12/22/08

The Farmer's Daughter

My dad is very involved with the local historical society in his small South Bay community. He's friends with some old-timers from the valley's agricultural past who continue to farm there today.

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What is now Silicon Valley was once a vast, fertile farmland built on deep alluvial soils depsoited by snowmelt running down the Sierra Nevada hundreds of thousands of years ago. As recently as my own childhood (30 years ago), cherry and nut orchards were the rule here. Now it's Apple. And Google and Ebay, et cetera, et cetera.

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After lamenting the tragic ash, my dad took me to meet his friend Mabel and her husband, both in their 80s, who live and grow fruit on remnant family acreage. There's not a lot to see in December when the apricot trees are dormant. Fava beans harvested from the winter-sown covercrop are sold by the cratefull in spring.

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Peas grow all winter, and well in to spring.

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This old fig tree must get pollarded every year.

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You can prune a deciduous fruit tree practically any way you want.

Ficus carica

As I understand it, the whole Bay Area is experiencing a population boom in wild turkeys.

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If it continues, in time they may become approachable, and photographable. For now, not so much.

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An enclosed structure near the ranch house has two rows of blackberries.

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She said the harvest was small this year.

Blackberry

The tidy flower garden near the house is lovely even in December.

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Euphorbia pulcherrima

Many people don't know this, but Euphorbia pulrcherrima will reach the eaves anywhere along the coast.

Euphorbia pulcherrima

Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukah or Happy Holidays to you and your family. I will be out of town for a few days starting Monday the 23rd. Please come back next week for more blogging.

Euphorbia pulcherrima

In the meantime here are a few final images from Silicon Valley. San Jose has 200,000 more people than San Francisco does nowadays, but you wouldn't guess that from its modest skyline. The Santa Cruz Mountains look formidable in the distance, but it's just a 30 minute drive over the top to the ocean on the other side.

San Jose, CA

Fall and winter rains turn California's golden hills green. In fact, California's mythically golden hills are just that. The browns and golds come from imported European annual grasses. Hard-to-come-by stretches of California native perennial grass have a net grayish-blue cast after the rainless summer.

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California ranch houses are getting harder to come by too. Just one change among many in our recent past.

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4 comments:

Les said...

I wish we wouldn't put our tract homes, office parks and strip malls on deep alluvial soils. We may need them one day to grow food on.

JvA said...

I lived in San Jose 30 years ago. Here's me frolicking among the pumpkins grown in those alluvial soils. Golden hills full of imported grasses can be seen in the distance.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/midbeaconhill/2737243551/

lisa said...

Have a great Holiday Chuck! I enjoyed this post, it's somehow strange in my mind to think of farmland in California, even though I know there's plenty. Your dad and his friends have such lovely and inviting properties. (I still feel bad for the tragic ash.)

Frances said...

Hi Chuck, fascinating stuff, the garden you showed was neat as a pin! Those little holes with beans in them, I have never seen anything like it. Have a wonderful vacation, we will miss you and await your return patiently.
Frances