Warm, dry days and cold nights continue to dominate the weather along the Central Coast. I don’t remember too many Decembers like this.

The smoke-filled air from the massive fires down south even kept the sun hidden for a few days, casting an eerie light across North County. But nothing compared to the folks down south in the fire's path who lost so much. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them, especially this time of year.

Hopefully, we begin to get some gentle rains soon. Some forecasts indicate January could be a wet month, but time will tell.

The green grass that started to grow after an early fall rain is all but gone. Cows and their calves are spread out over the hills looking for anything to graze on. Mostly they are congregating in areas where ranchers are feeding hay, daily now.

I have been waiting to irrigate our vineyards, hoping our dry weather will come to an end soon and those rains predicted to fall in January will begin to fill the soil profile. I remain optimistic.

We took a little break from the vineyard earlier this month and traveled to Las Vegas with some friends to enjoy the National Finals Rodeo along with Cowboy Christmas. The kids follow the rodeo scene all year long and know who all the barrel racers, bull riders and ropers are. We were able to get tickets for the opening night performance and it is easy to get swept up in the excitement of the evening.

They do a great job of utilizing shuttle buses from around town to transport rodeo fans to the Thomas & Mack Center at the university, where the finals are held every year. We catch the shuttle bus at the MGM Grand along with rodeo fans from all across the country for the short, but sometimes long ride depending on traffic over to the event.

I’m not sure who oversees coordinating all the buses, but they do great job of moving a lot of people to and from the event.

It’s always fun to watch Las Vegas be transformed into a cowboy town over the 10 days the rodeo is going. Sometimes you can watch a sea of cowboy hats make their way through a casino and out onto the brightly-lit strip, especially at night. It’s easy to tell the folks who become cowboys for 10 days from the ranchers and cattlemen who live the life day in and day out.

A big part of our trip is shopping at Cowboy Christmas, where my daughter Kathleen and her friend Xochil Guzman take full advantage of shopping at three convention centers full of everything western. From saddles and tack to western wear, beautiful, shiny new horse trailers, sporting goods, furniture and more.

I think the first day of shopping with the girls I walked eight miles in the convention center alone. The boys, our son Clayton and his friend Carlos, also do their fair share of shopping. They all use a portion of the money they earned from selling their animals at the Fair, thank goodness.

I think the girls start planning their next trip to the NFR and shopping the day we leave Las Vegas for home. I think the dates are already in my calendar. It’s a great family time.

The Merrills wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas, along with a hopefully wet New Year.

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@mesavineayrd.vom