Sunny Slope Orchard

Sunny Slope Orchard
In the coast range foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summertime, and the livin' is hot

Here in early August we're moving more slowly. Done with the frantic June/July harvest, we can now afford a more relaxed pace better suited to the summer heat. Not that there isn't plenty to do, but we are free from the unrelenting flood of ripening fruit during peak season.

Figs in the solar dryer
Our only commercial crop right now is second-crop figs; there are only two trees which we can easily manage. We are drying most now but starting next week will begin restaurant deliveries.

We seldom have extras for sale to the public, but this wonderful fruit can be found growing wild along many local roadsides. For recipe ideas check our previous posts here and here.

Drip irrigation in the orchard
With the apricot, peach and plum crop done for the year the trees are storing food in their roots and developing buds for next season's fruit. This period between harvest and winter dormancy is an important time in the cycle and despite our very dry summer soil the trees manage well. Their leaves will flag in the heat of the afternoons (as do we!), hanging limp and closing off their stomata to conserve moisture. But they perk right up overnight and put on vigorous growth year after year despite getting only a tiny fraction of the water lavished upon conventionally irrigated orchards. Our water supply is very limited so I use small emmiters dripping through mounds of compost to serve as watering/feeding stations that apply about 20 gallons of water per tree per week along with nutrients leached from the compost.

Juliet tomatoes
As the trees store up food for next winter we are busy doing the same. We've canned, dried and frozen loads of fruit and now are hoarding garden crops. As usual our favorite tomato variety, Juliet, is producing like crazy and Fern is filling the pantry with canned tomatoes, soup and salsa.  Green bean vines are growing inches a day and okra is producing heavily.

Okra blossom

A rattlesnake waits for a passing rodent

Of course everyone has to eat and rattlesnakes are no exception so this time of year we have to be careful where we step or reach. We recently were treated to the sight of two big gopher snakes mating. They seemed quite enthusiastic and not at all self conscious, writhing and twisting for several minutes as we stood there watching!
Gopher snakes making whoopee
Our resident hummingbirds are entertaining us with their feeding frenzies, emptying two large feeders daily. While too numerous to count we estimate that hundreds must live in the area.

So mid-summer offers much to do but also lots to see and enjoy. Life is good and we experience each sunset with appreciation for the day's gifts.