*** Journal of a 25-yr. Chamber member and
California nut grower***
"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day
living that wears you out." Anton Chekhov, playwright
off the Third Millennium with a hike along the Western portion of the
23-mile American River Parkway North Bank trail in Sacramento.
Mailed in to the Air Quality Management District the
completed form and a $38 check for my 2001 fire permit to burn 10
acres ($30 base fee plus $0.85/acre) of walnut prunings.
We’ll chip the other 50 acres of prunings.
Jan. 2, Tue.—Sprayed
some herbicide (Roundup and Goal) in the rows where I plan to plant
new trees this Spring. These are some ¾” Tulare on Paradox
hedgerows to replace some 20-year old Vinas on Black rootstock that are
failing from Phytopthera. These rows to be replanted were
originally planted into my alfalfa field on the berms, which is just a
so-so approach because of irrigation concerns.
Jan. 3, Wed.—Assembled
the 8 h.p. Briggs & Stratton powered hydraulic log-splitter bit
by bit, getting confused a couple of times with the directions.
Especially in view of the high costs of electricity and petroleum-based
fuels, we plan to continue all winter heating without our furnace by
splitting our own walnut wood and the Vermont wood stove we used the
past three years. Cost of splitter: $1,600.00, freight
Jan. 4, Thu.—Finished
using the pruning tower and a pole to knock down the last of the
mummy nuts so overwintering insects have no hanging nuts for a home.
This activity can take almost a month for all 60 acres. We can
soon dedicate the pruning tower back to pruning a couple of branches
from the center of each of the non-hedgerowed trees. Since next
season will be a heavy-bearing year, we want to both lessen the amount
of fruiting wood and also increase light penetration. The 2000
season was a light-bearing year.
Jan. 5, Fri.—Started
the annual tree strip spraying with the ATM towing the 100-gallon
2-head (40”) sprayer. Rain is finally predicted for Monday after
almost a month of dryness. Used 150 gallons (2 ½ gallons/acre of
2.5% Roundup & 2.5% Goal, plus a pint of spreader/100 gallons of
solution) on the 60 acres at 2200 rpm in 2nd gear.
Took about 12 hours for the job at 5 acres per hour.
Jan. 6, Sat.—Finished
the strip spraying with no problems, although I did notice in checking
out the log splitter that we put both the motor and the axle on
backwards! Paid Alfredo on his semi-monthly payroll schedule,
withholding also the $50 towards repaying the car repair loan I made
to him last year. His original $1,400 balance is now down to only
$200. We, at his request, withhold no state or federal taxes; only
the 7.65% for Social Security/Medicare and the 0.9% for State Disability
Jan. 7, Sun.—Completed
list of charitable contributions for tax year 2000.
Still have to separate them into two groups, both deductible: personal
ones and farm business ones. Had 0.6” of very
welcome rain, the first in three weeks. We’re only at about
the 50% mark for a normal year.
Jan. 8, Mon.—Read
over maintenance instructions for both the log splitter and the 8
h.p. Briggs & Stratton engine. Nothing too
different, except I have to work the air out of the new hydraulic system
by moving the ram back and forth under no-load conditions.
Also learned that multiple-viscosity oils lead to
hotter-running engines and thus higher oil consumption.
Jan. 9, Tue.—Had
the two stainless steel pins removed from my broken left arm. They
came right out without any sort of anesthesia at all. Packed up in
32-gallon garbage bags the 2’-diameter grapevine wreaths, red
ribbon included, we put up around the farmyard for Christmas.
Filled out our annual subscription to the local
Jan. 10, Wed.—We
cracked out a bag (25 pounds) of walnuts with our manual nutcracker and
separated the meats from the shells. It took about an hour for
five pounds of nuts or, more importantly, for 2 ½ pounds of meats,
giving a labor cost of $4.00/pound of nutmeats. Spotted the first
leak ever, after four years, in our post-and-beam home! There was
a lot of wind with this first heavy 1” winter storm of the season.
Jan. 11, Thu.—Actually
got 1.5” of welcome rain yesterday, adding to the mere 4” that
we’ve received since the start of the season on July 1st.
Today, I drive down to Kaiser at Vallejo’s outpatient physical therapy
department so I can start rebuilding my left arm. One of the first
things I need to do when both arms are working is to complete pruning
the walnuts in anticipation of a heavy crop load.
Jan. 12, Fri.—Another
1.5” of rain. Bravo! Paid some farm
bills so we’re current. Got a notice from the State of
California that my former 10-year employee Jorge is back on
unemployment again and our account with EDD is responsible for 50%
of the assessment as his 1999 wages from us equal his 2000 wages from
his current employer, Cache Creek Indian bingo.
Jan. 13, Sat.—Understandably,
our current employee Alfredo phoned early and wanted to work today as he
was rained out the last two days. It was fine with us so he
chipped prunings for spreading in the orchard next year.
Ideally, we would spread them now, but it’s too wet and we don’t want to
compact the soil with any equipment.
Jan. 14, Sun.—We
went to an old-fashioned quilt display and competition at the
Grange Hall in Guinda back up the Capay Valley today. There were
at least 50 quilts hung up in the old Western Grange Hall. They
included works in progress as well as early 1900 ones.
And symmetrical ones, and fanciful ones, and
all-is-different ones…what an amazing array of color and imagination.
Jan. 15, Mon.—This
is the month anniversary of breaking my left arm. Ten more days
and the cast is off! Claire pruned roses today as
January—we’re told—is the best month for this.
Finished assembling the myriad parts of the new log-splitter today.
What takes all the time is spreading pipe thread compound on each
thread, tightening with most of your might—2,500 pound high-pressure
hydraulic leaks will penetrate your skin—then rubbing off the tenacious
excess thread compound and cleaning your hands!
five or six “town chores” in the county seat,
Like to save up town chores until I have a few so that time, gasoline,
etc. aren’t wasted, even though it’s only 20 minutes or so away.
This time the visit was for refueling, banking and also a post office
visit, buying new pajamas for my Dad, grocery shopping, getting more
hydraulic oil, and so forth.
Jan. 17, Wed.—Loaded
the fluids into the new log-splitter and, although we quickly split one
log, a leak quickly developed in the high-pressure line, so it’s back to
Woodland for a new expensive flared elbow fitting. Went to the
pile outside and packed another 30 pieces
of firewood into the rack in the basement, awaiting stove usage;
temperatures dropping below 32 degrees these mornings as its crystal
clear and windy.
Jan. 18, Thu.—My
66th birthday, which I almost temporarily forgot, except
Claire wished me a good one. We finally seriously started the
winter pruning today as a large crop is anticipated so we’re chopping
a half-dozen smaller branches out of each
center so that light penetration is improved and thus nut
production enhanced. The only sticky point is that when cutting
out centers, branches get caught up there and it’s the devil to pull
them out, especially from a pruning tower surrounded by poking twigs,
Jan. 19, Fri.—Kevin
is coming over from the Bay Area for a birthday dinner.
Farm wise, after over 15 years we switched carriers
for our workmen’s compensation from State Fund, impersonal and
rigid and more expensive, to Paula Insurance which covers especially
Diamond Walnut growers’ workers at about $1,000/year/employee.
Hope they honor claims without much hassle if Alfredo ever gets hurt on
Jan. 20, Sat.—Did
the fortnightly payroll. Pretty easy
with just one worker although we still have to fill out just about each
and every kind of form. Tony and his friend Michele come by
for a birthday dinner this evening and Kevin leaves today without seeing
them at all. The schedules of a modern family strike me
as bizarre with a different order of priorities than
my own set. The 90-mile Esparto-San Francisco separation plays a
Jan. 21, Sun.—Phoned
my Father and wished him an early happy 93 before his birthday next
month. Starting pulling together all the
1099’s and other tax documents to get ready for starting taxes in
February. Use one shelf in my in-out tray to hold all such
related materials until tax preparation time;
this is sometimes in February and sometimes in August in those
years I need an extension.
Jan. 22, Mon.—Worked
on the hay wagon wheels as they are starting to squeak; possibly the
wheel bearings need grease or else something is worn in the hub
assembly. Could only get the dust caps off the
front wheels, so for now I just sprayed in some silicone as a temporary
lubricant. This old hay wagon, given by a neighbor who’s
stopped farming, has been modernized by me with a new plywood 8’ x
16’ bed and four new utility tires.
Jan. 23, Tue.—Nice
stock market rally today; maybe it will be sustained after the awful 40%
drop in the Nasdaq last year. Bought
some new dust caps today and splurged $10.00 on a bit of nostalgia, a
new reproduction in metal of an old John Deere sign, showing their
sequence of tractors in the past century plus. I do agree with the
slogan “Nothing runs like a deer.” insofar as our JD 2555 starts
and runs 100% of the time.
Jan. 24, Wed.—After
five weeks, Dr. Lenson took off my left forearm cast! In my
inexperience, however, I didn’t realize I still had five weeks of
self-administered physical therapy ahead for my poor weakened sensitive
arm. Even the shirt sleeve was a bit painful where it touched my
wrist. Alfredo ran the chipper on walnut prunings all day
today and the new bearings seems to work okay.
Jan. 25, Thu.—Mailed
in my first annual premium for workers compensation with the new
Paula Insurance carrier, $1,000, which specializes in walnut orchard
workers. More rain today, but some pruning tower work was done
this morning. Did the weekly grocery shopping in Woodland plus the
routine chores like bank, post office, gas, repair part/tools purchase.
Jan. 26, Fri.—Dr.
Michele Haag Kannin, our first-born and only
daughter of 1963, has a birthday back in Elmhurst today!
Am in the midst of collecting post office returns of a questionnaire our
Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce sent our 100 or so members
re e-commerce and priorities for our activities in promoting business,
including agriculture of course. A number of them want a local
CIMIS automated weather station.
Jan. 27, Sat.—Took
my weekly trip to the Capay Junction for morning coffee with local
friends from times past. Carried some more
firewood upstairs as it’s quite windy and therefore a bit extra
cold. It takes about ten 16” split logs a day to heat the
house on our very efficient Vermont wood stove. Two facts which
contribute to its success is its catalytic
converter and its heat-emitting 30’-plus triple walled stainless steel
Jan. 28, Sun.—Superbowl
Sunday! The Baltimore Ravens handily beat the New York Giants,
34-7. However, the really big news is that there is to be a new
Haag, albeit by marriage. Tony happily phoned last night from
the Mark Hopkins in
and said that Michelle Kapnias had accepted his proposal.
She wants the ceremony to take place in 2002 on the Greek
island of Hydra, land
of no cars and lots of donkeys.
Jan. 29, Mon.—Our
fast North wind is back today! Usually it takes about 48
hours for it to subside from its 25+ mph gusts. I parked the Ford
Explorer just North of Alfredo, who was running the chipper, so that he
was a bit less uncomfortable; actually he never complains but my
personal rule is: If I would be quite uncomfortable, then my
worker is uncomfortable.
Jan. 30, Tue.—This
has been a bad week for my personal computer and its software!
First, the printer kept malfunctioning, so I cleaned it more-or-less
thoroughly with a compressed air can’s contents designed for electronic
device cleaning. Next, the communications wouldn’t work, so I
opened up the system unit, rebent a loose fitting, shoved things
together and that worked. Finally, my audio facilities stopped
working; I’ve not solved this as yet although I’ve tried many, many
Feb. 1, Wed. to
Feb. 6, Tue.—This
past week was just odds-and-ends: did some ornamental pruning
(cutting out too low and crossing and interior limbs) around the
farmyard; started income taxes; spent time with Claire; had Alfredo do
some repairs on the pruning tower, etc. It’s amazing how an entire
week can go by with no major events whatsoever. How can a
week go by without me making any entries?
Feb. 7, Wed.—One
of our 2-day North winds is back with gusts over 30 mph.
It’s almost impossible to work under such conditions, so I sent Alfredo
home early. Consequently, I’m getting caught up on some paperwork,
including Internet “paperwork” such as updating e-mail addresses,
website listings, and so forth. Am also going
to print out a 93rd birthday card for my father.
Feb. 8, Thu.—Thank
heavens for our wood burning stove as this North wind is really most
frigid. Filled out the OSHA-type worker safety and training
program notice (both in Spanish and English) that is supposed to be
posted in the workplace. Put down phone numbers for poison
control, fire, local medical and county seat hospital. Now must
make sure to post it in a good dry wind-free location visited by our
worker now and then.
Feb. 9, Fri.—Bill
for $7,000.00 arrived for new buried drip hose for 20 acres of
Chandlers which have had their old drip hose for about 15-18 years and
it’s starting to plug up, supposedly from root intrusion/sediments;
fittings will be another $1,500.00 at least. We bury the hose down
about 10” or so and about five feet out from the row. It has a ½
gallon/hour emitter each 40” along its length so that each tree gets
about 10 gallons/hour/tree for a maximum of about 16
Feb. 10, Sat.—Took
Claire to the airport for a 10-day visit to Michele and the two
grandkids. Haven’t been a bachelor for sometime, but remembered to
head for the supermarket the first thing. Bought not only an apple
pie, but broccoli and meat and orange tomatoes from England! We
have had over 1” of rainfall the past 24 hours, a pleasing
occurrence as we have only about 9” for the season, a deficit of 8” or
Feb. 11, Sun.—The
house seems so big and empty without Claire being here! Anyway,
served as lector at the 8:45 a.m. Mass and went to the K. of C.
breakfast afterwards. The parish’s senior member at age 91 and
with an ailing wife at home, Nick Cadenasso, forgot his money, so I
treated him. He joined a number of us farmers at breakfast:
Me—walnuts, Al Obermueller—almonds, Ken Han—almonds, Mike
Fernandez—grapes, and of course, Nick—row crops.
