Thursday, 4 August 2016

2016 to date

2015 ended with warm and wet weather, resulting in our hottest year to date, with the annual mean at 16.67ÂșC. This is the third year in a row that temperatures have beaten the previous annual high. Despite the wet end to the year we also recorded our lowest rainfall at 492mm, which included 148mm in the last few weeks of the year. As I have previously mentioned, yearly distribution is as important as annual total, sometimes more so. Both mild and wet conditions continued into 2016, and we went through the whole winter without experiencing a temperature below freezing point. By early May we had passed last year’s total rainfall.

Temperatures fell below recent years’ ones in April, and the annual mean is below the last two years as of the end of July. We also had a fall of rain measuring 26mm on 6th July with a very prolonged bout of thunder and lightning. We have never measured more than 16mm for the whole of July before, and some years none at all. After last year’s watering problems I am very pleased to be switching on pumps rather than having to fill my boom spray tank and then go and hand water the trees as I did last summer. I expect to run short very soon, but the olives will manage until the autumn rains.

Unfortunately there was rather too much rain when the trees were in bloom and pollination was not as good as I had hoped for. Nevertheless, the trees are almost all young and many have a reasonable crop for their age. There are a few trees with no crop at all. I will only know for sure how things turn out when the harvest is weighed and sold. This wet weather had a devastating effect on people growing top fruits – apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, etc. and whole crops were lost in many cases. I do not have a single peach on any of my trees or any apricots either. Only one tree is bearing apples, and I have a single pear and a single plum. Grapes also appear to have suffered badly with very little fruit set. Fortunately all these fruits are just for our own use, but I do feel sorry for those growers who rely on them for an income. All farming is the same I suppose – extremely weather dependent.

I did have a good crop of hay on the few acres I cut. So good in fact that I am desperate for space. The crop, two small fields, was double the average yield of other years. I do not have any bale collectors or pick-up equipment so I have to pick up individual bales by hand and then stack by hand. I carry 11 bales at a time in the link box and 642 bales meant quite a few journeys to the field and back to the shed. It was hot work, especially when I was stacking close to the roof, but Patrick came and helped me with the last hundred or so because rain was forecast - and it did happen. He more than earned his couple of beers after we finished. Without him it would have got wet. It would have dried again, but also been just another unnecessary little hassle. Everybody needs good neighbours.

The major project for this year is planting almond trees and I have ordered 850 for early October delivery. Hopefully I will be able to plant them all before the olive harvest begins towards the end of that month. There is a lot of work in getting the land ready for them – they will be planted on raised berms and I do not have a machine to form them, so some experimentation with Patrick’s mouldboard plough has resulted in quite effective berms once I sussed out how many furrows to plough and in which direction so as to maximise the finished height.

I am also reclaiming a few hundred square metres of land that has never been cultivated before, and that means moving a lot of stones and earth. Again no machinery to automate the job, so hand stone picking and using the tractor link box as a mini-bulldozer is doing the trick. It is not yet finished, but will be by the time I need to plant trees on it.