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Ramblings…

(Excerpted from “Ramblings, Recipes, & Reflections” by James N. Haag)

“I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches”
Monet Refuses the Operation by Lisa Mueller
Alive Together © Louisiana State Univ. Press

Where’s the start of the Capay Valley? Where’s the START of the Capay Valley? You want to know exactly and precisely where? Are you 100% sure you want to open this can of worms? Bet it’s going to take 2,000+ words for someone to attempt an answer. Now this is a “start” question which can fool you: simple on the surface, convoluted in its murky depths. Recall that newly-accepted “California Wild & Scenic River” Cache Creek (www.Motherlode.SierraClub.org/Yolano ) wriggles (wiggles? courses? plunges?) down this very same Capay Valley. Is that a neutral fact or does that clarify or muddy our quest?

This question came up innocently enough due to the emergence of another simple question. Said second question being: “Where shall we put the new ‘Welcome to Capay Valley’ sign?” This was, of course, being asked in the depths of a community meeting, and elicited a fast flurry of answers. “It’s not important,” a cooperative resident volunteered. “Only at the edge of town makes sense,“ another said. “Capay!” and “Esparto!” were both heard. An authoritative voice issued “Where I say to put it!” Some laughter rebounded around the room. So much for the second question. Now, back to the “entrance of our valley” problem Simple solution? Maybe. One could ask our new Capay Valley Vision umbrella group (www.CapayValleyVision.org ) for an answer, but it seems there may be no solid consensus as yet. Onwards with the search…

Permit me to be sidetracked by at least one diversion! Perhaps if one can answer the original question about the location of the starting point of the valley, it will shed light on how to even begin to answer other lurking questions yet to come. Furthermore, perhaps the answer itself is not as important as all that goes on in the process of examining the question, enmeshed as it is in its world of circumstances. A final speculation, however, on the second question before leaving it. Wouldn’t a tourist say “Put the sign where I can see it.” while a highway engineer would require locating it “Where it’s safe for traffic.” And wouldn’t the naturalist recommend “so it won’t spoil the view” and the anarchist with chain saw hope that “there’s no steel inside those wooden supporting posts?” Many sociological implications here with hopefully an intersection solution in this world. Not for this essay to answer in any case. Nevertheless, thousands of visitors over the decades since World War I have found our annual event the last Sunday of each February. (Almond Festival site: www.EspartoChamber.org ) I haven’t heard any complaints from them yet about not being able to find the start of the valley fun. Not even from the happy motorcyclists!

Now, back to the initial location question. Is it of the type guaranteed to stir the stewpot of any committee of concerned citizens; even animate a 2-person conversation? Perhaps you are familiar with this situation for certain questions--put two people of opposite opinions to work on the solution and they’ll come up eventually with perhaps three opposing answers they can’t agree on and a committee might even come up with four or five answers. Why? Let’s see if we can’t find out why. Just examine below our simple short question from the viewpoint of a few of what will turn out to be its myriad 3-D sides and you’ll see for yourself that it’s depths are indeed verging on bottomless. Until now you probably thought Lake Tahoe was deep! Just wait until you start looking into the depths of this question with so many sides it recalls my high school math class project trying to build a 20-sided regular icosahedron, one of the five Platonic solids. More than you wanted to know? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icosahedron )

Without trying to plunge too deeply into philosophy, can one ask about the seven words of our original question above: “Does an answer even exist?” Is this one of those questions such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Nevertheless to forge ahead, I trust not. One certainly should expect a simple answer to a simple question. “Are we alone?” is a simple question, isn't it? “At what instant does life start?” is a simple question. But what kind of simple? Isn’t ours though perhaps a simple geographic question? Sounds okay for now, but whose geography shall we use? The tectonic plate one or the soil chemist one or the hydrologist one? Multiple and correct answers do exist and are known, but unfortunately, they do not coincide with each other and the answers range all the way from Woodland as the start of our Capay Valley alluvial plain all the way back West towards our six communities, stopping here and there as an “answer” to a particular meaning of “Where’s the start of the Capay Valley?” Honest, there’s even a “Brooks!” answer (www.CacheCreek.com ). Something about the airflow being blocked there…

It turns out that multiple geographies do indeed coexist and that we must use different ones for different categories, leading to differing answers to the same question. But in which category is our simple question? Quandary. Quagmire? This whole scenario reminds me of the existence of Paris, France and Paris, Illinois and its next-door neighbor Paris, Indiana (I’m a native Hoosier.), not to mention all the other instances of Paris on the Earth! No one of these communities is like the others at all. Which answer are you really, really after? Is there a hidden agenda? Or is this an intriguing scientific pursuit destined to add to man’s knowledge of himself and his world? Why did we really, really ask this question in the first place? Fundamentally, given the human condition, perhaps an answer is not of interest at all. Perhaps the real interest is in the mild human chaos surrounding the process of finding an answer…hmmm. This entire question controversy reminds me of those ongoing urban legends which surface now and then (www.Snopes.com ), e.g.,
Trapping License (17 November 2005)
· Does California law require state residents to obtain hunting licenses before setting mousetraps?

