Letter From California
01/17/10 0848.21 PST
San Jose, California
I experienced a strange emotional amalgam of relief, concern, happiness and guilt late last year when two City of San Jose tree arborists suddenly flitted through the neighborhood after a storm roared through with 35 mph winds, snapping tree limbs and making the lights wink. They hurriedly inspected the serious damage to a neighbor’s liquid amber, concerned and taking measurements, the woman then quickly walking across the street to my Santa Rosa plum, measuring the trunk with a tape and looking closely for insects.
Thank god the city still has such good workers for such vital tasks, trees are a big deal and I’m worried about any city job that performs important work in these vicious Republican times, those workers could easily be gone next year. I felt bad for the liquid ambers after the storm, a failed tree in canopy and homeowner tolerance, folks hate them for tearing the sidewalks apart, their pests and horrid abundance of prickly brown seed balls, now they have to get ripped apart too. Half the homeowners around, myself included, got rid of the liability traps and planted whatever they felt like, so now the tree canopy for the street is only half there, stunted yet still big liquid ambers towering over smaller fill-ins like my unauthorized fruit trees.
That arborist had seen the thriving plum tree before, she had to have compared measurements from the past, something I wasn’t aware of happening. The State came out and put a fruit fly trap in my navel orange tree, I see them all over town, I guess budget cuts didn’t get around to fruit fly abatement either. If a lot of things have gone wrong in the last two years then at least we’re still good at looking after our trees out here.
Every once in a while one will hear California is responsible for 80% of the fruits and vegetables grown in the country, a claim I’ve always thought might be accurate for some vegetables like broccoli and artichokes but pure horseshit for the fruits part, we have a lot of acreage here in orchards, yes, but for all our sakes the rest of the country hasn’t stopped growing fruit.
I became irritated with that Cameron guy who made the movie Avatar last week. The hoser was on Oprah and waxed poetically about trees, about how making the movie made him realize how every tree was precious. Well welcome to humanity, Jesus, what in the hell do you think provided half the critical link to eating your fruits and vegetables that your momma always told you about? Trees, food trees and fruit trees.
I’m positive other States are totally with it on this, I know Washington has vast apple and cherry orchards, Florida and Arizona grow millions of tons of oranges, and all of New England still has substantial apple production. I hope every State somehow ramps up all the available fruit production it can, not only is growing locally vitally important but the winds of change and global warming accelerate every year, it’s very unwise to have biologic food production centrally produced in one climate zone.
In any event in the various micro zones in this vast republic it is the time of the fruit tree, time to plant, trim and spray in the dormant season with vital work to eventually deliver that one big cash splat and harvest of fruit. A tough, fickle business, something we very likely should not leave to the free market, after watching what California did with electricity last century it has to be unwise to leave the same market potential with fruit lying around, so to speak, damn all folks have to eat in this life. Society is nine missing meals away from anarchy, so it’s been said.
The brilliant Jill Richardson of La Vida Locavore recently posted on fruit tree propagation, she knows this vital so-short time of investing in our trees is almost over, it has to be done by mid-February or not at all.
I’ve been putting it off, I have to trim and spray nine trees, and in a special job transplant two Blenheim apricot seedlings in their second year to the food bank garden at St. Jude’s. The seedlings just won’t make it in their current shade, I’m still surprised at their volunteer toughness. Time to give them a chance to thrive, see how it goes, most planting is grafted root stock work like Jill’s.
California is Hollywood and Silicon Valley and all the rest, but we still grow a great deal of food here, too. Time to get busy.