Feb. 12, Mon.—A
couple of farm magazines arrived again today. Most of these
are free subscriptions, merely by being in the business (although one
could successfully lie about this) and require only filling out a
questionnaire once a year. I find selected articles to be helpful,
especially in some new area I’m thinking about entering. The ads
can also be helpful in seeing what new gear is coming out. I used
to save the old issues, but now throw them away as the space required
became too great.
Feb. 13, Tue.—Spent
a couple of hours this morning taking the trash and recyclables
(bottles, aluminum & paper) to the local dump. I fill up the Ford
Explorer with the latter and fill up a trailer with eight 32-gallon
containers of the former. Costs $12.00 most of the time.
It’s simply amazing how much waste is involved in packaging and mailing
and holding, etc. Definitely, there’s got to be a better way to
handle food and products!
Feb. 14, Wed.—Gave
a presentation at our local Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce
this evening. Had designed a questionnaire to be sent to the
mailing list of about 100 present and former members, asking about their
computer operations and also about what sort of priorities we should
give to different activities. Amazingly, about 90% have personal
computers, 80% have e-mail, and their highest priority was for a local
automated weather station accessible from their home PC.
Feb. 15, Thu.—I’ve
found out how much more time it takes to maintain a house and fix three
meals a day without your wife. Answer: much more
time! As Claire is on a 10-day to Chicago with the grandkids, I
get to do all the home heating (bringing logs up for the wood stove),
cleaning (minimal), plant watering (a cup a week), cooking, picking up
papers and mail, paperwork, and, of course, the walnut orchard.
Feb. 16, Fri.—This
is the month of the year for most of the farm shows in
Field operations are at a minimum, holidays are
over, tax time is not yet, so one can turn attention to buying
new products and services. At a minimum, one
can window shop as well as learn about new techniques and
approaches, for agriculture is an ever-changing field. We have
already had the Colusa Orchard Show, and the bigger shows at both
Stockton and Tulare are coming up now.
Feb. 17, Sat.—Another
rain front dropped half an inch of most welcome precipitation.
This is the Central Valley’s rainiest month up here in the Sacramento
Valley. We have only about 10” of the year-to-date’s normal 14” so
far. At least, it gives one the chance to do indoor things such as
paperwork and repairs of one kind or another. I managed to
package up some cracked walnuts into one quart plastic bags for
freezing and eventual use or gift giving.
Feb. 18, Sun.—Telephoned
Chicago (Claire et al), then Indianapolis (my brother Tom), and then my
sister Rosemarie called me from St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove
where my Dad was sitting up after his week of hospitalization and six
pints of new blood and his first non-liquid lunch. He sounded
a bit weak but with a pretty good attitude. Asked me to mail
him a metal letter opener as his was somehow
lost. A good sign indeed!
Feb. 19, Mon.—Some
more rain today. Worked on my workman’s compensation postings
today; the blanks have to be filled in with Doctor, hospital, etc. phone
numbers, as well as the location of more information. Didn’t take
long, but need to find a weatherproof place to post them and a method
whereby I can change them readily. Guess I’ll use push pins and a
Feb. 20, Tue.—Today
I picked up Claire at the Sacramento airport after 10 days with the
grandkids and the Kannins. She really has enjoyed the visit and
was of much help to them since the regular babysitters, the Kannin
grandparents, have taken their first month-long vacation to
We had some more rain so we have now at least a minimal useful
amount at about 12 inches or so. The statement that “Water is
gold!” is most true for California, a naturally semi-desert arid
Feb. 21, Wed.—Another
down stock market day! Am working again on our
2000 taxes. It involves some boring work, such as
going through the three-inch pile of receipts; however, the overview is
exciting as you find out how you did overall. This leads,
hopefully, to corrections in both spending style and farm operations as
well as stock market methods. When it is raining, I’m more in the
mood to do paperwork.
Feb. 22, Thu.—Our
farm worker showed up bright and early for work—in the rain! Felt
bad about it, but it still had to be done—sent him home again with the
understanding that we only work when it’s NOT raining. At 19,
Alfredo is so wonderfully eager and enthusiastic, but is still short on
wisdom. We still have a few important jobs left: planting
another 100 replants, pruning the
and shanking in the buried hose.
Feb. 23, Fri.—My
sister Rosemarie, who keeps me really up-to-date re my dad via
e-mail, says he is almost ready to move back to the Hermitage from his
recent hospital trip where he required six units of blood for some
rectal bleeding due to his diverticulitis. Since my Mother’s death
in November and his relocation to a single room, he’s become much less
social. As a result, they want to move him in with a roommate.
Feb. 24, Sat.—Another
needed rainy day, so I kept working on taxes. Tony and his fiancée,
Michele, postponed their visit to next weekend. They
want to bring the waffle iron gift to us, which I’m quite ready to use
as I grew up in Indianapolis with a waffle iron as a special part of the
kitchen outfittings. Yum! Yum! …with
nice sugary syrup over the heavily buttered indentations which held the
melted pools of butter and syrup. Cholesterol heaven!
Feb. 25, Sun.—The
Esparto annual (since 1915, albeit with some gaps as for WWII) Almond
Festival is today and there is a welcome break in the rainy weather.
I don’t know if any community has staked out an annual Walnut Festival,
but it’s a good idea. Anyway, Claire manned a booth for three
hours while I attended Mass and then poked around some booths. We
then ate a fresh taco and headed up the
thru Capay and motorcyclists to Guinda for a tri-tip lunch and then on
to Rumsey for fun.
Feb. 26, Mon.—Alfredo continues to chip winter prunings
while I do tax work and watch the 48-hour North winds which will
be around today and tomorrow. My neighbors with almonds welcome
this week of non-rain as their bees can get out and pollinate the trees
in this, the last week of the two week-or-so fertile period. The
fungal diseases they always have to spray for will slow down development
in this dry period too.
Feb. 27, Tue.—Finally
IRS form 1040
with the attached schedules like A, B, C, F, depreciation, taxable
social security benefits (85% of them), elderly credit worksheet (none
for me as too much income) and so forth. Farm still less than
breakeven but that’s been the case since we started in 1979. I
figure the first 25 years are the “sacrifice years” while you build up
all the needed equipment and skills as your trees mature with full
yields. Our farm losses have been used to offset our high income
Feb. 28, Wed.—Saw
my Kaiser Permanente dermatologist, Dr. Wilson today. Farmers have
to be sensitive to detect any skin cancers due to the extensive
sunlight exposure. So far I don’t have any! He just finds a
few little round patches of discoloration or else tiny little polyps,
both of which he says are benign, due to my age of 66, and will
disappear once he sprays them with liquid Nitrogen to kill the wayward
cells involved. The LN stings when he sprays it on, but then the
little blemishes scab over and then disappear.
Mar. 1, Thu.—Our
rainiest month, February, has ended with about seven inches!
Picked up some prunings for storage in a pile until
we chip them during the late spring/early summer. Our
federally-supported walnut crop insurance, costing us only $60/year,
requested our 2000 yields for their records. They pay if you have
less than 55% of your traditional yield. No claims for us this
Mar. 2, Fri.—Juiced
another 20 pink Ruby Red grapefruits from the farmyard.
This is enough to fill a half-gallon juice container, with enough left
over for two glasses full for Claire and I.
Try to do this about once a week. Similar to our other fruit
trees, we only have a single grapefruit tree which yields over 300
puckeringly tasty fruits each winter. Just call it Vitamin C with
punch and a fulfilling aftertaste! This tree is bracketed with a
lemon tree and Claire’s favorite, a navel orange tree.
Mar. 3, Sat.—Tony
and Michelle came by for a walk down along Cache Creek and dinner.
They brought by a genuine waffle iron for my earlier birthday.
Looks great! Since the day was not rainy, Alfredo chopped the
weeds in the kitchen garden today. It’s still too soon to
plant, but we’ll be ready. The 8 artichokes we planted last year
are already a foot tall, so I’m most pleased. Didn’t realize this
would happen—a real bonus!
Mar. 4, Sun.—Just
a very pleasant day loafing around. Talked to Tony and
Michelle about their wedding plans for the Greek island of Hydra and
then saw them off after a waffle breakfast. They wanted to swing
by Cache Creek Indian Bingo to check it out and get a cappuccino,
available nowhere else in our humble
Western Yolo county. Read the Sunday paper in a leisurely
fashion, had Greek food leftovers for lunch, took a nap, watched escape
TV (Fox Network), had a nice dinner—the whole superb ball of wax.
Mar. 5, Mon.—Summarized
the 34 responses to the full-page questionnaire I wrote and had sent out
for our Esparto District Chamber of Commerce. Over 80% of the
membership indicates they have a PC used on the average about 24
hrs/week for e-mail and other matters. About 40% have websites and about
20% have made auction purchases via eBay. They want the Chamber to
pursue infrastructure such as a automated
weather station (CIMIS) and business contacts, Almond Festival,
eCommerce and marketing.
Mar. 6, Tue.—Spent
half the day installing Quicken with its associated Family Lawyer and
also TurboTax. Did our 1999 taxes again to
see if matters check out with the software and if I overlooked things or
made errors and so forth. Anyway, the computer software and
my hand-prepared forms checked out 99% and I was able to find out the
remaining 1% discrepancy. As a result, I decided to spend another
$50.00 and e-mailed TurboTax for the 2000 deluxe edition which should
come in a week or so.
Mar. 7, Wed.—The
stock market is finally up again. We have a semiconductor stock,
Intel (INTC) and an eCommerce stock, Commerce One (CMRC), both down from
when I bought them, but now rising again. Today’s the day to
prune down to the new buds on our 9 trees of a new variety of
walnuts. We started in Fall, 1999 with
a pair of buds put into each of four young trees. This gave us
about eight several foot long shoots of the new variety for Fall, 2000
which yielded about 100 buds placed into nine larger trees.
Mar. 8, Thu.—Found
out that of the about 100 buds of our new walnut variety, perhaps
only 70 or so seems sound and likely to provide a nice new several foot
long new shoot. This should be enough as 4 to 6 good buds would
give us from 280 to 420 buds for putting on Paradox root stock seedlings
at Jubilant Earth Nurseries near
If about 300+ of these survive a year for replanting here, we’ll have
our 1,000 new trees all planted in about 3 years, which is fine by me.
At a cost of up to $15.00 per tree, go slow!
Mar. 9, Fri.—Finally
reached my 93 year old father Tony at the
Hermitage in his new room with a deaf 92
year old who sleeps a lot! Turns out my failed telephone calls
were either he was elsewhere (the sit-in-the-shower room twice) or in
the bathroom which takes him half an hour or so each time. We
settled for 1:30 p.m. his time (10:30 a.m. California time) as optimum
for future phone calls. Has a swollen left hand (unknown cause)
but feels OK otherwise.
Mar. 10, Sat.—North
wind finished today while we hauled brush and chipped it.
Finally finished our 2000 taxes using
Intuit’s TurboTax Deluxe software. It spotted an $11,000+
item (Social Security income) which I forgot to include on my California
return. Wow! Otherwise, it confirmed, often with
difficulties for me, all the other figures. It’s especially weak in
handling depreciation schedules or perhaps I don’t fully understand them
Mar. 11, Sun.—Went
to a pancake breakfast after the St. Martin’s Mass where it was my
regular 2nd Sunday to be Lector. Read both some Genesis
and a letter from St. Paul. Claire and I transmitted our income
taxes over the Net to both the feds and the state of
after we had obtained from the state a Customer Service Number, a
so-called CSN. We now wait 24 to 48 hours for confirmation and
from the feds a special
number for our $11.95 rebate from TurboTax and also, I suppose, for
Mar. 12, Mon.—Took
the chain saw to the non-budded portions of nine trees carrying
our new variety buds. Had to cut down the upper portion (beyond
six feet) of the main trunk which was about 4”
thick! Also cut off some fire-damaged branches from where
the burn pile, accidentally ignited in September of 1999, had seared
badly some trees. Got our DCN back from the feds! All in
order except we found TurboTax had counted our depreciation TWICE, so we
have to file an amended 1040X now anyway via mail.
Mar. 13, Tue.—Finished
the chain saw job and also drove through the 20 acres of Tulares,
pruning any young trees, with the 4-wheel Honda ATV pulling the 4’ x 8’
trailer, which 20 acres just filled as there are only about 35 or so
young Tulares. Typical deadlines for timely pruning are
March 15 for Vina, March 22 for
Tulare, and April 1 for the
you wait any longer you have to cut off either greatly swollen terminal
buds or even shoots of 6” of so in length, neither of which is desirable
for tree health.
Mar. 14, Wed.—Our
Esparto District Chamber of Commerce held its monthly meeting at
Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino’s “Creekside Buffet” room. All you
can eat for $7.00, including beverage. The hired group working up
a study for the revitalization of downtown Esparto, all four blocks (!)
on the main street known as Yolo Avenue or Highway 16, gave a
presentation. Then I gave one on our questionnaire to all members,
summarizing their personal computer competence/usage and list of
priorities for us.
Mar. 15, Thu.—At
the Chamber meeting, my presentation had some overhead transparencies to
illustrate members’ directions to us on the board. The members
felt the most important task for the Chamber at present was to implement
an automated weather station for this area with hourly results
accessible to members from their PCs. Our 40% agricultural members
had obvious reasons for the weather station but the other members wanted
it also for their home water needs or curiosity or academic interest or
Mar. 16, Fri.—This
is the second of five mornings in which Alfredo and I are shanking in
Netafim dripper hose (RAM 18mm with 0.5 gph drippers at 40”
intervals) at a depth of about 10”-12”. We do one mile’s worth
each day and have five miles worth (about 10 acres of mature 18-yr. old
trees) to do. We shank it in about 7’ out from each row on the
South side only (North side next year) so as to lessen the shock to the
tree. Staying out 7’ instead of the original 6’ prevents cutting
too many roots as well as the old hose itself.
