And then winter returned

Just over a week ago, in commemoration of half a year of blogging here at fruits.laderafrutal.com,
I was ready to give up on winter. Then this morning we were treated to its return!

Frosty Feby 20, 2006

No, those aren’t patches of snow under those deciduous trees just outside the corralito, but there was a pretty good frost this morning, and even as late as 8:00, the areas shaded by the grapefruit trees still were frosty.

I had feared we’d never get to 500 chill hours, which is the minimum required by many of our deciduous fruit trees. Chilling, by my estimate, had reached about 406 on Feby. 7, and then came the big warm up. In fact, for about a week we had classic southern California fire weather.

After the Feby 9 fire, south wall, Moosa Canyon

Not only fire weather, with the high temperatue breaking 80 six times in a nine-day span (and reaching 90 twice), with low relative humidities in the single digits, but an actual fire. The photo above is taken about a week after a fire on the canyon wall opposite the house. I was not here when the fire occurred, and did not even notice it till my grove worker pointed it out days later. But that’s a scar on the canyon wall that will be there a while. (At the bottom of the canyon is, or was, a small seasonal lake in the creekbed that the fire-fighting helicopters nearly drain whenever there is a fire in the area. It is quite an operation to watch. Yes, SD County finally invested in fire-fighting helicopters after the disastrous fires of October, 2003.)

So, about that chill. Even after a week of fire weather, we’re back up to 460 hours, having bottomed out at 389 during the warm spell. We had not had a day all winter long when the daytime temperature peaked before reaching 60, and now we have had two in a row, with another likely today. (Highs below 60 are not very common here, but most winters we have a few such days in late December or in January.)

With a week of cold nights and moderately warm days forecast, we might yet break 500 hours! And, despite a few blooms here and there, most of the higher-chill varieties appear to have remained dormant. (In warm spells late in the winter, even trees that have not met their chilling requirement sometimes send out a few blooms, as if to say “we think it might be spring,” but if they start pushing out leaf buds before the chill has been avhieved, they will not bloom well and thus may have little or no fruit. Several trees with chill requirements estimated at 5-600 hours have had a bloom or two since the first few days of this month.)

The low chill stuff is all a-bloom by now, and you can see the Tropic Snow peach in the second photo: Just look for the profusion of pink just above the white fence on the slope. By now, it is past full bloom. Still holding out hope for the stuff down at the corralito.