However, we hope to see shortly if there exist methods which can aid in finding our actual answer. It’s time to conduct an examination from all sides. Also from on top and up from the bottom. Firstly, is the answer one word? Alternately to a single answer, is the answer to the question actually a debatable two-fold one, perhaps with theological overtones as in “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” (We are ignoring all those false 2-answer questions such as “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” or “Are the drunken rages over?”) Notice that not only two-location answers exist for a certainty, for I’ve already heard lot’s more than two without even looking very far or very deeply. At one meeting I sat through, someone said unhesitatingly “Capay!” Next, I heard “Esparto, of course.” Perhaps our sought-for answer is a non-stationery target, moving with flood levels. (See Weather Station #196—For username and password, use Esparto at www.cimis.water.ca.gov/cimis/frontLogonData.do ) Someone abruptly once said “Esparto’s not the start, it’s the Gateway to the Capay Valley.”

As an aside, this unfortunately reminds me of a famous related mathematical conundrum: “Does the set of all sets contain itself?” Can a place such as Esparto be simultaneously both a gateway to and inside of something? Duhhh…this is becoming disconcerting. How about objects with no start and no end? Remember the Klein bottle, a 3-D construct which has only a single two-dimensional surface, so that it’s inside is also the outside? (Picture a necked bottle with the extended neck’s end fused into a hole of the same size in the side of the bottle, with a flared opening lower in the neck.) And, to perhaps add intellectual insult to injury, did you ever as a kid build a Mobius surface wherein its top is a continuous part of its bottom, as it only has one surface in its pure world, not to menton only one edge. Both of these constructs have neither starting point nor an ending point. Not much help here…I think you’ll agree. (www.SciAm.com for the above and below.)
TODAY'S TRIVIA
What body part is affected by otitis externa?

We definitely should move on now, except for one final diversion to convince you that these types of pure constructs provide unanticipated insights.

Continuing this aside then, you can always approximate a Mobius surface by putting one twist only in a very narrow foot-long strip of paper and joining the two ends with some tape. (www.scidiv.bcc.ctc.edu/Math/Mobius.html --Strip named after August Ferdinand Möbius, a nineteenth century German mathematician and astronomer, who was a pioneer in the field of topology. Möbius, along with his better known contemporaries, Riemann, Lobachevsky and Bolyai, created a non-Euclidean revolution in geometry.) Do try making one. Next, try tracing your finger around the strip’s circumference without ever lifting it from the paper. Wonder of wonders, your finger starts out on top and, one round trip (or is it two?) later, your digit has traveled the bottom of the paper as well, which then becomes the top. Try two twists before taping your next strip for a delectable surprise indeed! And, for three twists… Now, back to the Capay Valley and its mysterious or, at least, elusive starting point.

About this instant in time in the search for a simple answer or two, I thought an expert opinion was needed. Someone who should definitely know is usually on duty there. The Esparto Post Office would know for sure. Simple! At the front counter, my answer came back loud and clear with no uncertainty: “Madison. It’s obvious since there are no more population clusters to the East.” The drama unfolds…now, with all my many answers in hand, ranging from Woodland to Capay via Madison and Esparto and even Brooks, I began to wonder what the Guinda Post Office would yield as an answer? Would it be new answer number n? It wouldn’t be Guinda, would it? Wonder what the official position of www.CapayValley.com is?

However, that nth answer would have to wait until my next trip up the Capay Valley. Because right now, another aspect of the question about the start location of the valley came to mind? Perhaps, as in the fabled Indian story of the blindfolded men who each felt a separate part of an elephant, an animal they knew not, and were asked to identify the whole entity, our answer might depend on which part of the question we are “feeling.” The man who felt only the flexible trunk thought one thing (Have forgotten what!), the one who felt a massive rigid wrinkled leg might have thought walnut tree (www.Walnuts.US ), and so forth all the way to the tail of the elephant. In short, perhaps there is no absolute answer whatsoever, only a relative one with which we must be content. Could it be that my “start” is not your “start?” Is there then no consensus “start?”

Consequently, with the elephant myth in mind, our new auxiliary, or helper, question concerning the latter part of the mental elephant now becomes: “Where’s the end of the Capay Valley?” Oh, oh. Multiple answers seem to emerge again! The first four volunteered were: “Simple, Rumsey!” “No, its Clear Lake caldera as it empties into Cache Creek which drains the Capay Valley.” Next answer was “The roughly U-shaped top of all ridge lines like Blue Ridge and hills such as Mt. Konocti as they all form the watershed of the valley. A final discouraging one: “No non-trivial meaning to ‘end of a valley’ exists.”

