Our winter temperatures finally arrived the last part of February. Overhead sprinklers could be seen running in vineyards, protecting young emerging buds from freezing.

Early-morning temperatures dropped down into the low 20s in some locations. Long icicles could be seen hanging off the vines and trellis wires until the combination of sunlight and warm water melted them away, usually by 9 in the morning.

You know its going to be a cold night when the temperature at 7 p.m. is hovering around 39 degrees. I have done frost control in both grapes and citrus long enough to pretty much know when we will have to turn on the sprinklers or wind machines to protect the vines.

I receive the frost forecast for the evening around 4 p.m., it is usually pretty close to predicting when the temperatures will drop to 32 degrees and below. I have a frost alarm that has a sensor in one of the coldest areas of the vineyard mounted in my garage that will call my house at a certain temperature.

The last week of February we knew it was going to freeze during the night. The question was when I needed the guys out to turn on the sprinklers. I try to wait as long as I can to call them out, sometimes we set a time certain to come out, 1:30, 2 or 3 a.m. Other tines I call them after monitoring the temperatures and weather conditions. A slight breeze or cloud cover can make a big difference. When we get a clear, calm, cold night you know it’s going to be early.

On those cold clear nights, I usually go out in my pickup and use the thermometer in my truck to check the temperatures around 11 p.m., sometimes earlier. I can feel the cold air go right through my jacket as I head to my pickup. Those are the early nights for frost control. Part of the trade off of living on the vineyard.

It looks like we have some warmer nights in the forecast along with more rain. Let’s hope for a wet March.

With the cold weather it’s hard to believe daylight savings time and Spring is around the corner, officially beginning on the 20th of this month.

Kids enrolled in 4-H, FFA and Grange are buying their large livestock they will be showing at this year’s County Fair. Our kids, Kathleen and Clayton, picked up their lambs last week. I think the lambs appreciated the new shavings the kids put down in the covered area of their pen during last week’s cold nights, even with their nice wool coats.

It’s a busy time of year with the kids and their projects. It's nice to have Kathleen driving, chauffeuring her brother to school and 4-H meetings. She is working on pulling our horse trailer and learning how to back up. She has been hooking it up to her truck for quite a while.

It takes practice to back a short-coupled trailer hooked to your pickup. I forget sometimes that I learned with a tractor and trailer at a young age. A little more practice and Kathleen will have it down, then she can start hauling her horse to different events on her own.

Clayton just got his driving permit and is practicing backing up using one of our small tractors and bin trailers. Pretty soon I’ll just be going along for the ride. I haven’t convinced them to drive me round at night to check the temperature in the vineyard yet.

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 kmerrill@mesavineyard.com