News From the Farm | March 4, 2019

At a time like this, when the weather is in the news, Californians may have a hard time holding their own in a weather conversation with the rest of the country.  I was talking to a friend who lives in Okoboji, Iowa and they have been shoveling snow for the entire month of February.  I think she said that they have 2 feet of snow on the ground at the moment.  They would love it if they had temperatures in the 40s and 50s like we do here…

So in my every-other-week conversations with a group of farm activists mostly from the midwest and eastern states, I always hesitate to bring up California weather, even though it is one of the most active topics of Full Belly Farm discussion, with all the Full Bellies getting their information from at least a few different sources and reporting on it to each other in great detail.  I was surprisingly touched when last week, before our conference call started, someone opened up with “You’ve been seeing a little weather even out there in California, haven’t you…”

Living right on Cache Creek as we do, last week really was an eye opener.  We woke up on Wednesday morning to see fences downed from water racing through, trees toppled over, and the Creek raging and swollen with water and debris.  The Creek both rose and swelled, with its new banks far beyond their normal lines.  There was water flowing fast across fields that normally seem quite remote from the possibility of flooding.  In some places the creek took out large swaths of land along the banks, reducing the size of fields.  In other places, some of that topsoil will be redeposited onto creekside land but the majority of it was washed out to the sea.

It has also been interesting to watch how the creek changes after the height of the flooding.  On the first day after it crested, the water receded quite quickly, but in the days since then, water has been flowing out of the hills on either side, keeping the water level high and the flow impressively fast.

This February has been a pretty incredible month in the Sierra Nevada as well, where a phenomenal amount of snow has fallen over the course of just a few weeks.  Some of the highest peaks in the southern Sierra are nearing record snowfall totals for the month of February (though not, interestingly, for the season to date) and quite a bit more is expected.  This is excellent news for drought-stressed conifers, for California’s reservoirs and for the summer irrigation season.

Watching the weather from the safety of high ground has been an exciting and awe-inspiring experience — it kind of puts us all in our place to watch Cache Creek out of control.  Our hearts go out to folks along the Russian and Napa Rivers where the flooding was much more serious.  And it’s true, now we don’t have to be quite as shy when we’re in those weather conversations with the snow-packed easterners.

—Judith Redmond