February 02, 2007

The almond bloom started for us on Jan 29th, same as last year. The first flower was duly noted. In 3-4 weeks the whole neighborhood will be lookin’ good!

Tomorrow we hope to finally open those greenhouse boxes and start building the actual structure! The work needed to have running water and electrical lines come up into the base of the structure ran into overtime. It was a hard job but as usual Ken turned lemons into lemonade and got everything working. I might be the person who grows most of the vegetation, but Ken makes the infrastructure of our farm run. I am also about halfway through the odious berry pruning. The hard part is done, but there is just a LOT to cut out. Many very satisfying little fires consume the prunings…

The new orchard is planted, with 48 new trees installed. Another 10 or so are on order. Which brings me to…farming and the internet. In general I don’t gravitate toward technology, with one significant exception: the computer. When we were touching up the new trees and repairing insect damage to trunks, Drew pressed against one year-old tree. It immediately snapped in two at the graft. As we both looked at the broken section, we could see the rear end of some little larvae. I took the whole little tree into the house, and sat down and the computer. I used a paper clip to gently extract the larvae. It was small and oddly shaped. After about a minute of Google searches like "larva eating tree trunk" I had a picture of the little offender. We had captured a Pacific Flatheaded Borer larvae, and identified the cause of a lot of damage to young trees. We read about how these insects target subburned trees, and lay their eggs, and how the little offspring eat their way through the part of the tree trunk that matters. And now I understood why the apples, cherries and plums were damaged but not the peaches or nectarines or other less sun-burnable kinds. All that information is out there, a few searches away, and I really don’t know how I would do without it. This coming year there are going to be a lot of disappointed Flathead Borers…….

Our planting plan is to add 25 chestnuts, something like 10 peaches, 3 plums, 3 figs, 4 nectarines, 2 apples, 4 cherries, a loquat (whatever that is), another apricot or two, and some other stuff I can’t exactly recall at the moment. If that seems like a lot, don’t forget that we lost something like 15 trees last year. This way, we will have a filled-in orchard, someone that knows what they are doing helping with the care, something resembling organization, and a much better situation all around. In ten years there is going to be more fruit than we will be able to cope with. I’d better be working at home fulltime by then because the fruit alone is going to take that much time. Back to the loquat. I like to plant strange trees. One year it was the pineapple quince, last year it was the jujube. And the pawpaws. There is something fun about having odd fruit, and waiting for people to say, what IS that?

I finally caught up the ledger for 2006 last night. We did  far more than twice the sales of the year before, and are in a position to do exponentially better next year. The amount of hard work is off the scale, but it is possible to make a living at this, and certainly feels very rewarding. It is now time to organize for taxes…I heard a farmer joke that went something like "I have plenty of write-offs…..what I’m looking for is profits."  Sadly, that part is so true. Well, at least more people are beginning to appreciate quality food and are willing to pay fair prices for what they want. It certainly helps…The goal for next year is to get much more organized in the office…when you perform every function of a business, you just can’t waste time on a bad system. Piling up an entire year of receipts is a bad system…..

The turkeys have it in for the cats. An entire herd of them will seek out a cat, slowly walk up, and try to get close enough to peck the poor kitty. Usually the cat tries to stand its ground, while becoming increaingly distressed at the many large avians starting to circle the wagon. The cat cries and then has to bolt away, looking generally embarrassed.  Sometimes about ten of them will chase the cat, all in a line like one of those slow-motion skits from the Benny Hill Show. I can’t help think that this is the revenge of all those tweety birds that have been hunted and eaten….