I always think of August as the last month of the summer because when we were going to school, you knew your vacation was coming to a quick end. It’s even quicker these days, as our kids, Kathleen and Clayton, start school on the 23rd of this month.
With very few warm days over the past two months, it hasn’t really felt like summer. It will probably get hot during the last part of this month, and then we’ll have a hot Indian summer as we harvest grapes through October.
We continue to have our usual foggy mornings and evenings.
Last week, I was driving home from a Farm Bureau board meeting around 8:30 at night and I noticed a faint orange glow in the western sky, with the coastal fog creeping underneath, as if it were sneaking into the Los Alamos Valley.
I watched as the first wisps of fog eerily made their way through a stand of eucalyptus trees on the hills overlooking the historic De la Guerra adobe, where it was rumored that the infamous bandito Solomon Pico hid from his adversaries.
The adobe and the hills above it were once part of Rancho Los Alamos, which was granted to Jose Antonio de la Guerra in 1839 and is now the home of Carson Scheller and his family.
There was very little traffic on Highway 101 that night. It reminded me of how the traffic used to be when I first started driving, back in 1972.
As I turned off the freeway and entered the vineyard, my lights caught a few jackrabbits darting across the gravel road as I made my way toward the house.
Once in a while, a couple of wild pigs or a doe with a couple of fawns might dart out in front of us. When we come into the ranch at night, we never know what we might see.
As I got out of my pickup the other night, I could hear the faint cry of a coyote off in the distance.
I knew it would be just a matter of time until we would hear the louder yelps of a pack of coyotes as they made their way closer to our house. Then Clayton would be coming to let me know they were out there.
Sometimes a couple of coyotes will get too brave and get close to the house, either looking for a chicken dinner near our hen house or trying to bait our dogs into chasing them.
Most of the time, our big outside lights will scare them away; but if that doesn’t work, my .30-30 will usually chase them away for good, and their friends get the hint.
I much prefer the sound of our quail, calling out early in the morning and later in the day. The brush-covered hills nearby are home to two or three coveys.
The chi-CA-go call of the valley quail is undeniable, along with the clucking sound they make when they are frightened and hiding in dense brush.
Many times I can hear their faint clucking as they roost in the oak trees close to our house as night approaches.
We have had at least two broods of new quail this year, with the tiny babies walking behind their parents along the brush line, learning to forage on their own.
Sometimes early in the morning I will be out and make myself stop and watch as the mother quail leads her babies from the protection of the brush-covered hill, down across the road and into the vineyard, followed by dad with his beautiful plume bent forward on his head.
Those few minutes help make my day better. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is president of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a board member for the Central Coast Wine Growers’ Association Foundation. He can be reached at Kmerrill@mesavineyard.com.