Mar. 17, Sat.—Buds
are swelling and leaves are out, especially the almonds, all around
the house yard. We continued to install the replacement dripper
hose, although the soil is drying out rapidly due to the grasses’
respiration. They certainly are efficient scavengers for both
moisture and any leftover nitrogen fertilizer from last year. They
grow taller directly over the dripper lines which are down both sides of
each tree row. Tonight we’re having Ron & Helen Voss over for
Claire’s Soda Bread and Corned Beef St. Pat’s dinner.
Mar. 18, Sun.—The
bird activity around the house is amazing. The pair of
kestrels has returned to the box on the East side, although the
newspaper says the swallows have not yet to San Juan Capistrano; a first
time pair of big black and white magpies are building a stick nest 20’
to the West; noisy starlings have moved into both boxes on the West
side, displacing the wintertime flickers; and the little crested
titmouses are hopping into and out of the small birdhouses on nearby
trees to the accompaniment of woodpeckers.
Mar. 19, Mon.—Found
out that our Western neighbors, the Jensen Brothers, had filed a county
plan to have built an 18-story cell phone tower not too far from
our house on the edge of their big 300-acre almond orchard without ever
revealing it to us, unlike the past 20+ years of cooperation.
Other than it saddens me for a neighbor to do that, it is bad business
for us as to resale values and our quality of life. Wonder why
they did it?
Mar. 20, Tue.—Went
to the Esparto Citizens’ Advisory Committee to hear about the
communications tower which is now to be “only” 15 stories tall, but
has a 24 hr./day transformer hum associated
with it. The group representative, Tom DeLuca of
Mericom Corporation, agreed to meet with we
Road 87 residents. Granite Construction is also renewing its
application for an asphalt and a concrete
plant. When it rains it pours!
Mar. 21, Wed.—We
continue to put the fittings on the newly shanked-in drip hose
from Netafim. You have to dig down about a foot and then over
about six feet to the riser from the laterals of the 8” water main.
We have a riser for each nine trees and six risers per row of walnuts,
about one acre. We only replaced the
North side drip line this year so as to lessen the shock to the trees,
and we did 18 acres, for a total of 108 connections.
Mar. 22, Thu.—Finished
washing out the ATV-pulled sprayer used for our winter/spring
strip spray. The mixture of Roundup and Goal is rather
well-behaved, leaving little residue, thank heavens. Anyway, I use
16 oz. of a whitish powder recommended as a cleaner and lots of
circulation and water and washdowns. Made minor
repairs to the boom also as it needed
some device for holding it in a vertical position for transport.
Mar. 23, Fri.—Claire
and I spend five hours at a walnut codling moth meeting at Craig
McNamara’s “Sierra Orchards.” We heard about pheromone mating
disruption, airplane application of Trichogramma insects whose females
lay eggs in CM larvae, killing them, and new attractants such as the
USDA one being developed from all natural substances in our orchard by
Doug Light and the Trece company. Also
bought a 100-pound “Yosemite Slate” slab rock for our front stoop and
obtained from Crain an 3’ potted “Empress”
Mar. 24, Sat.—Our
96 newly planted walnuts (December, 2000) are starting to swell their
terminal buds, so I carried out some black surface irrigation hose
from storage under the old olive tree. This hose has been used
twice before once on the older Tulares and once on the younger Tulares.
Talk about yeoman duty! However, we have to plug six of the ten
microtubes emitters per 26’ as each of these little trees requires only
two emitters per 13’ hedgerowed spacing.
Mar. 25, Sun.—Well,
it looks like walnut fertilization season has started. Hope
it doesn’t rain as this spreads the blight spores downwards throughout
the trees. The Vinas both have mature 3” catkins and just the tiny
tips of some blossoms, the Tulares are starting to elongate their
catkins with no blossom emergence as yet, and the Chandlers, and
especially, the Scharsch-Franquette, are just sitting there with no
external action yet, although root and other internal vascular action
has been going on for months.
Mar. 26, Mon.—Took
a quick run to town to buy some drip irrigation parts as well as
a few vegetables for planting: cherry, yellow pear, Roma, and Big
Boy tomatoes; Japanese eggplant, Jalapeno peppers, summer squash, and
sweet yellow peppers. Cost was only $20. Also did the weekly
food-shopping trip for my half of the meals and deposited checks at the
bank. The radio says electricity rates may go up 40% this year!
Mar. 27, Tue.—Distributed
to the neighbors my 3-page letter summarizing our objections to a nearby
15-story communications tower, if effect, as being too close to
our houses. Mailed it off to the company, Metricom, Inc. and hope
they keep an open attitude. People in a rural area,
unincorporated, seem to me to be in a somewhat vulnerable position when
some institution or corporation decides to impose its will on them,
whether it be gravel mining or towers or
Mar. 28, Wed.—Planted
today: a dozen tomato plants in the backyard and a similar dozen along
with peppers and squash and eggplant in the back corner of the yard
where we process chips and firewood. Put the tomatoes in
alphabetical order in case the tags blow away: Big Boy, cherry, pear,
and Roma. Skipped the Early Girls this year.
Would like to plant some sweet Vidalia onions, but didn’t see any.
We did plant an Empress tree, destined to be 50’ tall and 50’ wide, with
flower blooms in the spring.
Mar. 29, Thu.—Had
fresh lime-flavored tortilla chips with fresh garlic-accented salsa as a
snack while I cooked a dozen chicken “drumettes”, browned on both
sides first, and half a dozen types of vegetables, all dripped in olive
oil, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar and baked in a open enameled ware
pan for an hour at 375 degrees. Yum, yum! Claire and I
munched and watched three hours of escape TV: “Survivor” in remote
Australia, “Crime Scene Investigation” in
and some Dustin Hoffman in “Wag the Dog.”
Mar. 30, Fri.—Finished
hooking up the new buried drip irrigation hose. What a load
off my mind as we can now start irrigating exactly when the walnuts are
ready, which will be sometime next week unless it rains. I am
always nervous when the big irrigation system is under repair as you
never know when trouble with a capital T will really come crashing to
the forefront, just when you least expect it and you have to leave town
or some other such serious thing that simply MUST be attended to 100%,
ignoring the walnut trees.
Mar. 31, Sat.—Worked
the 96 new replants’ structure by walking along and popping off
any swollen buds of sprouts except for the topmost, northern one which
is to be the leader of the walnut tree. It is about 4” long now
and growing nicely, with that lovely purple color at the tip. We
also unrolled the surface ½” plastic hose (Hardie “Blueline”) along the
northern, windward side of each row and placed one microtube emitter at
1’ from the young tree. We’re waiting to see if any rain is
coming, otherwise start the pumps!
Apr. 1, Sun.—Got
some free Italian Asiago bread after Mass today from Ramon Cadena and
his “freebies” setup outside the church. He sells each Saturday at
the Farmers’ Market in
and brings leftovers, plus remaindered bread, for the parishioners on
Sunday. Did a bunch of paperwork or, more precisely, threw out a
lot of junk mail that seems to accumulate during the week when farming
rushes me more.
Apr. 2, Mon.—Did
a bit of plumbing, which I enjoy, to hook up the above-mentioned surface
hose to the existing buried water distribution system. It’s
just a matter of finding the correct spare parts around the place as
there are only five rows involved and they are temporary arrangements
for the next two years or so, whereupon we will switch to the buried
lines with emitters each 40” down both sides of the tree rows. If
no more rain comes, we’ll begin irrigation in about a week or so until
the October harvest “preps.”
Apr. 3, Tue.—Finally
found out what happened to my Kaiser Permanente doctor; she has
been officially “unavailable” for several months which is certainly not
too convenient, especially when I broke my left arm/wrist.
Turns out, one of the pharmacy clerks noted in a
pleasant little exchange about my renewal prescriptions for Lisinopril
that she had surgery for something and her recovery has not been as
expected. Anyway, I was assigned a personable young Dr.
Tabriz for the interim. I liked his pleasant, casual style!
Apr. 4, Wed.--Spent
the entire morning in our county seat,
Started with a
7 a.m. oil change on the ’93 Explorer SUV at Elm Ford while I had
a tasty 3-egg omelet at
Then picked up mail, paid my payroll Social Security tax at the Bank of
America, bought some 25-watt fluorescent “bulb-shaped coils” (7-year
lifetime and 75% saving on electricity for $10.00) to replace some
100-watt incandescent bulbs, ordered a new hub for the hay wagon, and
did a 4-day food shopping trip, and “hit” Walgreen’s.
Apr. 5, Thu.—Alfredo
spent the 8-hour day, alternating filling the sprayer with 400 gallons
of water from the hose on the house pump for an hour and spraying 4
pounds of copper (in the form of copper hydroxide, a flowable
wettable powder, called Kocide 101) per acre for an hour for a total of
four tankfulls in order to cover the 20 acres of Vinas and the 20 acres
of Tulares (the Chandlers, being later flowering, are not susceptible as
yet) so that the predicted rain tomorrow would not spread walnut blight
Apr. 6, Fri.—
Yes, the rain did come with lots of cold drippy weather and am I
grateful to the weather service for predictions come true. The
(is it vain to say “My”?) timing couldn’t have been better as copper
only protects what growth is there and we sprayed just yesterday! Claire
finished drawing, manipulating, etc. a logo for Valley Vision
consideration. This project, David Scheuring, chair, is concerned
with planning for the future for the area from little Madison and our
Esparto up the Capay Valley to Rumsey.
Apr. 7, Sat.—Had
0.3” of rain yesterday, first rain in almost a month, giving us about
17” for the July 1-June 30 season, just about normal. Claire
and I strung up 40’ of little light bulbs (0.3 watts each) inside 10’
green vinyl hoses, one bulb per inch or so. The total generates
120 watts of light and heat, lighting the front path to our stairs for
any strangers with a line of “green
light.” “What a hoot!” as I’ve heard said.
Started our first fire in the wood stove in about a
month as nighttimes are down now to the high 30’s.
Apr. 8, Sun.—Spoke
as “Voice”, a minor role, in the Palm Sunday reading, where the
Priest speaks as “Jesus”, another person as “Narrator”, and the
congregation as “Crowd.” Spent the day nice
and lazy with a fire in the wood stove and some fine reading.
In the evening the TV fare of the Fox Network was animated features like
Bender and company in “Futurama”, Hank and his buddies in “King of
the Hill”, and “Ay Caramba!” Bart, Homer, etc. in
the “Simpson’s”. Topped it all off with Mulder’s return in
Apr. 9, Mon.—Started
hoeing down the very center of those tree rows where the winter
spray missed an inch or two of grasses in the 80”-wide strip, often just
downstream of a big walnut tree trunk. After having the oil
changed in the 1990 Mazda and visiting the post office with a pair of
Easter cards, we had the local real estate agent notarize Claire’s
signature that it was okay to rollover my 35 years of retirement funds
from Purdue (1962-65) and USF (1965-1997) over the next 8 years to my
Merrill Lynch investment account.
Apr. 10, Tue.—Neighborhood
meeting with Metricom Corporation, who want to build a 15-story
communication tower near here in the near future. My neighbors
Mary Garcia Sagara, Al Obermueller, Mary Cornwell plus John Stevens of
Bald Mountain Communications met with Tom DeLucca of said corp. and his
associate from SBA Towers. They propose moving the tower site
westward another 2,000 feet from our homes, which we find quite
Apr. 11, Wed. to
Apr. 16, Mon.—Much
took place as we planted another 100 replants (Tulares) in a hedgerow
configuration among dying Vinas in a conventional square. The 2’
diameter auger accidentally sliced through our phone lines, which
took a few days to find and repair by a very nice Pacific Bell crew and
me. On Easter we also hosted 18 family members for a lamb dinner
prepared by Claire. Both our sons came and Michelle also,
plus some of Claire’s cousins and their
children for a very merry time.
Apr. 17, Tue.—Am
getting ready to invest some cash back into the stock market as
it appears the bottom has passed. One example is Commerce One, an
e-marketplace firm, which plunged from about 75 to 5. (We sold
earlier for a slight loss only at 13.) Anyway, we bought 1,000
shares at 10 on the way up from 5 this week and now
its at 13 on the basis of the only thing that counts, increased
sales of over 300% from last year and increased earnings, although it
still operates with its 500+ customers at a loss for now!
Apr. 18, Wed.—Had
Alfredo spend the day putting 2,000 gallons of copper hydroxide
solution (400 pounds/2,000 gallons) on both the Vina and the Tulare
walnuts to protect the little, less than pea-sized nuts from bacterial
blight. Claire and I drove the 2 hours to San Francisco for the
twice-yearly retired faculty lunch at USF. It was extremely
pleasant as we shared a table with our old faculty friends, Ralph and
Joan Lane (annual Xmas party), Bob and
Margey Cunningham, and Desmond and Evelyn Fitzgerald.
Apr. 19, Thu.—Finally,
the long-predicted late season rain appeared, “wimpy” at first but
eventually about noon showing some “teeth”, making me glad we sprayed
400 pounds of protective pesticide two days ago. Nothing like a
stay-at-home day to take it easy, catch up on some paperwork, and so
forth. (“and so forth” includes a nice lunch followed by a nap.)
Registered two of our vehicles, the 5th-wheel Holiday
Rambler 32’ trailer and a ’95 4-wheel drive Honda ATV,
on the Internet with much ease. Bravo!
Apr. 20, Fri.—Another
wet day and cold also! Did some domestic
chores such as tightening screws to take the wobble out of the old
round oak kitchen table, taking the two leaves out of the new oak dining
room table, and some refrigerator contents rearranging.
