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Kevin Merrill: A walk down memory lane, enjoying the spring weather
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On the Farm

Kevin Merrill: A walk down memory lane, enjoying the spring weather

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Kevin Merrill: Graduating into a different future

Kevin Merrill

Every year during this time our grapevines grow through a phase we call spring fever. Our vines rely on warm weather to produce the dark green colored leaves we are all accustomed to during the summertime growing season.

When we have a cool spring, the leaves take on a more yellowish tint until it warms up. As a grower, the temptation during this time is to apply some nitrogen fertilizer to wake up the vines, which is not the thing to do. We just have to be patient and let Mother Nature come around with some warm weather and within a week the vines begin to take on their nice green color.

We had those nice warm days last week with temperatures climbing into the mid-80s near Los Alamos and Santa Ynez. It looks like the weatherman is calling for warmer days during the first week of May, which will be good for our vines and get them growing as we approach bloom time. It looks like the threat of frost is behind us, but I don’t want to jinx anything, as it can get cold in May as well.

Last Saturday my wife Karen was scheduled to go down to Solvang to do some bookkeeping for my friend David Rasmussen at his family store in Solvang. Our kids and I decided to join her and go out for breakfast before she went to work. On our way down we drove past Dittmar’s apple orchard on Alamo Pintado Road where the trees were showing off their springtime blossoms, it was shaping up to be a beautiful morning in the Valley.

I thought Solvang would be pretty busy with tourists, so we headed down to the Alisal River Grill for breakfast. It was still early enough that most of the folks visiting Solvang were not out yet. After enjoying a great breakfast, we headed back into Solvang and dropped mom off at Rasmussen’s and Kathleen and I decided to take a trip down memory lane and visit the fields near town where we used to raise alfalfa and oat hay on the old Duff ranch.

I have a beautiful color photo hanging in my office taken by my dad of me driving a swather on Duff Mesa cutting a big crop of oat hay, probably back in 1973 or so. Now that field is covered in upscale homes and Kathleen and I drove through the neighborhood where I once farmed, no more oat hay.

I remember it getting pretty dusty when we were working the ground before planting and I recounted the time Mr. Hansen who lived right across the street came out of his house waving a broom at me as I was driving the tractor. I stopped and he let me know in no uncertain terms that he did not appreciate all the dust. I told him I was sorry but kept on discing. Today I am sure I would have had to stop and wait for the wind to blow to the east and away from the houses and nearby motels.

As Kathleen and I stopped to exit onto Alisal Road, we looked down at the dry riverbed and the oak covered hills of the Alisal Ranch to the south. I told her about the flood of 1969, when the Santa Ynez River ran bank to bank. We sure could have used some of the rainfall this year. We ended our trip down memory lane by picking up mom and stopping at my friend Carl Birkholm’s bakery, where we bought a Kringle to enjoy on Sunday morning.

I hope you can get out and enjoy the beautiful springtime weather, before our hillsides give up the last of their green grasses for the year.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at


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