Tuesday, October 09, 2007
"You've said that already."
"But it's true!"
I had been repeating "I can't believe we've never been up here" for much of the trip. We were on an adventure to Hood River and the famous Fruit Loop. We go strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, black and marionberry picking in the spring and summer, but we had never gone to the orchards in the fall. What a beautiful trip.
It was so easy: apples right at arms length, all ripe and glowing and ready to be picked.
She got a little bit giddy with how easy it was, so I followed her with the camera as she picked to fill the bucket. One price per bucket. As much as it could hold. And someone was determined to fill that bucket as high as it would go.
I think visiting farms and fields and orchards is special to both of us, with memories of our childhoods wrapped into it.
For me, growing up in the fertile valley in Ventura County, California, we were a town surrounded by produce. Fields upon fields of all kinds of produce connecting Oxnard to Camarillo to Somis to Saticoy and Santa Paula. Orange and lemon and avocado trees were abundant, with windbreaks of big eucalyptus, their scent filling the air and mingling in spring with citrus blooms. Heading just east climbed a little in elevation and to the ranches of Ojai.
About this time of year, we'd pile into the Country Squire and head to Ojai, past the crooked palm (it grew up, then to a right angle, then straight up again) along the highway and to the big red barn and the apple orchards. That big red barn was a magical place where you'd pay for the apples you picked, but they also pressed apple cider and juice. On weekends the place was buzzing with excitement. The lines to ride the tractor trailer out to the trees could be long, and my impatient parents had us set out on foot, or, most likely, we got there early when the air was still heavy with fog, and we were the first ones in the orchards. Ladders stood waiting, and we'd scramble up and down them, harvesting the red gems.
My brother's memory of the place brings back a mouthful of hornets when he drank his unattended cider without looking. He was in Ojai last year and says the barn is gone. But I read about Ojai in travel and gardening publications, now famous for its spas and restaurants. But it's also famous for the committed farmers and growers there, churning out beautiful produce and publications of their stories. Some of them are still there.
I have a box brimming with apples, and some freshly pressed cider in the fridge. It must be fall.