News from the Farm | February 10, 2014

I woke up today feeling like a kid again. I slid on my boots, swooped up baby Rowan, and went out in search of the biggest puddle we could find to splish-splash around in. Then we ran down to the creek together to see if the water level rose. These are all things I would do every time it rained when I was kid – and I have to admit it still gets me going today. Both Rowan and I agreed that we had had our first good rain.

After fifty-two consecutive days without a drop falling from the sky, precipitation has finally blessed us. All of our rain dances on the farm, the prayers before bed, and the longing for those rainy days inside; it’s finally upon us. Living here my whole life, I can tell you there is nothing like being on the farm in the rain. The farm erupts in a song; the farmers all yip for their first half day of work, the worms all pop their heads out, the blackbirds cry from the willow trees and the plants sing out with happiness. I can’t help but smile walking through the rain as the song rings in my ears and I feel the drops on my face. Amidst the driest winter ever recorded, the farmers who have been growing more and more worried can at least sleep tonight listening to the chorus of rain singing on the tin roof. 

This time of year, the hills in the Capay Valley have usually undergone their transformation from brown to green and fattened cows graze them happily. At the farm I am used to getting some vehicle stuck in the mud and wading my way through knee-high cover crops. This year however, during those seventy-eight degree January days, most of us here at Full Belly were out irrigating and working the fields; a time usually spent refueling our bodies for another fruitful year. Until now, this year has felt like one long extension of last year’s season, and frankly, we were all getting a little tired of it. With this rain, we are nursing back those brown hills and cover crops that have struggled for months just to work their way out of the parched soil.  So with the coming of this storm here at Full Belly, a sigh can be heard coming from all the farmers. Although we know we are far from being in the clear, this weather has been a great step in the right direction.

Rowan and Rye enjoying the wintery weather. We received over three and a half inches of rain here at the farm. Hooray! 

As we count our blessings during this storm and cross our fingers for more rain, I like to think of positive things that have come from such a dry year. People all over California are beginning to see the value of a resource that has continuously been taken for granted and mismanaged. Sometimes it takes a disaster, or near disaster, to open our eyes to such issues. As a result, cities, businesses and individuals are starting to think of ways to conserve and use water more efficiently.
Here at the farm, we have been creating new methods to make our water go further and we’ve become much more thoughtful in how we use it. The convenience and availability of water in California has made us all a little lazy when it comes to conservation. It seems that the easy alternative and old cultural practices are what we have settled for when we all know there is much more that we could be doing. So take the rain with a grain of salt, and let’s continue to make the leap towards a water-smart community that is conscious of the fact that we are here to share this resource with many beings beyond just ourselves.

As we look forward to this coming season, there are already jaw-dropping consequences of the drought. An estimated 700,000 acres of California agricultural land will not be planted this year. The season has also been extremely hard on all the wildlife in California, especially on the bears and fish. A bear without its snow in the winter is like a farmer without rain in his fields. The difficulties for us, however, mostly lie ahead. We can’t predict the weather. This year we will have to adapt to situations as they come and do our best now to prepare for the future. When I get to talk with you all and with other friends of Full Belly, I am so grateful to know that through whatever may lie ahead this year, we will be supported. So keep doing your rain dances, keep saying those rain prayers, and for today, sit inside, bundle up, and be thankful for the rain that came our way.

— Rye Muller