Sea of blue and ice

From the hottest summer on record to the coldest winter, California is under a state of emergency due to an Arctic blast of cold air. Growers are expected to loose billions of dollars in crops such as avocados, citrus, strawberriesand lettuce.

Even though we weren’t up all night like those farmers in the Central Valley, we urban farmers still feel solidarity with them and didn’t sleep too well last night – you could feel the icy cold creeping into bed with you. We can understand what emotions and struggle they are undergoing; however, ours is on a slightly smaller scale. For us this deep freeze will set us back a few weeks or month or two; however for those in the Central Valley, it might be years before they recover. It’s the worst hard freeze we’ve had in over a decade.

Nature is showing us who’s boss.

Winter blast breaks Calif. record {LATimes}

In an all-night battle marked by bone-chilling cold, citrus growers focus on keeping their trees alive.
read more

You know it’s going to be a bone chilling night when at 6pm it’s already hit the freezing point of 32 degrees. By 10 pm the thermometer read 20 – not good, not good at all. One night of such bitter cold temperatures we can take, but three – this spells disaster and crop loss. We took as many preventive measures as we could to save our crops – row covers, plastic, tarps – anything we could find to add a bit of protection to the plants.   The backyard is covered in a sea of blue tarps. It helped a little, but we may have lost all our perennial African Blue Basil.   The crops under the plastic still got iced and we are having to hose them down with water to prevent further damage. Some of the tips of the tender tropicals got hit badly and areblackened.

It’s a huge setback. On Monday, we’ll have to call our clients and let them know that we won’t have anything to sell them at least for one week and perhaps two. That means no income for us, so we are praying that the garden has a speedy recovery. Such is to be expected when you make your living from and depend on the land.

On our newDerVaes Gardens site we had to post this message:

We have been severely affected by the winter blast blanketing Southern California. Several nights of hard freeze have ruined a great percentage of our crops and we will not be able to offer any produce for sale. The extent of damage remains to be seen – whether we have lost our trees and plants – but it will be several months before we recover enough to offer some produce to the public again. In addition, we will not be able to sell any eggs (duck and chicken) due to the stress of cold weather affecting our poultry.

Saying Goodbye

Bad as it may sound, we can recover from this deep freeze, but it will take awhile. Sadly the cold was too much for little ol’ Betsy Trotwood (our Rhode Island Red Bantam) Saturday afternoon around 4pm, when we routinely to let all the animals out to roam around the yard, Jordanne let the animals out to scratch for tasty bugs and allow the goats to get exercise.   Betsy was happily scratching here and there looking for tasty bugs in the soil. Then Jordanne didn’t see her with the ducks and chickens any more. Where could she be? Jordanne wondered and went looking for her.  She found Betsy hunched over underneath the goat hay trough. Jordanne instinctively knew that Betsy wouldn’t last the next few hours and brought her in the houseto be cuddled. We knew Betsy’s time would come soon because she was old and getting boney.   Jordanne was right. It wasn’t more than two hours (around 6pm) before Betsy passed away in Jordanne’s arms as she stroked and talked to her. Betsy died in peace and had a wonderful chicken life. 

We are going to miss the ol’ girl. Betsy was “boss” of the animal enclosure. She kept the chickens in line, picking on the ducks, rabbits and even the goats! She was queen and made sure everyone knew it.  However, Betsy did have a gentle side. She loved being held and liked to sit on laps and enjoyed sunflower seeds and fresh greens.

While growers around the state are coping with tremendous loss, we are thankful for small blessings in that Betsy died peacefully and in good hands.

Now we brace for another frigid night with temperatures expected in the 20s and hope things don’t get any worse. Monday, temperatures are expected to “rise” to about 32 degrees.. Please keep the many farmers throughout the state in your prayers. This freeze is going to have a widespread ripple affect.

No Comments

  1. dermot says:

    I gasped when I saw your pictures with all the ice. If it gets much colder, it’s theoretically possible for snow to fall in LA.

    I guess all the plants I sowed in Pasadena have been killed back. Nothing compared to your troubles. Who’d have thought you’d need to overwinter plants in SoCal???

    The weather’s nuts; there should be 4 or 5 feet here in Canada; we’ve only had 3 days of snow over 6 weeks, and there’s only a few inches on the ground.

    The alps are green in December; peach blossoms in London in January; a HURRICANE in Seattle (I believe the media called it a “windstorm” or somesuch).

    Sorry to hear about Betsy; it was seeing one of your chickens that made me give up the practice of eating them; once you see them as pets, you could no more eat a cat or a dog…

    I’m glad you got the roof on – just in time!

    I’ll send some photos from up North when I get the time…..

  2. Clare says:

    Sorry to hear of your weather misfortutune, as I know it is gut wrenching to endure.

    Also sending you healing light on the loss of your chicken-friend, Betsy.

  3. jamie says:

    Sorry for your loss, my girlie is sad for you

  4. Joanne Poyourow says:

    So sorry to hear about Betsy. Here across town (near LAX) I lost my african blue basil too. It was all blackened this morning, as were some of my larger sages. Also probably lost my fava beans and much of my snowpeas. Hopefully my tangerines come through all right. But the kale and collards are happy, and my apple and peach trees will be gobbling up the chill hours. Best wishes that the bulk of your crops survive. “Warm” wishes.

  5. Sean says:

    We had snow out here to the east in Lake Elsinore!, the kids went out and made snow balls and threw them at each other. Looks like the citrus is ok so far but the weather is not looking like warming up soon….

  6. Wendy B. says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your chicken. We lost one of our three hens a few weeks ago. She upset their water bottle during the night, got wet, and was unable to dry or warm herself. She froze, too. It was very sad for us.

  7. Juanita Rivas-Raymer says:

    I just started reading about Path to Freedom and was sorry to hear about Betsy. I can’t believe how cold those nights were. Our Bogenvilla was black and still is. I hope the nights don’t get that cold again.

  8. David says:

    I couldn’t believe surprising snow in Malibu was to be seen on news. I have community garden plot in Alhambra & the first frost at end of November killed off my thai basil & the mid December & recent frosts put my nasturtiums, sunflower starts, crocosmia, borage start, geranium, some onions, cabbage starts all 6 feet under. Sugar peas got frost damaged as well but still have flowers. Turnips, beets, broccoli, garlic, favas, spinach, rosemary, bitter herbs, mint, brocciflower & bok choy still going. Hope SoCal & California will get rain & continue warming. Replacing iced hoses & try, try, again.

    I lost my Armenian highflier hen last year but highflier/ roller male pigeons are well this year & looking for highflier hens. RIP Betsy.

  9. Hassan F. Farhood says:

    I am sorry to hear about your chicken Betsy Trotwood, her death bed story is very touching. She seems to have died in the most loving hands. Thank you Dervaes family for being the example of love for animals and nature. You inspired me since the day I discovered you online recently.