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Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

Cool, wet weather helped usher in February. Rainfall totals near Los Alamos are just over 13.5 inches for the year.

It’s great to see small streams running in some of our hills, something we haven’t seen in quite a while. I don’t want to jinx it, as more rain is forecast for later this month. We will take every drop.

Rainfall this time of year is vitally important for our vines and all area crops. It helps flush the soil of extra salt and stimulates root growth as the soil profile fills with the much-needed moisture.

Frosty mornings followed last week's storms, which I was glad to see as they will help keep our vines in dormancy, a far cry from the warm days of just two weeks ago. The cold weather even brought a dusting of snow to our mountains overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley.

Strong, gusty winds woke me up as they blew in across the area before the first rains began to fall last week. I got up to see if it was raining and watched as the huge oak branches in the trees near our house swayed recklessly back and forth as the wind pushed its way through the old trees. I looked out toward the horse corral and saw all three of our blanketed horses standing with their tails to the wind, waiting for the rain to start. Even the coyotes were quiet that night, probably hunkered down in their dens, waiting for the rain to begin as well.

I made my way back to bed and remembered there would always be a ewe or two that would decide to have their lambs on a stormy night when we were growing up on the ranch near Ballard. When we fed in the morning, we would sometimes find a new lamb and their mother outside of the barn in the rain. I remember going into the corral and picking up the lamb by its front legs, and trying to get the mother to follow me into the barn. A lot easier said than done, as the ewes were not the smartest animals. Eventually, after several tries, the mother would begin to follow and we would make our way into the dry barn.

I woke up early the next morning to the sound of rain falling on the roof. The house was warm and quiet with a few embers glowing red in the living room fireplace. Mom and the kids were sound asleep along with our two dogs and kitties, all curled up on both ends of the sofa. I made coffee and went out to get some wood for the fireplace. I checked on the horses, who were all bunched up under the oak trees in their corral with their blankets still on. I decided to wait a little while to see if the rain would let up before feeding the animals. It was still pretty dark outside.

I threw a few dry logs onto the burning embers in the fireplace and enjoyed a cup of hot coffee while listening to the early morning rain on the roof. A little quiet time before the kids and I headed out for a 4-H livestock seminar in Santa Maria at 8:30.

Enjoy the rain.

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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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