While autumn is my favorite season, it always seems a bit chancy to me. Since we rely on the grass that rainfall and Mother Nature grow in our Mediterranean climate, fall is a critical season. We need rain to start the grass; we need more rain to keep the grass growing. Having come through our once-in-a-lifetime drought (2013-2014) - or so I thought - an autumn season like the one we're experiencing now makes me nervous.
During the first week of October, we measured 1.5 inches of rain over the course of two days here in Auburn. While some ranches nearby measured next to nothing, we saw newly sprouted green grass about a week later. But since that time, it's been dry. We've even had several periods of high fire danger (a combination of high winds, low humidity, and relatively high temperatures). Since that time, the newly sprouted grass has withered.
One of my favorite weather blogs is Weather West, written by a guy named Daniel Swain. During the big drought, Swain coined the term "ridiculously resilient ridge" for the persistent ridge of high pressure resulting from unusually warm water in the eastern Pacific. This ridge deflected the storms that usually bring rainfall to central and northern California during the 2013-2014 drought. And according to Swain, it's back. Since our wonderful early October rain, the ridiculously resilient ridge is again blocking storms.
We're entering the third trimester of our autumn season. November typically brings stormy weather - and yet there are no storms in our 10-day forecast at the moment (indeed, we'll have another fire weather watch later this week). I suppose it's a sign of my weather obsession, but I check each of the weather apps on my smart phone 3-4 times a day. A predicted storm (even 10 days out) raises my spirits; I tumble back to earth when it disappears from the forecast.
We're not in crisis mode yet. Our production calendar is set with the possibility of a dry fall in mind. We save dry grass to graze this time of year. We plan to lamb in late winter and early spring when we'll almost certainly have green grass. And yet my experience in 2013-2014 - when we sold nearly half of our sheep - still haunts me.
Several weeks ago, my youngest daughter said, "I hope it rains soon - I don't want to listen to you worry." I do worry - I imagine all stock-people do when the rain doesn't come. Even so, having made it through California's last drought, I feel like I'm better prepared. Despite my preparations, though, I agree with Emma. I hope it rains soon.
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