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WILD WET WEATHER

Almond blossoms take a drenching

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WILD WET WEATHER

Almond farmer Ted Baker tries to be comfortable in his John Deere Gator ag vehicle as he went around his West Ripon orchard to check on the drip irrigation tubing around the trees.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED February 24, 2010 2:18 a.m.

Organizers of this weekend’s Ripon Almond Blossom Festival are not the only the ones keeping busy as bees in the snow-white orchards.

The buzzing sounds in the countryside around the Manteca and Ripon areas are not just coming from the industrious honey-producing pollinators but from the spray machines. Over the last few days, anxious almond growers and their workers have been hard at work driving the loud spraying machines up and down the rows of trees heavily laden with the sweet-smelling delicate blossoms.

Ripon almond farmer Ted Baker said this is the time when the orchards are sprayed with fungicides to protect the trees from brown rot. The trees become susceptible to fungus and infection because of the rain, he said.

While the last few days have been relatively dry, the heavy downpour on Tuesday which produced a record 0.34 inches of rain in the Northern San Joaquin Valley based on Stockton Airport reading (the old record was 0.33 inches set in 1988) did not make almond growers like Bill Groen happy.

“I don’t like it,” he said of the heavy rains that were accompanied by wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

“A whole livelihood can be gone for a whole year. You don’t get paid by the rain. Rain does not give you a paycheck,” said Groen, a second-generation Ripon almond grower.

Many almond farmers are still trying to replace the trees that they lost in the wet and windy weather in January. Groen was one of the luckier ones. He lost not even a dozen of them in all of his 75 acres, he said.

Baker was not as lucky. More than 20 of his trees were knocked down in his approximately 40 acres of almonds.

Another 300-acre orchard around the West Ripon area lost more than 200 to the strong winds.

Even after the rains, there will be other almond varieties that will be starting to bloom, Groen said. And that should be good news to people like the Stokes family of Ripon who took advantage of the mild weather over the past weekend to take some photos among the blossoms. Tim Stokes and wife Jennifer took turns taking pictures of their daughters, Deven, 8, and Carsen, 10, with the two of them together, and then joining them in the other shots.

The Stokes were not the only ones with the same idea of capturing the beauty of the snowy white blossoms. Several others pulled over the side of the road along the stretch of West Ripon Road between the Ripon city limits and Austin Road to the west to photograph just the flowers or using them as the backdrop for snapshots.

For those planning to attend the almond blossom festival which officially starts Thursday evening, one thing to keep in mind is not to go to any of the festivities without their umbrella. The National Weather Service is predicting chance of rain Thursday night and rain on Friday which is expected to taper off in the evening. Chance of rain showers is also expected on the day of the Almond Blossom Parade. The good news: Saturday morning will be mostly clear. The good weather is predicted to continue on Sunday when the skies will be only partly cloudy.

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