When creeks rise in southern California, dry beds become turbulent torrents.
We put together a little video to show how storm flows look in the East End of Ojai.
Nikos, born in the drought, gets his first glimpse of Ojai’s waterways in full flood.
The Ojai Valley is 100% reliant on what falls from the sky. Some folks have wells, many of us rely on the Bureau of Reclamation dam that created Lake Casitas. Either way, whether aquifer or the lake, the sources of pumpable supply have gotten dangerously low since 2005, having dipped to 29% of capacity at Lake Casitas immediately before the rains.
At Churchill Orchard, the rain fills us with contradictory emotions. We need the water, and it is truly thrilling to experience the rains. Also we have many tons of mulch on the ground and the orchard is covered with what we call “resident vegetation” (outsiders call it weeds!), so we gloat (just a little) about having very little run-off.
On the other hand, the rains are falling in the middle of kishu season, when we need to harvest the little kishu tangerines and manage our harvest volume to give ourselves the 5-6 week season we need to supply mail order, the farmers market, and wholesale.
Climatologists have been saying that average rainfall taken over a number of years is likely to remain roughly the same in southern California as it was before climate change – say, about 14″ per year in the Ojai Valley – but that the rain will come in fewer, more intense storms. And here we are: the current set of storms, while causing grief in many areas of California, including the Ojai Valley, is performing the incredibly useful service of filling up the aquifers and the creeks which are the sources of Ojai’s water.
Standard practice is to get the fruit off before the rains. Standard practice is to harvest the entire orchard in one go, then pack it and move it out. Our business model is different – we wait until the fruit is fully ripe, then we pick over the course of weeks, and pack to order.
You can’t send crews out to harvest soaking trees – getting soaked from picking is awful for the harvest crews. Also, we can’t pack wet fruit.
So we take measures: we cover the trees as best we can, to provide pickable trees in the intervals between storms.
When we do have wet fruit, which we inevitably do, we store it in the barn and run fans to dry the fruit out.
Bon appetit! We hope to be able to serve you.