Disheartened, I tried another new side of the multi-faceted question by climbing up, figuratively and even laboriously, onto the top of the elephant. In fact, in my mental gedanken experiment, I hiked (www.yolohiker.org ) up to 3,000’ Berryessa Peak for a bird’s-eye view and then hopped further up onto the Space Station for a satellite’s-eye view. Fortunately, I know about three Russian words. “Zdrasty!”, I mumbled an approximation of “Hi!” to the pair of occupants. “Just exactly what is Capay Valley itself?” “Nyet, not Kamchatka, Capay!” In other words, where did the valley come from. How did it get here? What shaped it? Finally, it seemed I had almost unintentionally found a question with perhaps only, yes, an amazing single answer, albeit not all that short. Will wonders never cease! Da. The Cosmonauts showed me a book they sometimes keep onboard for casual off-duty reading. Fortuitously, they had this particular book in both languages as a courtesy to visiting Astronauts and drop-in’s.

Their book was John McPhee’s 1993 “Assembling California” (www.yolocounty.org/org/library/electronic.htm ), which credits tectonic plate pioneer Eldridge Moores of UC-Davis with much of the credit for our long-sought valley entrance answer after his decades of tectonic research. Moores, who recently visited Guinda with a slide show to enlighten and entertain us, concludes that physical California is comprised of these exotic substances named below. And his answer, paraphrased, is…

We now scientifically conclude that California is primarily composed of Pacific Ocean bottom scrapings piled up over millennia and jammed onto the Western margin of the North American Plate. Said process extending our coast westward from its original Nevada location, as the adjoining Pacific Plate subducts under us in its roughly North-Northeastern motion over the molten magma covering out inner iron core. Zeroing in to our locality, just one of the long roughly North-South oriented puckers in these bottom scrapings is indeed our cherished Capay Valley. An inglorious unexpected birth indeed for such a wondrous place in which to live and work, full of fun people, vistas of promise, bounteous crops, wildlife and nature galore, and adventures ahead! Even wild pigs. Our beloved valley is indeed at its essence a blossoming of bottom scrapings! Our 6-community Chamber of Commerce says about that? (www.EspartoChamber.com )

We should right now return full-circle to say “Hey! What about the answer to the original question?” My tentative response, with the space station view in mind, is that I finally did find at least my own personal answer. Until further, possibly never, examination of additional of the 20+ sides of “Where’s the start of the Capay Valley?”, this “pucker end” is a totally convincing solution for me. The long form answer to “Start?” is thus: “Around here! It’s somewhere by the downstream end of the Cache Creek wrinkle in the pucker of the old scrapings of the Pacific Ocean plate.” That’s enough for me, not only now but perhaps forever. Turns out that it’s a really simple answer, after all. Thus, my own short form answer is: “Here at home near our special wrinkle in the local pucker of my planet.” That is indeed where my private Capay Valley starts. How about yours…?


Copyright © 2005 Jim Haag

“Ramblings” to come: “What’s up in the sky?” Morrison Planetarium’s teaser on 11/19/05: “As the red planet Mars rises in the east after sunset, below and to the right are the faint stars of Cetus the Sea Monster, containing Tau Ceti, a star that was once scanned for intelligent radio signals.”

 





   


*** 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

 Jan.1, Mon.—Started 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 included.

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 Insurance.

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 library.

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!

Jan. 16,Tue.—Did five or six “town chores” in the county seat, Woodland.  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, etc.

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 the job.

Jan. 20, Sat.—Did the fortnightly payrollPretty 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 role!  

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 stovepipe.

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 San Francisco  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 tests.

 

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 hrs/day.

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 so.

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 California.   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 smallish corkboard.

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 Florida!  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 geographical area.

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 Chandlers, 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.  I concur.

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 Capay Valley 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  finished my 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 years!

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 time!

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 Yuba City.  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 St. Paul’s 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 all.

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 California 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 DCN number for our $11.95 rebate from TurboTax and also, I suppose, for communication.

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 Chandlers.  If 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 whatever.

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” tree.

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 industrial activity.

Mar. 28, Wed.—Planted the vegetables 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 Las Vegas, 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 Davis 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, WoodlandStarted with a 7 a.m. oil change on the ’93 Explorer SUV at Elm Ford while I had a tasty 3-egg omelet at Lyon’s.  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 (a bacterium).

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 “X-Files!”

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 acceptable.

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 buds.

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, etc.

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 Noon 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 things.

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 gamblingA 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 all!

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 house also.

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 tonight!

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 appealing scenario.

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.  Most pleasant!

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 May 29,Tue.—Spent 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 waterWent 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 fatigue?  Inattention?  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 the theater.

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 them.

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 Petoskey stones.

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, rather interesting!

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 mites!

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 out.

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, 1820’s-1850’s.

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 in Esparto.

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 repairs continue.  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 didn’t work!

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 extract, etc.

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 nuts.

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 mower.

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 receive! 

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 seasonPlanted 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 walnutswalnuts.com.

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 “clean” operation.

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 layers!

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 BCS 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 gaps.

 

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 website at:

  http://www.WalnutsWalnuts.com

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 some alcohol!

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 quiet room.

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 Flaubert, novelist

Excerpted from “Ramblings, Recipes, & Reflections” © James N. Haag 2005