Ordered another 100 Tulare on Paradox ¾” replants from Stukey Nursery
for next year to continue replacing some of the weaker Vina trees on NCB
(Northern California Black) rootstock.
Apr. 21, Sat.—Worked
the new walnut cultivar “X” we have growing on 14 trees so that
desired grow dominates. Am having trouble with those buds on the
five Vina “trunks” as they don’t want to “pop”, the other natural Vina
buds doing all the growing. I guess I just keep chopping away and
hope these grafted buds break. Time will tell—and I still have the
four Chandler trees and the five young Cisco trees with the desired X
Apr. 22, Sun.—We
spent the afternoon in Sacramento at the Crocker Museum on O Street
visiting the Chihuly blown glass exhibit, based primarily on his
baskets within baskets within baskets of varying colors.
Also looked at some modern sculpture, including the
regional artists such as the ceramicist Arneson and some of his
disciples. Certainly makes you look and ponder quite some
time, trying to even figure out if you like it or not…
Apr. 23, Mon.—Mowed
the even rows today
in preparation for finally starting the year’s irrigation tomorrow
morning. Saw a crow attempting to kill a young jackrabbit by
continually diving at him and dropping on him with his claws. The
jackrabbit would always dodge and run some distance but the crow seemed
to always spot him in the six inch tall grass that I had mowed.
Since the vegetation, mostly grasses, was up to
three feet tall, it appears that mowing helps predators and of
course hurts the preys’ chances.
Apr. 24, Tue.—Started
the big drip irrigation system
today, even though PG&E has raised the electricity rates by about 30% or
so. Ran for only 12 hrs. as we had
about six small $5.00 valves to fix which had been broken at some time
in the past few months due to harvest or winter pruning or strip
spraying or whatever vagaries of human and other activity.
Will keep daily irrigation going on a demand basis
until perhaps two weeks before harvest in late September to mid-October.
That amounts to the next 5 months!
Apr. 25, Wed.—Continued
with the irrigation system repairs today: finding valves
that had been turned off for one reason or other; stuck valves;
mis-assembled drip lines; etc. Actually, the startup of the
irrigation season has gone rather smoothly. No
complaints from me and Alfredo seems to remember most of the
stuff from last year, although not all by any means. We went over
again about flushing the system, done monthly, one flush cap per nine
trees; about gluing plastic pipe; about back-flushing the media filters,
Apr. 26, Thu.—Ran
out of PVC cement for the drip system, and it was time for my
weekly food shopping trip, so went to Woodland. Also, had a
special repair assignment from Claire as the 35+ year old Waring blender
had a critical gasket in danger of breaking through and needed a
replacement. Finally found a neoprene one of about the same size
albeit slightly less then the requisite 2” or so. If it doesn’t
work out, was also able to buy a 6” square of rubber for cutting a new
gasket exactly to size.
Apr. 27, Fri. to
Apr. 29, Sun.—We
keep the 20 h.p. pump running about 12 hours/day for drip irrigating the
walnuts. It delivers about 360 gallons/minute for the 60 acres or
6 gal/acre/min. or 360 gal/acre/hr. At
64 trees/acre, this means about 6 gal/tree/hr or 72
gal/tree/day (currently), maxing out at 20 hrs/day pumping for 120
gal/tree/day. In plain simple language this means dump a 3’-deep
bathtub of water each and every day onto each and every tree!
Would certainly find it impossible to do with only a pickup truck!
Apr. 30, Mon.—Phoned
for a prunings burn today, which turned out to be a burn day with
the code word KANSAS, which you have to repeat when you report how many
acres of prunings, one in this case or “one pile” as the fire department
called it when I also informed them. Finally
got around to doing my CA state payroll form today with a
midnight deadline facing me for the first quarter report. Took it down to the Esparto Post Office where the
front window will stamp it if you get in by 5:00 p.m. Made it OK!
May 1, Tue.—We’re
now on an irrigation schedule that, due to my TOU (Time-Of-Use) meter
which measures electricity used from
till 4:00 p.m.
which is at 3 to 4 times more expensive rates from Pacific Gas &
Electric, necessitates starting the ag pump daily at 4:00 p.m. and
running overnight until sometime the next morning when the correct
amount, as measured by the daily Internet published evapotranspiration
rate, ET, is reached. Plants are used about 0.2” per day now,
which means we run daily for 0.2/0.0125 = 16 hours or 8:00 a.m.
May 2, Wed.—Started
injecting liquid fertilizer, UN-32, in with the water at a rate
of about 300 gallons @ 11 lbs./gal.
per 60 acres or 55 times 0.32 = 18 lbs.
actual nitrogen per acre. Will repeat this
so-called fertigation about eight or nine times, for a total of about
144-162 lbs. N/acre. We inject liquids at a rate of about
10-15 gallons/hour, so the nitrogen will go in on Tuesday and Wednesday
nights each of eight weeks in May and June, followed by an injection of
dissolved calcium hypochlorite each Thursday night.
May 3, Thu.—Today
we inject, as stated above, bleach while irrigating. To
demonstrate the danger of two innocuous substances we use, as Alfredo
forgot to wash out the liquid fertilizer BEFORE starting to inject
bleach, I took a coffee can with a quarter-inch of liquid fertilizer in
it and tossed a very small handful of bleach powder into it with a
trowel. The instantaneous ferocious explosion and
spattering of acid fertilizer from the upset blasted coffee can was a
very satisfying demo as he almost fell over with the shock.
May 4, Fri.—The
two days of extremely high speed wind have passed; thus, I worked
on rescuing the 200 new walnut trees. About 15% had the growth
twisted down and rendered almost useless due to the extreme twist in the
branch, so I had to prune them back to one or two buds and start over.
It goes with the territory! My Dad wrote and sent a newspaper
clipping of the interior fire at dear old Sacred Heart Church in
Indianapolis. The hand-carved altar & statues are gone, but the
church did not have structural damage.
May 5, Sat.—Spent
hours backflushing the media filters as they have become somewhat
plugged up with perhaps wintertime deposits or whatever precipitate.
Perhaps carbonates from the water? Opened up one of the “hats”
which contain the hydraulic backfllush valve actuator and moved the
valve in and out a few dozen times to loosen up the
motion. Had Alfredo then fasten it back up, sealing the
rubber membrane with the standard eight bolts.
Also injected about a gallon of concentrated hydrochloric acid to unplug
May 6, Sun.—A
lazy day. Right after Mass, I helped a fellow parishioner who
clicks the CD music on and off for those Sundays when the
organist doesn’t come. Someone had reprogrammed the Sony deck for
RANDOM track playing, so each click gave unpredictable track numbers,
rendering the Mass to an a capello status, of course. We finally
found an EDIT button to throw it into the program mode but couldn’t
figure out how to program it. However, exiting edit mode reset
things to sequential play—O.K.
May 7, Mon.—Off
to Reno for a day of gambling! A first
time for us. The bus ride through the Sierras was fun; the
trip being sponsored by the Friends of the Esparto Regional Library.
We went to the Silver Legacy, where Claire won sixty cents after having
played six dollars worth of nickels. I lost about $15 worth of
quarters in which we had a ball winning up to 20 at a time and feeding
them back into the hungry slots with, for us, wild abandon, as the
machines made much noise and so forth.
May 8, Tue.
to May 10, Thu.—We irrigate daily now. Last night Claire and I
hosted the monthly meeting of the Esparto District Chamber of
Commerce. The 7-member board met at the dining room table
while another 15 or so members trailed in and had soft drinks, frozen
vanilla wafers, and conversation. We then met as a group where we
heard a presentation by a consultant on how to reinvigorate downtown
Esparto. Also had a presentation by Capay Valley Vision, a new
consensus-forming group. Great event!
May 11, Fri. to
May 14, Mon.—Sunday
was Mother’s Day and we celebrated as a family. My Dad
called with good wishes for Claire in the a.m. and with a request for
some more one dollar bills for incidentals.
Mailed them off today. Claire drove to San Francisco where
we had a picnic in Tony’s flat with Michele and also Kevin who brought
flowers from Veronica. Had a great hike
afterwards at Mountain Lake and the Presidio with the wind blowing some
fog around and some sunshine too. Just a fine day for us
May 15, Tue.—Finally!
Mounted the new hub on the 80 year old hay wagon Bill Rominger
gave me from the family’s historic ranch North
of here. Cost $50 for the hub and an additional $50 for machining
fittings for a tight fit, which it indeed is. Looks great
but…there’s still one problem. The 5 bolts in the new hub are in a
tighter circle than the 5 holes in the 80 year old wheel! Guess
I’ll have to drill the 5 holes larger until I get a fit and then use
washers or something so all is snug and safe enough for usage.
May 16, Wed. to
May 18, Fri.—Wednesday
evening Claire and I went to the annual RCD (Rural Conservation
District) outdoor barbeque at Craig McNamara’s FARMS project house
in Winters. Most pleasant having so
many conservationists together in one place! Our walnuts are
sizing up nicely and we water about 18 hours daily now. Tonight
I’m fixing petrale sole for dinner with mushrooms and a nice allspice,
onion, white wine and cream sauce and accompanied by steamed cauliflower
with bell pepper.
May 19, Sat.—At
$25 per steel-cutting drill bit, bought an 11/16” and a ¾” bit for
enlarging the five holes in the wheel of the hay wagon in order
to fit it on the new $100 hub which has a smaller radius for its five
bolts. Even so, the hole still has to be made larger so when
Claire went in to the grocery (Raley’s) she stopped by True Value in
Woodland and spent another $25 on a 7/8” bit plus I already own,
fortunately, a 1” steel-cutting bit! Upwards and onwards to either
success or total frustration…
May 20, Sun.—Attended
a midday plant sale at the old Gibson Mansion in Woodland.
Came back with some purple needlegrass, a native
bunch grass, and a page of sages that Claire liked, a Cleveland sage and
something like a salvia goodii with a red bloom.
Had lunch with Catherine Porter and Bruce
Shellhammer at good old Lyons after we found that fancy Morrison’s was
closed at lunch on Sundays. The mansion grounds, half a
city block were filled with an arts and crafts fair and the county’s
oompah band. Fun, fun.
May 21, Mon.—Finally,
the old wheel is on the new hub on the 80-year old hay wagon from Sears!
After incurring two sore wrists from drill “kickback” by enlarging the
bolt holes on the wheel to 1” holes, Alfredo filed away for an hour
enlarging the holes from a circle into an oval so now it all fits.
Hooray! We are having 100-degree days now, so the body
needs to adjust quite a bit. Thank heavens for an air-conditioned
May 22, Tue.—What’s
new? Not much as I’m now working on the
left front wheel of the hay wagon now that I’ve spent $150 and a month
fixing the right front wheel. Actually, this is done as a
precaution so it too won’t freeze up in the years ahead. I have to
pull the hub in order to adequately grease the two Timken roller
bearings. Furthermore, our 20 hp ag
pump is pumping dirty water, requiring a backflush about once every
hour or two AROUND the clock. Sleep won’t be very continuous
May 23, Wed.—Took
a trailer load of refuse and the car full of bottles, aluminum
and paper to the dump today at $12 the load. Claire is working up
a marketing plan for the YORCA group which is trying to start a
community swimming pool and recreation center. Our pump’s water
continues to be silty, so I have to backflush at least one of the four
media filter each two hours. Hopefully it will clear up by
midnight, else it’s up each three hours or so which is not a very
May 24, Thu.—Well
water has finally cleared! What a relief as of 11 p.m. last night
when it was necessary to backflush 3 of the 4 sand filters.
Also, finally, the hay wagon is all ready to roll! With one new
hub and machined parts and the other hub’s two sets of Timken roller
bearings all freshly greased, we’re back in the business of hauling
brush out of the orchard. This evening we go to Craig McNamara’s
home near Winters for a taco dinner, plus
bringing home overnight two high school girls in a FARMS program.
May 25, Fri.—A
sophomore from Israel, Miriam, and a junior from Davis, Becky
spent the night with us as part of the learning about agriculture module
outside of school. Miriam will return to Israel after high school
for her two mandatory years in the Army, while Becky hopes to use her
skills in crew as a coxswain as an entrée to college. We showed
them around the farm, Claire showed them some art and her drawings, and
then we had an hour of TV with peanut butter cookies and pretzels.
May 26, Sat.—Memorial
Day weekend for some, but I’m going to mow the orchard as the weather
has cooled and its safe to turn off the
water for three days. We put new blades on the mower, greased it
and the John Deere, and filled up with diesel so I’m all ready to start
tomorrow after a few practice passes today back in the walnut prunings
chipping yard where there’s no irrigation ever going on. Plenty of
pollen flies up when we mow but fortune has favored me by not giving me
any allergies of this type.
May 27, Sun. to
four hours each day mowing the 60 acres so that the grasses are
five inches high instead of 24-36 inches high. This makes a
wondrous mulch which reduces
evaporation and increase soil permeability as the microorganisms go to
work on the fallen biomass. The sowbugs, earwigs, and other little
critters also go to work as scavengers on the clippings. I try to
have three beers or Pepsis with me in a little six-pack type of cooler
to slake my thirst and keep the dust and bugs washed down.
May 30, Wed.—Orchard
looks like a park with all the tall grasses mowed to 6” and the few
milkweeds and other broadleaves chopped down! After three days
with no water, we came back on the air with the standard 20 hours
(equivalent to 0.3”) of water. Went to the
Nugget Supermarket with a 10% off coupon for being a good customer,
which gave me 20% off on wine and about a net 18% off on selected sale
items with my Nugget card. As a result I selected $275
worth of items and received about $53 off for a bill of $222.
