The warm days of Indian summer continue to linger even though the calendar says summer was officially over last month.

We are in to that time of year when our daytime temperatures reach the 90-degree mark, while the early mornings are cool and crisp.

First thing in the morning I get up to find the house cold after leaving the windows open throughout the night. Sometimes I turn the heater on to take the chill off before mom and the kids get out of bed. By noontime, if I come home for lunch, I switch the thermostat back to cool so the air conditioner can cool the house down in the afternoon, which is probably not very energy efficient.

Our fall work has begun on the vineyard as we transition from our growing season to post-harvest activities. Fall and winter weeds are beginning to emerge, thanks in part to the inch of rain we received six weeks ago. Some areas we have to apply a burn-down herbicide, which helps keep the mice and other critters form gnawing on the trunks of our grapevines. If the mice don’t have any weeds to hide in, the owls around the vineyard have an easier time picking them off at night.

Our tractor drivers and irrigators are busy replacing sprinkler heads that were removed for harvest. We remove all the overhead sprinklers from the blocks we mechanically pick. The machines can shake the metal sprinklers off and they can end up in a load of grapes, which could cause huge problems for a grape press or other equipment at the winery.

We have been applying fertilizer through our drip-irrigation systems so we can take advantage of the fall root flush. This time of year, many plants send out new roots that will take up nutrients for the plant to store through the winter months when they are dormant. After the fertilizer is applied a small crew will go through each block and open every drip line and flush the lines so they are clean and ready for next season. Hopefully we get some nice rainfall soon, and we won’t have to irrigate over the next few months.

The last job for the fall will be to cultivate and plant a cover crop in select blocks throughout the vineyard. We try and replant every other row on a rotational schedule annually. Sometimes we have to go in and replant the barley in a block that has been hit hard by wild pigs or badgers, making it hard on our equipment and crews to get through.

This time of year, folks will almost always tell me now that harvest is over, you can relax for the rest of the year. While the pace of work has slowed down from harvest for me, there is always plenty to do. I’m not sure there is a slow time for any farmer or rancher in today’s agriculture.

Last week our nation celebrated National Farmers Day. I’m not sure I saw it mentioned on any newscasts, which are too busy reporting on the important things going on in Hollywood and Washington. It’s hard to imagine not having access to the abundance of fresh meat, fruits and vegetables we are so blessed to be able to purchase at any given time locally.

During this special harvest time of year, let’s remember the vital role our local farmers and ranchers play in keeping Santa Barbra County the special place it is to live, work and raise our families.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com

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