Thursday, March 5, 2015

Silent Spring? Try, a too-early Spring for California. Also, a quick update on the leather work.

What with climate change and a drought, Spring sprung in California in early January.  However, that just means that the time between January and April is fraught with chaos: we may get no rain, and highs into the 70's for a couple of weeks, to be replaced, overnight, by three days of precipitation in which we get 5 inches of rain; or, we may instead get visited by a cold snap into the 20's for ten straight days.  Of course, we could get days and days of deep, thick fog.  Or a wind that blows everything dry as toast and lights Southern California ablaze...

It means that planting times really don't change all that much due to the weirdness of the jet stream and pressure ridges.  Just don't talk yourself into a false sense of security about an earlier planting time.

But they do change due to a warming climate.

This graph from the US Environmental Protection Agency, for example, shows that the average length of the growing season in the U.S. has increased by nearly two weeks during the 20th Century.  And this animation by the Arbor Day Foundation shows the shift in hardiness zones in the U.S. in one decade.

The California portion of that map just barely covers it, since California has so many climate zones and microclimates.  It is interesting to note the creep of hardiness zone ten inland from the coast... also, keep in mind that California is in a drought now approaching four years long, and well past the data of that hardiness zone map.

For our region, it means watching our plants bloom and leaf early, and then hope for enough water while dreading the dramatic shifts in temperature that tend to come with our precipitation.  You see, the lion's share of California's water is supposed to arrive in the form of snow blanketing the Sierra Nevada (which is right now at about 25% of its average for snowpack, a terrible irony if you look up the meaning of its name). But, blooming fruit trees are especially susceptible to damage from hail and freezing.

If we only get our precipitation from what people are now calling "atmospheric rivers", but what we used to call pineapple expresses, we get a LOT of rain, but warmer rain.  In a typical year, that could mean a really bad rain-on-snow event, leading to flooding.  However, with no snow, at this time we are hoping for just about anything.

Sadly, the warmer weather also brings out the nasties -- in our case, mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.  Yea.  Even worse, a longer hot season will mean more West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes, which is only a small trouble for people, but may potentially lead to the extinction of our endemic yellow-billed magpie, as well as wreak havoc on multiple other avian species.

As I type this, I'm watching one picking up sticks for its nests.  They have two in the walnut tree from last year, masses of twigs about 2-3 ft. in diameter.

Updates around the grounds:  Our walnut has a slight case of mistletoe, and I am contemplating just what to do with it.

Our pomegranate, fig, and boysenberry, and my wife's japanese maple (that I feared had died) are all budding and leafing.  I'm tempted to try to plant cuttings of the fig and pomegranate to make hedges (if anybody has any advice, let me know).

As for the leather shop, I've picked up another customer -- my brother in-law, who has commissioned a belt.  Having never made a belt, I looked up "custom tooled leather belts" and, after taking recovering from the shock of seeing how much people are willing to pay to hold up their pants, I decided to only charge this one, being an experiment, for materials and the cost of one new tool (an adjustable groover).
I can feel the possibilities in it, including the possibility that I will royally screw it up.

I also banged out another arm guard, this one a birthday present for a good friend, Mr. Jung.  It was really nice to get a sense of the speed I've picked up, having cut arm guards for two other clients (one of which I haven't yet delivered, due to my shipment being drawn on by a four year-old).  Mr. Jung has a great story, having just recently reunited with his family in South Korea after having been adopted as a baby.

The Jungs can take some really nice pictures.


Hippo said...

That was an interesting post. I always think of California as a green temperate land with rich soil and gentle rain where so much fruit is grown and wine made. I guess, reading this, it isn't all clover.

I am always banging on about how dry it is here, this last month it has rained a lot, more rain than we have had in years.

Josh said...

Hippo, "temperate" is always negotiable. If you look at our averages, we are, indeed, temperate. But, in much of our State, we vary in highs and lows by quite a bit. For example, last year's high for Sacramento was 105F, and our low 32F; in 2013, they were 104F and 19F.

We also vary quite a bit because of our varied climates. California has five climate zones (desert, steppe, highland, cool interior and mediterranean), more than all other states, and we go from 282 ft below sea level to 14,500 ft.

Large enough swaths of land allow for quite a bit of fruit and wine, for sure (most of it either reclaimed land from lake beds and wetlands, and more made fertile by irrigation and fertilization). However, our current drought looks to put quite a squeeze on our agricultural production.