Cienega Valley - January in a Drought Year

What's wrong with this picture of Cienegas Valley in San Benito County?
 — It's taken in January, not July!

Normally it would be lush along Cienega Valley in January, a chance to see the rolling golden cattle-grazing hills in their almost fluorescent green state. It's not a native plant experience - those grasses are pretty much the ones that came over with the Europeans. Still and all, green is green to the British brain that hungers for it after a long dry California summer.

But as you know, we are in a drought year. January 2014.

Lots of vineyards here. Not looking too healthy in this picture. I wonder if they'll survive?
These endless warm, sunny days have a nightmarish quality — it's difficult for me to simply enjoy the very human-friendly warmth and brightness. "Time is out of joint."

Speaking of joints - this is major cattle country too.

We were on our way to Pinnacles National Park. Readers may recall that I was down this way a while back on my way to Paicines Ranch, which lies nearby. See posts on  Holistic Management and Allan Savory and on the Central California Invasive Weed Symposium that was held there.  There's an interesting interview with Paicines Ranch owner Sally Calhoun at this 2012 Sustainable Sweet and Savory Gourmet blog post.

There's agriculture here too. Not sure what they're growing here. I wonder where this water is coming from. How dry and colorless everything is.

We did enjoy the visual experience of the drive.

Lots of old barns


Cute donkeys!

Amazing vistas

Charming ranch driveways

Tumbledown historical ruins

Later I learned these interesting facts about Cienega Valley from this Geology Cafe post - if you take this drive you might like to read the whole post before you go.
The San Andreas Fault zone runs along the west side of the San Benito River valley, the Calaveras Fault zone runs down the center of the valley, and the Tres Pinos Fault zone runs along the east side of the valley.
Fault Creep is evident in the offset of manmade structures that were built on the creeping strands of the San Andreas Fault, with perhaps the most famous at the DeRose Winery—California's oldest winery whose processing building was built directly straddling the San Andreas Fault.
[South of Calera Winery lies Grass Valley.] Grass Valley is a broad drainage valley that extends for several miles back into the heart of the Gavilan Range. The "grass" that once covered the valley is now extensive vineyards.

I think this is part of that former grassland area but am not sure.
For more on grasses, see California Native Grasslands Association

But mostly it's the memory of those out-of-season golden hills that sticks with me.

And it's the same where I live, no green grasses, deer emptying the bird baths, and all my cool weather native grass seedlings either eaten or wilted away in the heat. It was 80 degrees F here yesterday.

So — Let's all blow in the direction of that high pressure ridge that's keeping the winter weather away!


Diana Studer said…
I was shocked when I realised that each of the vines in the vineyards around us, is watered. So grateful for the rain we had - in what IS our dry season. Those bare golden hills are frightening for mid-winter. Even more so if the irrigation is remorseless.