May 31, Thu.—As
one of three members of the Scholarship Committee, Esparto
District Chamber of Commerce, I listened to the presentations of six
seniors desiring one of our pair of $500 scholarships. Tom Taylor
and Betty Girtman are the other members. The No. 1 most
accomplished guy had other scholarship support; we decided to help two
very desiring girls, one bound for Chico State University and one for
Woodland Community College. These two are extremely
accomplished/active in community service…
Jun. 1, Fri.—Am
working on our Honda-pulled seed spreader, trying to make it useful for
spreading chipped prunings back in the orchard. The
problems with chips are: little branches mixed in with them which
we have to screen out; their irregularity which makes it hard for them
to flow down and out so we have to have some sort of vibrator apparatus;
and their relative lightness which also makes it hard to get them to
flow down and thus out of the spreader into the orchard rows. We
have the opening open to the maximum!
Jun. 2, Sat.—Our
worker FORGOT to turn off the water at 7:00 a.m. so the orchard
could have a four hour “break” for oxygen intrusion and so forth before
the irrigation started again. Thus the break was only about two
hours or so when I caught the mistake. We irrigate for 20
hours/day Monday to Thursday, 15 hours on Friday night, and up to 30
hours on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of up to 125 hours/week, which
translates to about two inches of actual water for the walnut trees.
Jun. 3, Sun.—Phoned
my father as I usually do each Sunday. He commented that my Mother
had died exactly seven months ago on November 3, 2000. I then
realized that spouses keep track of each other, living or dead, much
more than we kids do, perhaps sadly so. My Mother’s death
was hard at the time and for a few months after, but not now, unlike
apparently the case with my dad. Anyway we chatted a while until
it appeared he just laid the phone down. From
Don’t know really.
Jun. 4, Mon.—Claire
returned items to both McNamara in Winters
and the Israeli family in Davis while I continued to work with the
spreader, trying to modify it to spread chips. Also found about a
dozen instances of the dreaded puncturevine plant in our lower
driveway. These strong pointed barbs cause flats, sore feet, hurt
hands and legs, and so forth. One cuts out the plant—its has
pretty little yellow flowers and a low spreading habit—and either burns
it or else sacks it up for the dump itself for burial.
Jun. 5, Tue.—Picked
some more baskets of fresh blackberries today;
we’re up to about 20 baskets—too much to eat, so we’re freezing
some by spreading the washed and partially dried berries in a single
layer on a cookie sheet and putting it into the freezer for 15 minutes.
Each berry freezes into a separate entity with a thin layer of ice
around it and we then put it into one-quart freezer bags for storage and
eventual (Yum!) consumption. Claire’s working on her WYORCA
swimming pool project for Esparto.
Jun. 6, Wed.—Bought
some coulotte steaks for dinner tonight, along with refried black
beans with melted cheese, broiled green pepper, and fresh pasta with
sliced mushrooms, sautéed, and light Alfredo sauce. While we ate,
we watched a movie exploiting the “Black Widow” theme, wherein a wife
murders her husband when the time is ripe—the proper time being when the
funds run out in this case. She shoots them “accidentally” with a
bedside revolver while they sleep.
Jun. 7, Thu.—Bought
some repair parts for the oft-mentioned spreader, as Alfredo snapped off
the stirrer mechanism yesterday while on only the third row of the
orchard spreading chips which we now double screen to get out the
plugging material. Tonight our subscription to the B Street
Theatre in Sacramento begins with Carter W. Lewis’ “Women Who Steal”,
which Claire thinks is a comedy. The two Busfield brothers own
this theater. This all reminds me of going to the A.C.T. when it
first came to S.F.
Jun. 8, Fri.—The
play last night was most pleasant, airing most of the negatives of a
woman’s life (skin treatments, hot flashes, relationships, maleness,
being hit on, …) in a very entertaining format of
theatre-in-the-round with two women at odds with each other and a
single guy alternating among playing three or four roles. The
dialogue was rapid-fire, witty, extensive.
The B St. Theatre is right next to the elevated main railroad tracks at
27th Avenue and a couple of trains came by, somewhat shaking
Jun. 9. Sat.—As
per usual, went up Highway 16 to the nearby Capay Junction bar for 7:00
a.m. morning coffee with some of my buddies from the area.
Two infrequent guys both showed up: Roy Pearson, a walnut grower,
who works as a contractor rehabbing oil refineries, power stations, and
so forth and also “Red”, about 85 years old, who’s a real cattle man who
loves to talk. Later, Kevin came by to test drive his mother’s ’90
Mazda and barbeque some salmon steaks and red peppers for us for dinner.
Jun. 10, Sun.—After
Mass this morning, we had a fine chat with Ramon Cadena who used
to work mornings for us almost 20 years ago. He and his wife Lucy
have mastered English to the extent of fitting right in with all the
Anglos. Furthermore, he’s always telling some story of his past
while waiting for the parishioners to help themselves to some free bread
and produce he brings with him to church. His leftover produce,
which he grows organically, is from his stall at the Saturday morning
Davis Farmers Market.
Jun. 11, Mon.—After
turning off the irrigation water yesterday, the system had drained
enough by this morning so that I could cut off and replace one of the
field valves, called SAS-1’s. We just lop off the old valve and
glue on a new one—just like that. Only a few hours drying time is
needed before we commence the next irrigation. On the bird scene,
the two kestrels and junior are still hanging around; the magpies
continue all the noisy squawking, and the starlings in the two
westernmost houses have had further broods!
Jun. 12, Tue.—Am
getting ready to go over to our rented 20’ storage locker and
move some of the few remaining contents out. In the past month or
so, someone broke in by hacksawing the bolt, thereby bypassing our
quality lock. Jack Huie, the owner, came by today and said he’d
get the bolt repaired, hopefully with better steel. I suggested a
high grade steel sleeve to protect the bolt. Anyway, I don’t think
the burglars took much as there were mostly boxes of books, camping
gear, and some of our own oil paintings.
Jun. 13, Wed.—Took
just three trailer loads for Alfredo and I to empty our storage locker
in Esparto. This will save almost $1,000 in rental fees each
year. To tell the truth, I couldn’t remember anything we had
that the burglars took as they left one of Kevin’s expensive stereo
speakers (the other one of the pair I had moved earlier) and a brand new
$400 set of golf irons that belonged to Tony. The big problem now
is to get the stuff out to charity or the dump or in the hands of my
kids, and not Claire’s hands.
Jun. 14, Thu.—Today
we pruned the dead fronds off up to head-height from the four big
majestic palms at the entrance to our farm lane. While we
were at it, some dead plants were also pruned out and a general tidying
up was carried out. The pair of crepe myrtles
are in their light lavender bloom, a most attractive shade for
our hot summers. The artemisia needed trimming here and there as
it’s a rampant spreader. Its bluish color is so pleasant to see as
a contrast to all the shades of green in the other plants around here.
Jun. 15, Fri.—Finished
working the new trees again. This consists of: fixing any
inoperable or erratic drip emitter; pulling off suckers and pulling or
cutting off any sprouts except for the main leader; covering up the
crown of the tree if too much is exposed by scraping some soil up on top
of the mound around the tree; pulling weeds near the new tree; and
snipping off about an inch of any branch competing with the main leader.
Jun. 16, Sat.—We
celebrated Father’s Day today as both Kevin and Tony came up from
the Bay Area at 11:00 a.m. Claire drove us in her new VW Passat to
a down-to-earth restaurant that I picked on an old barge on the
Sacramento River. Called the Virgin Sturgeon, it was a favorite of
Jerry Brown, my former housemate and ex-governor of California. We
ate smoked sturgeon and prawns as an appetizer and Cajun catfish as an
entrée, while the other three sipped some giant Bloody Marys.
Jun. 17, Sun.—Yesterday,
after returning from lunch, we had our two sons perform triage on their
earlier belongings left in our storage locker, which had been
burglarized without any losses whatsoever that we could detect.
(Guess our belongings don’t sell well on the “black market” or something
like that!) They seemed to enjoy the old mementos and clothes and
even graduation gowns and comic book collections. Most of the 15
boxes or so they decided to donate or junk; they took a few things with
Jun. 18, Mon. to
Jun. 26, Tue.—The
past week has been so busy that, believe it or not, I’ve forgotten
what I explicitly did! Installed an automatic backflush controller
on our irrigation system; had both the Scheurings and Bruce & Portman
over for one of Claire’s tasty dinners; read
some great stories from Kevin re junking the old Olds and trying out Jim
Haley’s old golf clubs; experienced a freak June rainstorm; took stuff
to the dump; did some very profitable short-term trading in the market:
10 minutes in one case.
Jun. 27, Wed.—A
county Planning Commission functionary phoned and said the cell phone
tower matter is still being hashed over and that the Commission will
meet in August to resolve the matter. We will be notified since
we’re within 300 feet of the subject property, the Jensen Brothers.
Claire and I are 100% for the tower just so it’s away from homes since
it has the potential of being very noisy with 4 humming transformers, 8
air conditioners, and 4 backup electrical generators!
Jun. 28, Thu.—It’s
chainsaw time again! If one expects his walnut trees to live on
the average of 50 years, then its obvious
that some die the first year and some die in the 100th year,
some in the second year and some in the 99th year, etc.
In other words, 1% die each year of the
century. As we have almost 5,000 walnuts planted, this means about
50 trees die each year (which we, of course, replant). This dying
provides us with brush for chipping, firewood to heat the house each
winter, and fun-to-use fencing materials.
Jun. 29, Fri. to
Jul. 2, Mon.—Went
to San Francisco for two days to attend Claire’s 50th
grade school reunion (Notre Dame des Victoires) at the Olympic
Country Club—a most pleasant and cordial event. We stayed at the
old—and decrepit, unfortunately—Roberts Motel near
the Zoo. Too noisy for words! Had an
early breakfast at Louie’s while overlooking the former Sutro Baths site
which burned down in about 1966 or so. Back at the ranch
with 100 degree weather, I finished mowing and the water is now running.
Jul. 3, Tue.
to Jul. 23, Mon.—For the first time in years, we took an extended
vacation to visit the upper “little finger tip” of lower Michigan at
the rented beach home of my sister Rosemarie. The Kannins also
brought the grandkids from Chicago. What a fine time it was as we
just bummed around on hikes, sunset-viewing, bonfires with songs and my
scary stories for the grandkids about “Billy” and his adventures
underground, in an abandoned toy factory, and in a locked greenhouse
with a voracious plant. More later!
Jul. 24, Tue.—While
back in Michigan, we looked out due West to Lake Michigan and, though we
couldn’t see Wisconsin 50 miles away due to the curvature of the earth,
we did see the two Fox islands and the pair of Manitou islands which
define the shipping channel called the Manitou Passage between
the islands and Michigan. The ships were big and seemed to all
come from the direction of Chicago. To me they resembled tankers,
ore carriers, garbage scows, but not container ships or military ships.
Jul. 25, Wed.—As
far as the ranch is concerned, Alfredo did a fine job during our
vacation. No problems at all! Thus, I just have to do a few
minor tasks and, of course, unpack from the trip and take my weekly
turn of cooking dinners on Wednesday thru Friday. Claire has
already done a planked sockeye salmon, using a cedar slice we brought
back from the Leelenau peninsula: we loved little towns like Leland and
Empire and Northport and Claire brought back some petrified coral called
Jul. 26, Thu.—Got
out the chainsaw and took down another half-dozen dead walnut trees.
When the tree structure contains a few side branches equally spaced
around the trunk, I cut the tree into a self-standing fence post
(when inverted) about 7’ tall instead of cutting it all into firewood to
heat the house each winter. A pair of these and two 8’ rails and
you have a handsome fence pleasing to the eye, especially if you paint
it white. We support the rails on foot-long nails drilled partly
into the “posts.”
Jul. 27, Fri.—Claire
and I went over to Catherine Portman’s nicely native plant landscaped
hilltop home this morning to return her maps of Michigan she
loaded us and to compare Petoskey (petrified coral) stones. She
showed how she drip irrigates some smaller plants by placing a plastic
one gallon jug of water with a small hole in the bottom next to the
plant’s stem. She also has mosquito fish in her several little
ponds and a number of birds nesting around the house. All in all,
Jul. 28, Sat.—Today
we went to the 25th anniversary celebration of the Davis
Farmers Market. My former employee, Ramon Cadena, has a booth
there for his fresh produce and flowers. Being such a nice person,
he insisted we take home gratis some huge Brandywine tomatoes and some
fresh aromatic basil. Must have been
over a thousand people at the market, a regular feature for many people
desiring organic or Asian or other specialty food items.
The Scheurings joined us for lunch as Fusions in Davis.
Jul. 29. Sun.—The
major mite infestation of the walnut orchard
continues, perhaps unabated. Since predator
populations lag prey ones, I’m still hoping for my beneficials to handle
the problem without too much of a loss of walnut production in this high
yield year. I’m keeping the water up at 100% of the ET rate as
water stress facilitates mite problems. I’ve seen some spiders
working the mite-infected leaves, but not on every tree, at least not
yet. Hopefully some predator mites with take on these webby spider
Jul. 30, Mon.—Picked
some of our farm lane “home
orchard” fruit today: “Shinseiki” Asian pears and purple plums.
We’ve already eaten the two round versions of the three kinds of plums
grafted on the same tree. They were what Claire calls “Mirabelle”
plus what I think is called Italian. Now the purple plums are in a
ripening bowl for softening as hanging on the tree in our climate seems
almost never to soften them, nor does it soften our
Asian pears nor the other two varieties of pears we have.
Jul. 31, Tue.—Finished
the fifth mowing of the season today. More precisely,
finished the 2nd half of the 5th
mowing, as we mow alternate rows in order to
always have grass and weeds available in the field to feed insects, both
beneficial and, inevitably, the other type. We start off the
season with four mowings with a rotary mower, then switch to the flail
mower which gives smaller pieces for biodegradation prior to harvest.
