Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spring is an iffy proposition!

Do you see the mountain in the distance? No? Well, that is because spring mornings in the valley can be very smoggy indeed. Spring! The season when it starts to get warmer. Buds form on the trees and vines.
And then the temperature dips again.
Farmers around here use three main methods to warm things up so that enough of the buds survive. No buds means no fruit. No fruit means no income. Heating orchards and vineyards is serious business.
One method that is used is overhead sprinklers. (This is not the best example as I got out a bit late to take it and any of the ice on the upper part of the tree had already melted away. I will replace it if I get a better one.) The ice coating that forms on the tender new growth and buds from the overhead sprinkler provides a layer of insulation against the even colder air temperatures that could damage the plants.
Smudge pots. I see these out in the orchards, but I haven't seen them used much in recent years. This is the oldest technology for orchard heating. My dad used smudge pots to protect his orange groves in the San Gabriel Valley of California in the thirties.
Wind machines. The wind machine pulls warmer air from above to replace the colder air that sinks to the ground level, providing protection for the orchard. We can tell if it has been a cold night if we wake up to the sound of the wind machines in the neighborhood.

The smoky haze in the first picture comes from the exhaust from the gasoline or diesel motors of the wind machines and from any smudge pots that are in use. I have learned since yesterday that most of the wind machines in the valley are run by propane. Dealers are running short on the supply of propane. It was cold enough to heat the orchards again last night. This afternoon I walked without a jacket.
The farmers are between a rock and a hard place. If they don't heat their orchards, they have no crop. But with the cost of oil going up and the temperatures of a cold cold spring, the expense of producing the crop is enormous.
Around here we are ready for spring to get serious.


Paulie said...

. . . and the price will go up in the markets too!

Lilli & Nevada said...

This is a very good post with good information, i always thought it weird when they turned the sprinklers on and it froze, but it is so pretty to see. I love to go out in the farms and see the sprinklers have been on makes for pretty ice sculptures.

Suburbia said...

Hi Katney, thanks for visiting me! This is such an interesting post, I've never heard of this method before, it makes good pictures though! However what about global warming?!

Kim said...

Wow, you learn something new every day. Thanks for the information.

Inland Empire Girl said...

Your pictures look close to where I just was around Chelan, Manson, and Cashmere. Lots of orchard workers out pruning.