With global climate change, the heat seems harder, almost vicious, and more frequent. That bubble of last week decided to become a heat ballon, and it’s been here all week. Several times a day I visit my mobile weather app to see if the forecast has changed. It hasn’t. The little app says more heat for more days for more in a row. Maybe its wrong and if I stare at it someone in central ops will change the forecast... but it doesn’t happen. If anything, the app shows incremental increases. But even more insane are the number of tourists seeking relief from the city and driving around in circles looking for a cool cellar. (Do not buy good wine and put it the trunk and drive around Napa in 100 degree weather looking for more wine to buy. Don’t ship it either. Buy locally in the summer at your favorite refrigerated store… go to wineries in the fall, winter, and spring.)
Things seem to get stuck in patterns now and you tend to remember only the bad patterns, like how Northern California is stuck now with a large high pressure sitting over the hot landmass stopping the on-shore flow of cool Pacific air. It twirls and spins all the hot air over the Nevada deserts instead of those cool ocean breezes. It’s like opening the engine hood of a car that’s been running for the past hour. The blast lasts for days, seemingly weeks.
A few years ago, during the Atlas Peak firestorms, it seemed the entire September and October were stuck in this off-shore flow. And several years ago it happened in February, when the entire month was dry as a bone, and hot, and the vines budded three weeks early. (That February hot spell was the final straw for me and climate change. I was a believer before but that made me adamant.)
Several years ago, right at the end of summer, we went into the off-shore heat and circling meteorological thing and I didn't know how we were going to make it until the November rains, two months away. I drove up to Napa from my Silicon job, unpacked the pets and kids, emptied the van, and turned the systems on. No water. I checked the breaker box and it was off (maybe it’s this panel, it’s so old), but every time I flipped the breaker, it broke the circuit. No water. Something was going on at the pump.
There wasn't a drop of water anywhere. I checked the pump down at the bottom of vineyard block #1 and got a few buckets from what was in the lines, that I reserved in various containers, so I could at least flush the toilet a few times. There were a few bottles of spring water to drink, and of course, there was wine.
I called the vineyard management company that tends the vineyard and talked to the water systems guy. He came over and together we went over to the pump, took off some electric box covers, and turned things off and on. "It's the pump," he said. "Your water table is below the pump. It tries to turn on but shuts off when there's no water detection."
"The well is dry?"
"I think so. It could be a malfunctioning pump, but we should get a little dribble or two. I don't know. Let's call Oakville Pump and put a camera down and see what's happening. But that will probably be next week sometime..."
I went back to the house and we put ourselves on water rations with some added toilet rules. Let's last the weekend and then we'll leave. I put some empty trash cans in the pickup truck and would go out tomorrow morning and search for some temporary water. We have a spa membership, so swimming and bathing can be done there everyday. But I was worried about the vineyard and our gardens in this heat..
And then, that very night, while deep in REM driftness, there was an earthquake.
"It was big, like a 6.5 or something," my wife said, perturbed that I slept through it, and that my response upon being awoken: "Must not have been very big." But it was a large one and crumbled several old wineries and many barrel racks with hundreds of laden barrels. It was a good thing it was a night earthquake or else many winery workers and winemakers would have been hurt by cascading, falling barrels each weighing 200 pounds.
And by some kind of miracle, we suddenly had water. Plenty of it. One day we had a dry well and the next we had an earthquake and plenty of water. Turns out the water tables changed on a lot on homesteads and vineyards throughout the valley, some losing water who once had it, and some finding their pumps in collapsed wells that got fixed, like me, thanks to mother nature. But it still amazes me to this day these events happened in the same weekend, a day apart. No water, then lots of water. All by an act of God, an earthquake near my vineyard. To this day I think the odds were incalculable.
Climate change means more dry wells and I'm worried about water. We need a water catchment system that diverts and stores rain water and we need to catch rain (I love that phrase) on every building roof on the property. I'm sure we could catch and store 20000 galloons. I'm convinced it’s what every farm and ranch in the entire world must do.