Sunny Slope Orchard

Sunny Slope Orchard
In the coast range foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ready for a long dry summer

Stripped of its fruit crop, this apricot tree puts all its energy into foliage
The deed is done. For the first time ever, we have taken the green fruit off the trees and will have no stone fruit crop to sell this year. We chose to favor the health of the trees over our desire for a bountiful harvest. And, right now, the trees are looking good; so we are satisfied that we made the right decision.

Since the long term forecasts indicate that droughts here will be increasingly common, we also took a hard look at all the plantings on our parcel and did some tree removal too. Some of our Santa Rosa plum trees were in bad shape, damaged relentlessly by aphids and stink bugs; so they yielded gracefully to the chain saw. Also seven black walnut trees are now neatly cut and stacked up as firewood. We will not miss the thousands of black walnuts that had to be picked up and disposed of each year. And those “weed” trees will no longer compete with our fruit trees for nutrition and water.  And while the chain saw was close at hand, the oak trees we have planted got a major pruning. Between that work and the regular mowing of the orchard floor, our place now looks tidy and well-groomed.

So we are as prepared as we can be for the long dry summer. In the years ahead, we will gradually increase our water storage capacity and fine tune our systems to use every drop to best advantage.

The hills are well on their way to summer's dry and golden look
Spring is winding down now, but the wildflowers have been a delight this year. Overall, there were fewer than usual, but scarcity made each survivor more welcome. At Easter we took our annual walk on the ridge to the north of us and captured the photos below.

Owl's clover and miniature lupine grace a March hillside


Diogenes Lantern likes secluded shady areas

An Anise swallowtail butterfly sips nectar from Brodiaea flowers

A Monarch butterfly caterpillar dines on milkweed leaves

And, last year there was a huge fire up by Lake Berryessa which burned thousands of acres. But the lupine and poppies signaled their intention to live on with this extravagant display of color.

Huge carpets of poppies and lupine dominated the roadsides of
Putah Creek Canyon, stimulated by last summer's fire