El Niño

Hi. Lets discuss this phenomenon that just played out in the winter of 2016 at Orchard del Sol.

The last BIG El Niño was in 1997 -1998. That would be the year Orchard del Sol began the quest to earnestly grow black pepper. Having to learn from the ground up and having no resources in a county where you do not speak the language was a major challenge.

One of the biggest hurdles was finding seed or starter plants. With few people throughout Costa Rica having knowledge enough to share how to grow this tropical vine we were left at the mercy of those who said they did and then those who would. Leaving us vulnerable.

The first cuttings/seedlings sold to us by someone professing to have been a grower for the infamous McCormick Spice company, had not given his staff sufficient instructions on what was a viable cutting and what was not. Less than 10% of the 100 survived. No, not because of El Niño necessarily but because we had not received the tendril of the vine that produces the vertical growth of the plant.

Lesson number one. From there it was our job to learn and know what cuttings could be propagated.

Back to El Niño. Having prepared our tutor trees and planted the fragile piper nigrum (black pepper) cuttings, we then suffered one of the hottest and driest December to March Costa Rica summers most could remember ( 1998 - 1999).

Fast forward to January 2016. We just came through a terribly hot and dry summer season once again. And, one more time, one of the more severe. With some pepper vines now being 15 to 18 years old, we had less than 10% (less than 10) losses due to the excessive heat and drought. Black Pepper is one very valiant vine.

Much can be said about El Niño as we have returned to Canada where the spring holds promise and the last of winter fades. November 2015 to April 2016 on the Alberta and Saskatchewan prairies was exceptionally mild. The lack of snow and the dry spring brought a different kind of challenge here in this part of the world. Forest fires in Alberta and Saskatchewan have devastated vast amounts of forest.

This is leaving us all wondering; what does the little girl bring, La Niña? Guess we shall wait and see.

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