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I  think we are all familiar with the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Those words certainly rang true last week as we experienced the hottest days on record for the end of September.

Grape growers along the Central Coast were hoping for some warm weather to help ripen their fruit. Boy, did we get it.

Temperatures during the weekend of Sept. 25 hovered around 108, cooling at night to around 85. Growers applied water to their vines, hoping the fruit that was acclimated to the high 70s did not burn in the blistering heat.

Outside leaves looked as though they had been placed in an oven, turning from bright green to a pale lime green, especially in rows facing north and south. They were baked in the morning sun and finished off in the afternoon.

Thankfully, most of the fruit remained in good shape, as the heat spell finally broke last week.

We always get a few days of warm weather during the early fall, our Indian summer, and it usually gets winemakers moving, realizing the time has really come to start picking the fruit they have contracted for the season.

It’s a frantic pace for a week or two, and then things calm down and we finish picking the remaining fruit at a less hectic pace.

The next joker in the deck is early rain. Last Thursday, we were reminded by the bright lightning filling the skies as a tropical low passed through our area to bring a few showers and a great night show.

Luck was with us, as the clouds only dropped a few showers and the sky cleared by the next afternoon.

Both Kathleen and Clayton enjoyed watching the night sky light up, as great bolts of lightning streaked across, illuminating the hills east of our house.

The kids thought that was great — as long as Dad was standing next to them right outside our front door. The lightning was far enough away that we did not hear any thunder.

The next morning, I found the ground wet and a light mist falling from the sky around 6 a.m.

As I made my way down to the block we were scheduled to pick, I noticed a big, black pig followed by a smaller gray pig and several others that weighed around 50 pounds.

They were headed down through the rows of chardonnay toward Highway 101, where they were probably going to go through a drainage pipe under the freeway and head for the hills to the south.

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Harvest is now in full swing. Clayton and Kathleen took turns riding on the harvesters for the first time this season last Sunday evening.

They accompanied me every night this week, along with Mom, before they went to bed — as long as their homework was done.

The harvesters are a great incentive for getting the kids to get their chores and homework done. Too bad more parents can’t take advantage of that kind of incentive.

I hope the excessive hot weather and early rains stay away for three or four weeks. It would be nice to enjoy classic fall days, with temperatures in the high 70s and lows in the mid-40s.

But I have been farming long enough to know that probably won’t happen, especially this year.


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