leafy veggies. These will return next October. I think that most of us are about ready to not be missing these veggies and are looking forward to tomatoes, melons and fruits – the full expression of summer. [Read more...]
Our CSA sites need your help to stay tidy. Please help keep these volunteer pick-up locations clean by following a few simple guidelines.
1. Pick up your box only during the hours listed on our web site and sign-in sheet. These are the hours that the host has set. We do not guarantee the boxes past the designated pick-up times. No credit is issued if you arrive late to claim a box, but find none there.
2. Do not leave a mess! Please stack your empty CSA box as show on the bulletin board.
3. Park in designated parking spots. Do not double park and do not block driveways.
4. Direct your questions to Full Belly, not to the host. Please don’t disturb the host.
5. Please notify us five days in advance if you would like to defer your box.
Farmers all over California are weighing their summer water options. Some, for example, on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, will fallow all of their land for lack of water. Others (like Full Belly) have access to groundwater, and will irrigate only higher value crops, and choose to grow less in certain fields or reduce water use later in the season.
In declaring a drought emergency, Governor Brown called out the likely connection between the drought and climate change. I recently asked a friend if the farmers in his neighborhood talked about the drought in those terms and he replied that while they may or may not think about the impact of climate change, what they worry about more is the impact of regulations that will be imposed on agriculture in the name of addressing climate change! [Read more...]
I woke up this morning with a bee in my bonnet. What I mean is, I have a lot of ‘must do today items’ on my brain. It is that time of year, when I spend my dream sleep thinking about loose ends. This begins to describe the tempo of May, as I pen this note on a torn page of loose leaf paper while simultaneously trying to coordinate more than a couple dozen concurrent activities. As I write, the farm moves, or should I say swirls, about me, moving in divergent directions at a pace that demands one to ‘walk fast and look nervous.‘ It is not out of fear that we appear frantic or nervous but out of demand. Nature has set the pace.
The most wondrous part of farming for me is that at certain times of the year the farm takes on a life entirely of its own. It is in those times when it is no longer one’s creation but a teeming, feeding, breeding organism that lives independent of its stewards, at times leaving them in its wake. At this time we merely try to keep it afloat and within bounds. Or maybe we are just hanging on and enjoying the ride. This week feels like a little bit of both. [Read more...]
A Flower Explosion!
Last week was our biggest flower sales week in the history of our farm! Our team of flower harvesters and bunchers made well over 3,500 bouquets of flowers last week – each one unique and beautiful and sent off to brighten someones day. We grow a little under 15 acres of fresh flowers on our farm, all of them are varieties that we love. Right now, we are in the thick of larkspur, godetia, and sunflower harvest. In the next few months, zinnias will begin to pop up everywhere on our farm.
A Love Letter to Farming
Farming has become my religion. Ever since I stumbled onto Full Belly Farm, I haven’t once thought that someday I won’t be farming. It is a lifestyle that suits me marvelously; I feel a tinge of loss and insecurity when I leave the farm for more than a few days. My sense of purpose is grounded in these rich soils, it comes flowing through my fingers as I tug on our milk cow’s teats each morning, it bursts forth from coop doors as our chickens wake to fresh pastures, it squeals with delight as our piglets slurp their mid-day milk and gobble up their beet greens, it is climbing the grand oak trees that protect my home from Cache Creek, every one of them growing tilted South – toward the sun.
What makes me the happiest is my work. After two years as an intern, I was fortunate enough to start this year as an official employee of Full Belly Farm, wholly focusing on our animal program. Last month, Judith gave you a peek at how we manage our animals here at the farm. Well, I’m the one that gets to move those chickens, pigs, and goats all around our farm so the weed-eater can stay in the tool shed! Everything I do is on behalf of the animals. It is amazing, but it is also a lot of work to keep everyone clean, fed, watered, and shaded every single day no matter the circumstances. Of course, I am not alone in this endeavor… [Read more...]
I drove home last Wednesday with 15,000 bees in the back of my Prius. For those of you who have been in a Prius before, you will know there is no separation between the trunk and the rest of the car. Lucky for me, only about 20 of them were outside the confines of their boxes. I turned up the radio and sang to them all the way home. This was as much an attempt to drown out the unnerving buzz coming from the rear of the car as it was to calm them (not that my singing voice has ever calmed anyone, ever). Bees actually take up surprisingly little space, and I probably could have doubled the amount and still been able to fit them all. This will be my second year keeping bees here at Full Belly. I started last year with two hives, and added four more this spring. Bees come in packages of 3,000 bees and one queen. Over the course of a good season, each package should get up to about 10,000 bees. If you can over-winter them and have a good queen, you might even see hive numbers get as high as 40,000.
Before getting my first bees, I read up on how to care for them through the seasons, how to install them, what problems to look for, etc. I watched YouTube videos and talked to everyone I knew about how to care for my bees. No amount of reading will prepare you for actually working with bees. Those YouTube videos are especially misleading. Typically there is a guy in a short-sleeve shirt calmly examining frames and pointing out things that are going on, while bees are landing on his face and arms. This has not been my experience. I have gained enough confidence to ditch my gloves, but my bee veil and a long sleeve shirt? Forget it! I still get a little a nervous when I open up the hives and inches away are thousands of buzzing creatures, with their little eyes all looking up at you. Although all the reading up was certainly not a completely useless endeavor, beekeeping is really best learned by doing. The first time I transferred bees to a hive from a package, it was complete and utter pandemonium. I did it at the wrong time of day, with my 8-month old baby looking on from my husband’s arms about 20 feet away. The YouTube videos had made it seem so easy! So orderly! The baby didn’t get stung, but we were all chased by irate bees. Needless to say I will not be winning any mother of year awards over here. I think in the transfer I may have lost one of the two queens, and the hive replaced her, resulting in one of my hives becoming extremely aggressive. This year I did four hives, and it was so much smoother and less chaotic. Nobody was chased, all my equipment was ready to go, and I was much calmer handling the bees. [Read more...]
Springtime at the Farm
Full Belly Farm is bustling with spring activities. We’ve had plenty of warm weather and within a few days after the last rain, the ground was drying out and the fields were busy. This is the time of year when the cottonwood trees along the creek start cottoning – so billows of the white fluff, full of cottonwood seeds, blow in the air and settle in every corner.
The piglets that were born almost two months ago are now old enough and big enough to cause trouble. They have been living close together in their safe, warm pen across from my house, but yesterday they were given access to the big wide world of green pasture below. This means that they had to learn to respect the electric fence. There have been a lot of squeals coming from various fence-to-nose contacts, and at first, every time there was a squeal, there was a stampede of 11 piglets back to the darkest, farthest corner of their straw-filled pen. Afterwards, the piglets invariably lined up at the door of their pen and gazed anxiously towards the mysterious pasture until one of them would again venture slowly out into the danger zone. Today, after countless run-ins with the fence, they are finally all out eating the green grass and tearing up the soil with their strong snouts. They look very happy. They LOVE their greens, and what better way can you think of to make use of the healthy green grass that grows here in the winter after the rains? [Read more...]