The colors of the walnut trees that line the mile-long driveway of Hugh Baber Lane have turned from greens to oranges to now leafless branches. With seasonal changes come changes in the field. As the nights come earlier and the sunlight fades faster, Rancho Llano Seco prepares for the next planting season.
In October we harvested two varieties of walnuts: Chandler and Howard. All the vine seed, planted in May and June, was harvested between September and October including watermelon, pumpkins, cucumbers and butternut squash. "Vine seed" is exactly what is sounds like - a crop whose primary product is the seed rather than the fruit of the plant. The way in which the Rancho harvests for vine seed is distinctive. We harvest only for the seed, and thus the outer rind and insides of the vegetables are left behind in the field to become replenishing, nutrient-dense compost for the next crop.
Vine seed crop rows are planted on a drop tape irrigation system for maximum water efficiency. Buried 12 - 14 inches into the ground, drip tape hoses have tiny holes every 16 inches that emit water. Crop fields are rotated every season to facilitate weed and disease issues. For example, the Morehead field held watermelon, cucumber and squash this year and in 2017 will be used for tomatoes.
We harvested 9,300 pounds of organic rice that we grew for our well-respected fellow land stewards Lundberg, a record volume.
Fall harvest is officially over and winter planting has begun. Rain has brought life to the fields along Ord Ferry Road and green tops of young barley and wheat sprouts poke through the mud. The winter wheat will transform into our ancient grain and flour products and the barley will be feed for our pigs.
We welcomed 142 new mama cows and 12 bulls to the herd. The habitual seasonal movement of the herd has cattle now relocated off-site up to "The Rocks," 5,000 acres of winter grazing ground. This movement allows the land around Burnham Camp, our main grazing field at the Rancho, to replenish and regrow for spring.