The orchard floor looks superb now, all uniformly brown and devoid of
larger grasses and weeds.
Aug. 1, Wed.—Spent
the day making farm equipment repairs. Fate seems to work
that way! During out 12 day trip to Michigan, nothing
broke—fortunately. However, just yesterday, three items broke:
the flail mower last a $100.00 bearing on the roller, the chip spreader
broke in three places due to metal fatigue, and the tractor hitch lost
its hitch pin. Furthermore, we ran out of tractor oil.
Obviously, the first thing was a trip to nearby
Woodland for parts and supplies which worked out OK.
Now for the repairs…
Aug. 2, Thu.—Back
to the repairs:
bought a new hitch pin to replace the lost one and purchased 10 gallons
of 15W-40 tractor oil, as well as a dozen quarts of 15W-40 for the ATV,
the chipper, etc. Alfredo and I worked on the spreader and its
fixed for now in that we put rivets in two places where previous ones
had sheared off; also we replaced the 2’
stainless steel “stirrer” which had snapped off. The
stirrer keeps the hopper contents moving about destined for the 3” x 3”
hole in the bottom, whereupon they are thrown
Aug. 3, Fri.—Last
evening was most pleasant, indeed. After a yummy early light
dinner of teriyaki chicken salad and smoked turkey quiche, both from the
deli, we went to the B St. Theater, run by the two Busfields, to
see Norm Foster’s “Drinking Alone”, a Canadian play now starting in the
U.S. The five actors comprise a two-generation family of four and
a female escort hired for the evening to impersonate a fiancée for the
timid son trying to impress his visiting parents. It’s a fun
comedy based on wrong assumptions and such.
Aug. 4, Sat.—Off
to Woodland to buy farm supplies: 4” hitch pin, cans of
silicone spray and of tire sealer, green plastic tying tape, 10’ x 12’
blue polyethylene tarp, two sizes of rivets, and a pair of stainless
steel circular clamps which I forgot. Also got
a Chinese lunch of chicken chow mien, broccoli beef, and Szechwan
chicken. Yum, yum! Picked our photos up from the
Michigan vacation and they worked out OK. Kodak’s 400 Max seems to
get the colors just fine. Also got the shots
on a CD for our computer usage.
Aug. 5, Sun.—Received
my fortnightly check of $140 for 20 hours of loaned farm labor
from my fellow parishioner, Ramon Cadena. (In fact, Claire is
helping his wife Lucy this month in doing the flowers, dried in this
case, for the church altar.) Ramon uses our worker Alfredo 10
hours/week to help him grow almonds and also produce and flowers for the
weekly farmers market in Davis. Maybe, I’ll open a farm produce
stand out by Road 87 here on Haag Farm. I think I would enjoy the
human contact and the challenge.
Aug. 6, Mon.—As
always, I read in bed for 45 minutes to an hour or so each night
before turning off the light for a good night’s sleep, which inevitably
comes. Finished for the second time Herman Hesse’s “Siddharta”, a
short book about a lifelong search by the forenamed for answers to
fundamental questions such as “What is Self?” Read the 1,000+ page
“Maia” by Richard Walker (“Watership Down” & “Shardik”) during our MI
trip and am now on “A Pioneer’s Life in Indiana” by Oliver Johnson,
Aug. 7, Tue.—The
temperature reached 100 degrees again today. We’re having
about a 3-day heat wave. The things I notice when it tops 100 are
that when you step outside from the air-conditioned house, the air seems
oven-like and oppressive and you start seeing sweat glisten on any
exposed skin. Later at night, when the AC is turned off, you sense
a “baking” still taking place and even when you wake the next morning,
there is a feeling in the air that it never fully cooled off and that
more warmth is indeed ahead!
Aug. 8, Wed.—Today,
I hooked up the log splitter to the ball hitch on the Explorer and
hauled it out to the wood yard to the North of the house. Some few
dozen dead trees that have been cut down the past month or so have been
cut into 20” lengths where feasible (the smaller branches are chipped
for spreading in the orchard) and are now ready for splitting into
firewood to heat the house during the winter. Alfredo and I
tried splitting a few logs and all seemed to go well, so that’s
tomorrow’s assignment for him.
Aug. 9, Thu.—Claire
and I spent yesterday evening at a Chamber barbeque at Cathy
Wicks home with about 20 members. She brought a walnut and fig and
lettuce salad which appeared to be a hit. The group socialized and
talked CofC business concerning projects for the coming year.
These were matters such as a composing a useful map of this area from
Madison through Esparto and up the Capay Valley to Rumsey and also the
$6,000 funding and installing of a CIMIS automated weather station here
Aug. 10, Fri.—Couldn’t
reach my father yet as he’s finally obtained a presumably
permanent single room at St. Paul’s Hermitage and the phone company,
independent as always, hasn’t moved the phone connection as yet. I
assume Dad will stay in this room until the end so I hope he stays
pleased with the help, the view, the accessibility, etc. He’s down
near where he and Mother shared their first room until she died last
Fall. Talked to my brother Tom and
sister-in-law, Amy, and got updated on the room.
Aug. 11, Sat.—Farm
After dark Thursday night, I picked up the tractor which was hooked up
to the flail mower with its new bearing, and drove it home a mile or so
with Claire lighting up things behind me in her Jetta. Actually,
the tractor has several lights but over the years they come unconnected
or broken off. Thus, I could only use a single side light forward
and a weak red light rearward as the other half dozen lights or so
Aug. 12, Sun.—Went
to a wine-tasting (Tom Fredericks and Pam Welch of Capay Valley
Vineyards) and local photo exhibit in the community Wintun room
in the new library. Some old-timers such as Al Hayes had submitted
really old photos such as the 32-mule teams used to harvest wheat on the
hills north of Esparto. Tom Fredericks now hires both my former
workers, Jorge Figueroa & Jorge Jr. They seem to enjoy vineyard
work, he says so I’m pleased for them and their large family.
Aug. 13, Mon.—Forgot to mention
that this past Saturday night was a maximum for viewing the “shooting
stars” known as the Perseid shower, caused by debris from a comet
something-Tuttle hitting the earth’s atmosphere. I stepped out on
the balcony a few times and saw six flaming tracks, two rather large,
one of which was quite thrilling as it covered the full length of the
Big Dipper, handle and bowl. Claire lay outside “in the back 40”
for an hour or so at
midnight and saw a
total of 14 shooting stars!
Aug. 14, Tue.—We’re
now spraying herbicide (Roundup at 2%) on the walnut orchard
middles wherever there’s fresh green grass and weeds in order to kill it
as we don’t want any fresh vegetation as it won’t decompose fully in
time for harvest in early October. The leaves from last year and
winter vegetation (clover and vetch cover crop) are all decomposed now
and the spring and summer grasses and weeds are mostly decomposed except
for stems which we’ll drag around until they subdivide and spread evenly
around the field, filling cracks, etc.
Aug. 15, Wed.—Our
University Extension farm advisor, Wilbur Reil, brought by two
visitors from Chile today. They work for a corporate farm
(AgroSuper, formerly SuperPollo) which wanted to find a way to use its
waste manure from hog growing operations. They opted for using it
to fertilize fruit and nut orchards, especially walnuts. They
visited me a year ago and both times we have talked about hedgerowing
Tulare walnuts and I was able to show them 1st, 6th,
and 13th-leaf walnut hedgerows. It’s most intense and
neat, talking shop!
Aug. 16, Thu.—Last night I marinated inch-thick tuna
steaks in a fresh ginger/soy/lemon/sugar sauce, then broiled them
with the little ginger chunks on top and bottom.
Also roasted potatoes parts, skins on, with some
more of the sauce near the end. Tonight is dry spice rubbed
deboned, deskinned turkey breasts with Japanese Aduki bean salsa,
heartened with some Mexican hot sauce and tomatillos;
accompaniment is whole broiled pesto mushrooms and asparagus.
Aug. 17, Fri.—We have hand
harvested the four “soft shell” almond trees (3 by driveway & 1 just
West of house) with tarps and an 18’ pole. Alfredo will then hull
them by hand and freeze them for 48 hours or so to kill any sort of bugs
and worms inside the shell. Finally, probably during the winter
rains, we’ll have him break off each shell so that the nutmeat itself,
the almond, is ready for consumption. I think this variety of soft
shell almond is either Non-pareil or Peerless. We machine shake
the other 10 almonds trees for wildlife food/sanitation.
Aug. 18, Sat.—Watched a fine French video last
evening—“Cousin et Cousine”, a really charming two hour tour of an
extended family and its shenanigans due to the diverse personalities and
drives. Hand-pruned suckers and pinched off tips on the new
trees for the 2nd or 3rd time this summer.
They are growing well with a single microtube giving about a gallon of
water an hour and are now about six feet tall. This fall I’ll
prune them down to about five feet without side branches.
Aug. 19, Sun.—The water in the
orchard is turned off so that we can mow with the flail mower and
take down and chop up the grasses that I killed with the recent Roundup
spray. This will be #6 of the 7 or so
mowings that we do each year. Today, we also went
to a neighbors (Catherine Portman) to visit
and check out some toads and butterflies. She grows special plants
to attract butterflies. One example is a narrow-leaf milkweed
which we saw a beautiful Monarch clinging to and, after I scared it off
accidentally, returning within a minute!
Aug. 20, Mon.—We have been
harvesting weekly from our kitchen garden whenever veggies are
fully ripe. Today was the first two Japanese eggplants; untold
amounts of Roma tomatoes, big yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and
little yellow pear tomatoes have been ready each and every week now.
Our two little pepper plants are not growing well, the artichokes are
now too tough to eat, and the several kinds of pumpkins are growing
large and orange and round.
Aug. 21, Tue.—Finished our two
days of mowing in time to bring up the water at the standard 4:00 p.m.
The most difficult challenge in irrigation is not how much water
on average to give the plants each week, but how to balance the entire
orchard of thousands of trees so that those getting too much water don’t
die and those getting too little water don’t die. This discrepancy
is brought about by the variations in the soil type as well as
non-uniformity in the drip system.
Aug. 22, Wed.—Claire bought some ornamental grasses
with large purple-tinged heads and a three foot height. Something
called purple fountain grass. We already have a few types of
native bunchgrasses planted: California sea grass, deer grass, and
purple oniongrass, the latter from a nearby cattle range in the
foothills. Bunchgrasses often have both nourishment for livestock
and color year round with minimal water requirements. In fact,
none in the summer! Settlers introduced our more common grasses
which out-competed native bunchgrasses.
Aug. 23, Thu.—Started the day
with a dentist visit. Two fillings! Damn! Anyway, my
Woodland dentist is relatively pain free and pleasant to boot.
Next I bought repair parts at a couple of stores, made deposits at the
bank, checked the post office for my Kaiser prescription, and did some
grocery shopping. Since they sent me a 5% off at Nugget coupon, I
bought some extra items such as a gallon of olive oil, some condiments,
extra spices like powdered cumin, Hoisin sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon
Aug. 24, Fri.—We went to the
California State Fair today at 9:00 a.m. so we could get an early
start and it wouldn’t be too hot. Cost just $6.00 each for the
car, me, and Claire. (Senior rate!)
First thing we did was grab a map, then ride
the elevated Monorail around the entire Fairgrounds. We visited
the livestock barns and also had a gourmet lunch in the shade next to
the Storybook Garden. After this, was the checkout of some county
exhibits, followed by a walk through each of the eight buildings with
fair exhibits such as home canning & art.
Aug. 25, Sat.—After 24 hours of
watering, I turned off the drip for the weekend.
Also packed two tins of nuts, one almond and one
walnut, for the family celebration tomorrow in Napa of our 40th
wedding anniversary. Our 90-degree weather is gone
now and they predict 100 degrees for tomorrow. Claire did some
food shopping while I did some paperwork for the farm. All in all,
a ho-hum sort of day which was sort of pleasant although not very
stimulating. The high point was having a young great blue heron
land on the railing of our deck at midday!
Aug. 26, Sun.—Well, Happy 40th Anniversary
to us! About 30 of us attended the celebration, prepared by
Claire’s sister, Sr. Pat, around the swimming pool at the convent at
Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa. Lou & Patricia Loustalot,
almost a 50-year marriage, were the oldest and their four adult kids,
spouses, and children and both Tony and Kevin Haag and their dates came.
Claire and I and the youngest went swimming. The wine flowed, the
only flaw was related to finding the very private
location, and much conversation/updating took place.
Aug. 27, Mon.—Sprayed Roundup on any remaining green
grass and weeds in the Vinas which will be the first variety harvested
in the latter part of September. Next, I cut down another couple
of dying walnut trees, one from crown gall and one from branch wilt
having reached the trunk. The latter, an opportunistic infection
of a bacterium, often enters high up in a sunburned portion of the tree,
and works its way down year-by-year until reaching the trunk itself.
The remedy is to cut off the offending sub-branches or branch before
it’s too late.
Aug. 28, Tue.—Met with the new
Superintendent of the Esparto School District, Dr. Tom Michaelson, for a
working lunch on common interests with our Chamber of Commerce.
One major topic discussed was an appropriate several acre grassy,
irrigated site for a CIMIS (California Irrigation Management Information
System) automated weather station which anyone could interrogate
daily from their PC to find out, not only temperatures and dew points,
but more importantly, the ET or evapotranspiration rate (amt. of water
used) for the previous day.
Aug. 29, Wed.—Stayed in bed
until 7:00 a.m. Felt good, with only a slightly guilty feeling.
Claire doesn’t criticize me for this now-and-then biorhythm adjustment,
as I call it. You know, those 3 unequal cycle natural rhythms your
body supposedly has, where now and then the 3 valleys coincide and
you’re quite slow, but when the 3 peaks coincide, you are accomplished
and bright and energetic and on top of the world.
Sprayed liquid fertilizer for the final time this
year to kill the few remaining suckers on the walnuts, thus
getting ready for harvest.
Aug. 30, Thu.—Finished
spraying Roundup on the remaining grassy areas in the 60 acres.
Now we’ll just let the grasses and weeds die over the next couple of
weeks, then cut the water 14 days before harvest, spray Ethephon the
ripening agent 12 days before harvest, then mow any remaining standing
plants, followed by many passes to drag the orchard floor free of any
detritus, filling in all cracks and leveling the floor of the orchard.
All this facilitates a smooth efficient one-shake harvest, whereupon we
hand-scavenge any remaining nuts.
Aug. 31, Fri.—Finally remembered
to get a haircut when it was open, namely, Tuesday thru Friday
after 10:00 a.m. (Even our Esparto main street businesses don’t
OPEN for periods anywhere near 24/7.) Gloria is just as good at
conversation as any bartender, both listening politely to your stories
and coming up with numerous topics of her own. She also gives a
nice shampoo before the haircut, so she’s actually giving you a wet cut,
the best! I like my hair short on the sides, but long in front for
a “sweepback” and, of course, longish in the back…
Sep. 1, Sat.—We spent the
evening at a fund-raising outdoor “Fiesta” at a nearby
ranch--“Sol y Sombra”--sponsored by Yolo Connections; it concentrates on
helping youth via mentoring and other programs. The Scheurings treated
us as they had a table of eight. Parking attendants directed us to
parking in one of the corrals, others sold drink tickets, and a six
piece Mexican band played while we talked and munched chips with salsa.
Next was a fine meal of carnitas, refried beans & salad with music,
followed by dancing to Ray Cadena’s “Tuneups.”
Sep. 2, Sun.—After Mass, Claire gardened (hibiscus,
butterfly bush, lavender, etc.) while I chainsawed a few more expired
walnut trees. Next, I packed for my 3-day trip back to
Indianapolis to visit my Dad and fill in for my passed-on Mom on their
68th Wedding Anniversary, Sept. 4. We’re getting
together for Mass and lunch on two days, plus some good conversation and
a push around the grounds in his wheelchair. Also, I have to show
him some photos of the recent Michigan trip. I put my clothes in a
handy wheeled airline attendant’s cart, which I often check so I’m free
to just carry a cabin bag with a book, hat, and some non-alcoholic wine
and perhaps a bag of pretzels.
Sep. 3, Mon. to Sep.
7, Fri.—Back from Indianapolis via Southwest of the “no-food except
peanuts and line up 1 hr. early for boarding passes” fame. Spent two middays with Dad
for lunch and rather one-sided conversation and outdoor walks
(pushing him) at St. Paul’s Hermitage in Beech Grove, IN.
He thinks OK, albeit slowly, but gets a bit confused now and then.
The staff takes good care of him and all I needed to buy were a pair of
washable trousers, 44 x 32, one khaki and one navy blue, as he’s sitting
in the wheelchair all the time and has put on weight plus his diaper
adds some girth. Had a dinner with Tom and Amy and took 20+ photos
of him, plus former homes, etc.
Sep. 8, Sat.—Yesterday at 7:00
a.m. we turned off the irrigation water to dry out the field for
harvest in 17 days for the earliest variety, Vina. Today, I
chainsawed a few trees’ dead branches so that when they shook the nuts
off the trees, branches would not fall all over the place. The
Roundup herbicide we sprayed on earlier took effect and there’s very
little green grass and weeds growing out in the orchard now, just as we
want. Claire steamed some salmon with ginger and onions in a
Chinese bamboo steamer for dinner and it was simply superb!
Sep. 9, Sun.—Was a lector at
Mass, having to read St. Paul’s letter to Philemon, a slave owner he was
trying to convert. (Paul wrote very few letters to individuals, so
this was special.) Claire worked at the annual Health and Safety
Fair in the Esparto Park. They not only check blood pressure, for
diabetes, etc. but baby car seat installation
and so forth. Went around to some final
grassy spots with a tank sprayer on my back to spray herbicide for the
last time this season. Checked out nut cracking as
an indication of hullability…
Sep. 10, Mon.—Spent the morning mowing the 20 acres of
Tulares, trying to get as close to the trunks as possible. As you
do this, the long branches bash you in the face and sweep off your hat
and tear at your arms. This is the closest mowing of the year,
being the final one before harvest. Lost my
yellow “California Walnuts” hat, which was swept off twice and chopped
up rather totally. This mowing grinds up old grass, fallen
walnuts, and any dead branches and other detritus on the ground, leading
to a much more efficient & cleaner harvest.
Sep. 11, Tue.—Spent the morning,
four hours to be exact, mowing the 20 acres of Vinas, while Alfredo
subsequently spent four hours mowing the 20 acres of Chandlers.
We’re ready now to take the flail mower off the tractor and put the
electrostatic windmill sprayer on and fill it up, 400 gallons at a time
with 3.5 gallons of the ripening agent Ethephon. We spray
at a high rate of 500 gal/hr at a slow 2 mph so that ideally we cover
each and every nut, as this chemical does not translocate, thus
requiring direct contact for the ripening effect to take place.
Sep. 12, Wed.—We completed
spraying the Vinas today—took two tanks, that is, 800 gallons of
solution containing a total of 7 gallons of Ethephon, namely, almost a
1% solution. Yesterday was a very sad day as some terrorists
hijacked four U.S. airliners with full loads of fuel (and passengers &
crew) and crashed two into the pair of towers at the World Trade Center
in New York and one into one side of the Pentagon. The 4th
one crashed in Pennsylvania. There was obviously great loss of
life, including the 3-6 terrorists on each seized plane.
Sep. 13, Thu.—Today we started dragging (some call if
floating) the orchard, pulling behind the tractor three joined
together 10’ wide steel blades akin to railroad rails. These cut
the grasses lose, shave it into smaller pieces, and level the soil by
causing it to roll or “boil” up into rolling mounds which then
redistribute as you go down the ¼-mile rows. Of course, after the
1st two or three passes, the orchard looks worse then when you started
as huge clumps of grass break off to the side, cluttering up the orchard
floor. However, after another half-dozen passes, things are ground
up, all cracks are filled in, and the mineral soil forms most of the
surface as the grass particles are tiny.
Sep. 14, Fri. to Sep. 17, Mon.—Television has really been
saturated for a week with the terrorist attacks on New York, but
it’s now starting to return to normal as the soap operas resumed their
schedule today! The stock marked reopened with a 6%+ loss overall,
the largest Dow Jones absolute drop in US history. We bought some
shares of Oracle at a low point and it finished up a quarter
point. Volume was over 2 billion on the
New York Exchange; similarly for the Nasdaq.
I sprayed Ethephon on the Tulares today as we harvest them in two weeks.
Sep. 18, Tue.—We spent the
weekend in Palo Alto at Tony and Michelle’s newly rented home.
Kevin and his Brazilian friend Veronica joined us Saturday evening for a
superb meal including Michelle’s Potato/Garlic soup, Kevin’s special
salad dressing on lettuce, and Tony’s grilled butterflied leg of lamb
with grilled asparagus. Yum, yum! The trip was 120 miles one
way, so we went the 680/580/San Mateo bridge route going, spent the
night on their very comfortable king-size bed and returned via Sand Hill
Road and 280 and the North end of the Bay to 80 and 505 and then 16.
Sprayed Tulares today!
Sep. 19, Wed.—Our tenant, Joe
Muller & Sons, who row crop farms our northernmost 10 acres,
found out via my phone call that his workers laid irrigation pipe too
close to our Tulare walnuts. Water would have made the harvest
impossible. Thus he told them to move the quarter-mile of pipe 15’
or so further away from the orchard. Trouble was he didn’t tell
them to start the water in that pipe, so I phoned 24 hours later, today,
and finally the water is being sprinkled on to bring up next year’s
crop. Only one problem remains as I don’t know as yet what the
crop is! Isn’t life complicated sometimes…
Sep. 20, Thu.—Had the ’93 Ford Explorer serviced at 103,000
miles; it has been a fine farm “implement”, hauling around a $1,000
worth of tools year ‘round, as well as being a trailer puller and brush
carrier. Also got the weed-whacker repaired as our soil
literally wore through the plastic bottom of it so no more plastic
“cord” would feed out. It’s simply amazing what materials, steel
included, abrade away from the action of soil rubbing against them.
For that reason, our major soil implements
have their leading edges coated with tungsten carbide.
Sep. 21, Fri. to Sep. 25, Tue.—Final preparations for the
2001 walnut harvest are completed and all ripening sprays have
been applied! However, the $1,000+ rain loss of last year during
the Tulare harvest REPEATED again this year yesterday just after the
Vina harvest, wherein about one-third of an inch of rain fell just after
we had shaken 100% of the Vinas from their quasi-protected locations in
the trees onto the orchard floor! Consequently, we have to wait a
couple of days now for the soil to dry out so the heavy harvesting
equipment can enter the orchard again to sweep up and pick up the wet
Sep. 26, Wed.—We harvested the
Vinas today after only one day of natural drying as this was adequate as
the extremely dry soil sucked up all the third of an inch of rain.
The yield was about 20 tons, or almost a set of double-trailers full.
Joe Martinez plans to run them through the huller tomorrow, where
they’ll fill 5 of his 16 dryer bins and take 12 to 16 hours to get
down to 8% moisture which will keep them both nutritious and tasty
with healthy oils (about 50%), including the omega-3 type oil (as in
many fish) which is good for the heart.
Sep. 27, Thu.—Today we started
harvesting the Tulares only 10 days post-Ethrel as the rain loosened
their hulls. At one time, we had about 12-15 guys working as
many limbs and leaves have to be removed from the windrows in a dense
hedgerowed orchard in order to harvest the walnuts efficiently.
The guys walk along, skillfully twisting their rake in the windrow in
such a fashion that branches, leaves, and debris hook on and can be
removed into little piles which I subsequently chop up with the flail
Sep. 28, Fri.—Finished the Tulare harvest today at midday.
Yield was about 30-35 tons, which will take 8-9 of the Martinez dryer
bins. The workers did a fine job, with very few missed nuts.
Alfredo collected five entire trailer loads of broken twigs and branches
which we will subsequently run through the chipper. After the four
harvest passes—shake, windrow, raker-cleanup and pickup—we make
several post-harvest passes of our own: hand pickup of sticks,
etc.; tractor pass with a flail mower to chop up remaining debris,
leaves, and little sticks; cover crop planting; pruning pass; and
spraying tree rows with herbicides such as Roundup (emergent control)
and Goal (pre-emergent)
Sep. 29, Sat.—Started
chipping some of the harvest debris. Claire and I went down to
the huller again for a few bags of dried walnuts for use and gifts
during 2001. The huller only had one empty bin due to all the Haag
nuts which finished drying after about 16 hours for the Vinas and, being
a larger nut, 20 hours for the Tulares. A pair
of Diamond Walnut semis will pick them up tomorrow from the huller and
truck them to Stockton for grading and then usage. Two weeks from
now, we’ll receive the grading sheets and the estimated price we’ll
Sep. 30, Sun. to Oct. 4, Thu.—While
we’re waiting for the Chandlers to ripen for harvesting, we have started
the annual pruning. Our diesel
Weldcraft pruning tower started up quite promptly with
no surprises! The $1,000 hydraulic pruning saw hooked up okay and
I sharpened the cutting points (30 of them on the chainsaw). We
have one leak, but its small, so I just use
paper towels each day to soak up the leaked oil as I dare not risk a
repair which might end in a BIGGER leak. We can prune about a row
of 55 trees each day, so the work takes months.
Oct. 5, Fri. to Oct. 17, Wed.—Well,
hooray! Walnut harvest is completed and they shook well and hulled
well and graded well except for the Vinas which got caught on the ground
by a surprise rain. Our yields are up a good 15% or more from last
year and I am very pleased. We had the hedgerow people come
yesterday and in only 4 hours they pruned every other row in the 20
acres of Tulares with their huge boom that carries seven 24” circular
saws. What a time saver as by hand the job would take a month!
Oct. 18, Thu.—Went into Woodland for the weekly shopping
trip, plus repair parts for the irrigation system as we started drip
irrigating again this week. We had four decent sized leaks,
all of which occurred in the past six weeks while we were shut down for
harvest; two were human caused (foot breaking a connection and the
hedging tower rupturing a line) and two by wildlife in that they gnaw a
half-inch or so hole in the lines while searching for needed water when
the system is down.
Oct. 19, Fri.—Made the four repairs mentioned above with no
problems developing as in the scenario when you try to fix something and
something else associated and more difficult to fix breaks!
Alfredo has completed gleaning both the Tulares (finishing the
DAY before the big hedger arrived to cover the ground with prunings) and
the Vinas. We have them both drying further in the trailer which
we moved into the basement. In wetter years we hang an infrared
bulb over the nuts, but this year simply air-drying should be adequate
for the 8% goal.
Oct. 20, Sat.—Today our essential submersible agricultural
pump, all 20 h.p., inexplicably stopped during the night’s post-harvest
irrigation. A service call revealed that Monday it would have to
be pulled up the 100’ or so and inspected for what’s causing the
electrical short. Big bucks! A new well with pump costs
about $25,000 but we probably just need a new pump at perhaps $6,000
or so installed. Why not—we just received our harvest/hulling/drying
bill from Martinez Ranches of Winters for $16,000! …and property
taxes are due Dec. 15. Whew!
Oct. 21, Sun. to Oct. 28, Sun.—What
a week! We DID need to have a new pump installed at about
$6,000 as the 9-yr. old one shorted out. Then my father had to
be ambulanced to St. Francis Hospital with pneumonia and a collapsed
lung. That evening we found out it was mostly a false alarm due to
a false-positive X-ray at his nursing home. However, he told me
today that an attending fireman stepped on his lower denture, breaking
it in half and thereby leaving him with only the ability to gum his food
for the week. Life seems full of curveballs!
Oct. 29, Mon.—This was a busy
day, capping some days of preparing for the onset of the rainy season.
Equipment has to be put under shelter, messes have to be tidied, items
left lying about from the previous 6-8 month growing season have to be
put away, farm buildings are swept out, mice poison is distributed, some
pruning is done while it’s still dry and convenient,
fireplace wood is stacked, tarps are placed over equipment stored
outside all year around, etc.
Oct. 30, Tue.
to Nov. 3, Sat.—Our 600 pounds of clover
and subclover and insectary plant seed has arrived in Woodland, so
I’ll go pick it up in the Ford Explorer today. Carrying 600 pounds
is just like carrying two big football players! After Alfredo gets
finished today clearing prunings out of where we are cutting in the 40
acres, we’ll do another drip irrigation to get the soil prewetted for
planting this seed. We have to drip irrigate since the
Fall rains are late coming this year.
We have had less that 1” of rain in the past six months or so.
Nov. 4, Sun.—We had a
Thanksgiving dinner early this year—at 1:00 p.m. today at the local
high school @ $10 a head. It’s an annual fund-raising event for
our new library here in Esparto. We opted for dark meat and it was
indeed tasty. Next I watched the 49’ers beat the hapless Detroit
Lions for the latter’s 7th straight loss. Finally, the
final 7th game of the World Series is underway with, I hope,
Arizona beating New York. Incidentally, I turned off our new
agricultural pump after another 24-hr.
irrigation as the Fall rains simply have not arrived yet.
Nov. 5, Mon. to Nov. 12, Mon.—The
past week was a flurry of activities to get the farm ready for the
rainy season. Planted the final 20 acres
(Tulares) with 350 pounds of “Low Grow” seed mix, comprising mostly
clovers, subclovers, and vetch. We now have about 1,000
pounds of cover crop seed planted, waiting for the rains to germinate
it. Also, took our much-used Italian wood chipper engine in for
repairs as the clutch is slipping. Claire and I went to the B St.
Theatre for a play entitled “Wonderful World”, followed the next day by
lunch at USF in San Francisco for the retired faculty. Anyway, the
rains have started!
Nov. 13, Tue.—Started
the wood-burning stove for the first time this season. It
worked without a hitch and climbed up to a very hot 1,300 degrees
Fahrenheit before cooling down to the regular 800 or so when only one
20” log at a time is burning. It felt fine on a foggy soggy day!
Received my first payment for a walnut sale to someone other than
Diamond Walnut…he’s from Gloucester, Mass. He wanted 15 pounds of mixed
2001 crop, which he ordered over our new Internet site at
Nov. 14, Wed.—We cracked 10
pounds of Vinas for an order from a customer who has not supplied his
address as yet—only his e-mail address. Time will tell if it’s a
sincere $50.00 order or not! I imagine walnutswalnuts.com will
provide no end of surprises. The greatest mystery currently is
how people find it; we are thus going
to start asking them, providing a discount on the next order if they
answer. The retail trade is not for everyone and I can see why…
Nov. 15, Thu.—Attended
the monthly Chamber of Commerce meeting last night, while Claire
nicely stayed home to fix dinner, swapping last night with my cooking
thru Saturday night. Anyway, the Chamber’s members, about a dozen
in attendance, okayed $3,000 towards a local
CIMIS (Calif. Irrigation Management Info. System) weather station,
subject primarily to finding the matching $3,000. We also heard
about a possible 20-acre building from Ace Hardware that might be
located at the edge of town. This distribution facility is a nice
Nov. 16, Fri. to Nov. 20, Tue.—The mystery 10# walnut
order turned out to be bonafide and from Nebraska when they briefly
e-mailed for my address for which to send the check, supplying their own
for the nuts. Alfredo returned today after a 4-day trip to
Carpinteria in Southern California, where his brother lives. He’ll
be 20 this Friday so we’re giving him the day off preceded by a
Thanksgiving Day off also. No rain has materialized lately, so I’m
glad a did a 7-hr. irrigation!
Nov. 21, Wed. to Nov. 23, Fri.--Trimmed my beard yesterday,
so I guess today it’s off to my lady barber Gloria. Harvested a
dozen pears and a half-dozen persimmons from
the ground, all with a 10-ft. pole with a catching basket with
one lip fitted with a number of steel fingers. Works great and now we’ll
ripen them in special covered bowls. Went for
Thanksgiving to Marin County with 25 more Loustalots from Claire’s
family. Most pleasant! Today Tony and Michelle and
her Dad and sister are coming for a 2nd Thanksgiving dinner.
Claire’s doing a bunch of vegetarian dishes plus a tart and I made an
old-fashioned British plum pudding trifle for dessert. Yum, four
Nov. 24, Sat. to Nov. 26, Mon.--My
brother Tom’s 65th birthday on the 25th! His
three sons and their families are surprising him with an event to
celebrate. This morning the little grey fox is dozing on our
deck in the morning sun just 10 feet to the East of where I’m typing
into our computer. He sure is pleasant and exciting to have
around! Alfredo returned today after a few
day’s vacation and his 20th birthday. I also had
to telephone the
IRS to make an
appointment for an audit, the first one since 1994 and maybe my 5th
one since 1950…
Nov. 27, Tue.—Spent the day at a
minicourse on “Growing Walnuts” given by Wilbur Reil, our Yolo
County Farm Advisor. It was for beginning growers but I still
mined it for a couple of details and it was a good review of my past 20
years of growing. (Wilbur, however, can’t spell very well and the
spelling errors on his slides were perturbing, with the worst slide
containing three errors.) Although acreage remains approximately
constant, the varieties do indeed change with the industry switching
from Hartley to Chandler, Howard, and Tulare, with some Vina. We
grow all these except Howard.
Nov. 28, Wed.—After having five
repairs made to our
wood chipper 10 hp engine and transmission,
I got it hooked up again successfully to the wood chipper. I had
Alfredo crack some nuts and then start chipping wood again as
its too windy to prune from a tower.
Claire is off at Kaiser having her cholesterol tested as it increased
over the past few years, whereupon she changed her diet (reduced meat)
and exercise regimen (does 5 daily miles on the Nordic track) and will
now see if it responded by lowering.
Nov. 29, Thu.—Claire’s “Book Club”, a group of 8 or so
friends from San Francisco days, decided not to come to Esparto today
due to the latest storm. They are reading “American Chica”
currently. I mailed off 10 lb. of nuts to my sister,
Rosemarie, for Christmas: some shelled whole almonds and both shelled
and cracked walnuts, of course. Also e-mailed the
UPS tracking number
for another walnut customer in Nebraska and told them about
www.ups.com for tracking usage.
Nov. 30, Fri.—While Claire food shopped and Alfredo picked
up Tulare walnuts on his second and final gleaning pass, I did some
hand pruning in the mechanically hedged Tulare rows from October.
It amounts to cutting broken branches left by the hedger, cutting off
too low branches, and plucking out dead cut off branches from where they
lodged in the tree. Noted the relative abundance of crown gall,
which is such a shame. What saves the day is that in a hedgerowed
orchard it is acceptable to lose up to 50% of the trees over a period of
10 years or so! The remaining trees simply branch out and fill the
Dec. 1, Sat.—Am going to print
this out now so I can have some copies made to give along with
Christmas gifts. Everybody knows what usually happens in
December anyway! And let’s don’t forget the famous Haag Farm
Dec. 2, Sun. to Dec. 7, Fri.—Had
a nice 2” of rain this week. Sent off some
Christmas packages, including nuts and nutmeats, of course.
Went to Kaiser today for my annual flu shot, which took only minutes as
I stood briefly in the assembly line with other seniors; however my arm
is sore as hell and I hope by tomorrow it’s healed or whatever it’s
called when they shoot a shot into your upper arm muscle and the body
“notices” it hours later! Time now to do some more work preparing
for—ugh, ugh—a tax audit for the year 2000…
Dec. 8, Sat. to Dec. 13, Thu.—Well, I had my
IRS audit and, for
the first audit ever, the examiner didn’t change a single cent of my
2000 return after we concluded going through about a foot of paper
documents substantiating my deductions. She was a 25-yr. veteran
of the IRS and was most pleasant. We agreed that we both preferred
the current “renewed”
IRS and its change of stance re we taxpayers!
Otherwise, I continue to winter prune the orchard while Claire is
decorating our live Christmas tree, a Noble fir.
Dec. 14, Fri. to Dec. 16, Sun.—Drove to Burlingame to visit
the Lane’s for their annual Christmas party. This is the event
where we get updated on our former colleagues from my 32 years teaching
at USF. It is a pleasant event and we attend most years, although
last year we could not go as I broke my left wrist trying to fetch our
morning newspaper from down in the drainage ditch. The SF 49’ers
won a football game against Miami today, 21-0. The Sacramento
Kings play basketball tonight—they are tattooed extensively and also
play fast ball!
Dec. 17, Mon.—Dropped by the Post Office to get the mail
early as VISA has changed our expiration dates a month too soon and our
credit cards don’t work—and the new ones haven’t arrived yet.
Thought maybe I pitched them out as junk mail, so spent an hour going
through old trash to no avail. Finally, I phoned in and ordered
two additional cards, which took 10+ minutes of waiting on the phone!
Meanwhile, we only have our debit cards to use, although they seem to
work fine as long as we don’t mind paying RIGHT NOW. On the bird
scene, a Great Horned Owl is hanging around near the house and the
flickers continue to “knock-knock” on the house making holes…
Dec. 18, Tue.—Took our Phillips
Vineyard friends, Mike & Hilda Fernandez, to the annual Christmas party
given by the Chamber at Capay Valley Vineyards, a new operation run by
Tom Fredericks & Pamela Welch just North of Cache Creek Indian Bingo and
Casino. The 25 of us tasted wines, munched on snacks, and then
played, believe it or not, party games. Two examples are “human
name bingo” and singing “Here comes Santa Claus” in a ever-speeding up
round with six groups of four singers each—a very merry affair after
Dec. 19. Wed.—Somehow I contracted my first cold of the
year; figure it was Sunday after Mass when I was shaking hands here and
there out in front of the church. I must have used at least 10
Kleenexs today! I always forgot how miserable they make you feel,
or at the least, irritate you with constant nose blowing. Anyway,
my recent installation of a new Creative Soundblaster sound card is
working superbly. I’m listening to Strauss Waltzes while I type
this journal and it’s so much more pleasurable than just sitting in a
Dec. 20, Thu.—The cold continues
in my head and the rain dribbles on today. Hope the premature
blooming of some of our walnuts stops as the customary January freeze
will kill any fresh bloom. One tree actually pushed a little new
walnut out by the road; said nut cannot possibly survive the winter.
Claire is wrapping Christmas presents while I am just fiddling around
waiting for the cold to go away. Plan to do some pruning tomorrow,
but today is limited to indoor activities such as carrying up wood for
the stove, playing on the Internet, etc.
Dec. 21, Fri. to Dec. 22, Sat.—Realizing
that my Dad’s Christmas gift had not arrived from the catalog company, I
had to act fast. All I could think of was some tasty food items,
so Claire and I packed a Priority Mail package with German Pfefferneusse
cookies, Jelly Bellies, walnuts in brine from France, and some English
Hard Sauce. Alfredo showed up in the rain for his paycheck and I
had him crack walnuts for four hours for Christmas gifts around town.
When I went to Woodland to mail the package, also turned in eight
bottles of spoiled white wine from Ariel—the first time that that has
ever happened—with a musty odor/taste. The 49ers won their
eleventh game, a defensive triumph!
Dec. 23, Sun. to Dec. 26, Wed.—Had
a fine Christmas with both sons and Claire’s sister and friends…we
spotted our gray fox living on top of an outbuilding inside an owl box.
Anyway, Kevin roasted a big turkey in a Weber kettle after Claire had
soaked it in a spiced brine solution for 24 hours. Great flavor!
Received some shirts, books, scent, and a video of “Schrek”, quite a
variety overall. Weather remains gray and dry in between light
showers every few days. Almost over my cold…
Dec. 27, Thu.—Two big black
turkey vultures were sitting on top of our southernmost utility pole
this morning, just looking around and not skittish at all. They
stayed for almost an hour without emitting a sound, although I didn’t
investigate to see about any droppings! Our new Visa cards finally
arrived and that ends a period of uncertainty when our old ones would
not work and we had to use ATM cards instead. Finally, went to the
Bank of America branch office and had what
they said was a block removed…
Dec. 28, Fri.—My sister
Rosemarie in Michigan followed my brother Tom in Indiana into the first
stage of retirement by switching to a part-time job at the University of
Michigan. As I retired almost five years ago, I could report to
them that it is indeed most enjoyable. Bit by bit your new
activities build up until it fills the day, leaving you somewhat
wondering how you ever found time to work fulltime.
Dec. 29, Sat. to Dec.
31, Mon.—LAST ENTRY FOR THE YEAR! We have a break in the rain and
have invited two couples over for New Year’s Eve, although not the
Scheurings (with whom we’ve celebrated many times) as they appear to be
out of town. (Incidentally, our Internet Service Provider has no
access today so something is wrong with their equipment at Mother.com,
or Cal.Net as the company is called. Most inconvenient this lack
of access since we daily rely on e-mail.)
Anyway, hope to have the company cook desserts, play games, and set off
fireworks at midnight tonight to bring 2002 into being with a boom.
"It is so easy to
[write] about the beautiful, but it takes more genius to say, in proper
style, 'close the door.'" Gustave
Excerpted from “Ramblings, Recipes, & Reflections” © James
N. Haag 2005