Baby Avocados Appearing…and My Healthy A-B-C Snack!

tiny baby avocado

Tiny avocados appear after the blossom falls off

Tiny baby avocados are visible in the grove!  As I took my walk this morning, I could see them:  pebble-sized avocados appearing where the blossoms used to be.  Some trees have pea-sized fruit…and some are even the size of olives!  Isn’t is amazing how those big delicious avocados we love to eat begin as tiny bumps?  Baby-Bump Avocados!

baby avocados appearing

As the blooms fall off, the avocados appear and begin to grow

 

The avocado trees have been blooming for weeks now.  Some are still budded, with flowers opening each day.   Others are beginning to set fruit. Some of the trees bloomed extra early, and the fruit is already large enough to look like an avocado.   As the new fruit begins to develop,  the avocados that have been growing all year are maturing.  We have started picking the largest ones, and will wait for others to size up before harvesting.

new crop of avocados is setting

These baby avocados will be ready to harvest in 2013

Walking in the grove is more than just a morning pleasure for me.   I am determined to take off some weight,  have more energy and feel better.   Taking a walk every day is helping with that.  I’m also giving up sugar, anything made with white flour, and “white” starches like rice.   The hardest part of this is when I need a snack.  It doesn’t help to see all the delicious sweet goodies on food blogs and websites like Pinterest or Facebook!   I’ve decided to share  some of my new-found healthy snacks.

Healthy Avocado-Broccoli-Cheese snack

My A-B-C Snack!

I’m keeping steamed broccoli (not overcooked!) in the fridge so I can heat it up with just a little bit of shredded cheese.   The smallest amount of cheese adds just enough salty flavor so that I don’t need to season either the broccoli or the creamy, nutty avocado.  Aren’t the colors pretty!

avocado and broccoli with cheese

Avocado and Broccoli with Cheese!

Camp Blogaway or Bust!

 

Camp Blogaway

Camp Blogaway or BUST!

There were many years while we were raising our four children that I couldn’t think about getting away for a weekend to do something just for me. I was all about making things happen for the family. Big things like getting to and from schools, music and sports…which were at least 10-15 miles from our ranch. And building a house. And running our avocado business. Oh, and directing a church choir too, among other things.

church choir

This is the choir family that grew!

Let’s talk about the choir for a minute. I offered to direct a small choir of about 12 singers for 6 weeks while the pastor looked for a new church music director. That was in 1987. We had three children ages 3, 2 and 9 mos. old. Yes, I was crazy. But that little choir has grown into a group of 60 wonderful singers who are family to me and to each other. Week by week and year by year we made it all happen.

BlogHer'11

My first blogging adventure! And I didn't even have a blog!

Last August I attended BlogHer’11 in San Diego because it was local and I was curious about blogging. Over those three days, I began to understand the magnificent freedom that is ours for the taking…to write about our thoughts and lives, to learn and to teach each other, to connect with people from all over the world and to form communities.

TechMunch poster

I learned lots at TechMunch! Met great folks who helped me decide on a name for my blog!

In September I went to TechMunchLA, a one-day conference for Food Bloggers.  In October I took an online course in using WordPress.  By November I had started my blog, with help from some wonderful new friends that I met at TechMunchLA.     Several of them had attended Camp Blogaway, a weekend camp in the San Bernardino mountains for food bloggers. Last year I almost signed up to go, just to investigate blogging, but wasn’t able to schedule it.  My friend Rachael of LaFujimama encouraged me to consider going, as it’s smaller than other  blogging conferences and the sessions are valuable learning experiences.   I watched the calendar and in January signed up on the first day the camp registration opened (this camp sells out quickly!).   May is a busy month but I gambled that the weekend would work out.   How hard could it be to make this happen?

Well, you guessed it.  An important event at church that can not be done by a substitute director was scheduled for the very same weekend as Camp Blogaway.  The camp is May 4-6. The church event is May 5th.    May 7th will be the 25th anniversary of my promise to the pastor to help out for 6 weeks. What to do? Call in sick? Give up my place at the best blogging camp on the face of the earth? or:  Make. It. Happen. (For the record,  our wonderful Coastal Communities Concert Band  scheduled a weekend concert gig in Las Vegas the same weekend…so I’m missing that too!)

hike at camp blogaway

Who wants to go for a hike? I do!

So I asked for permission to leave camp and direct the choir.  Thankfully, the camp director Patti Londre took pity on me and agreed.  Then I drove up to the mountains to scope out the route, the roads and the amount of time I needed for travel.   Beautiful drive…but it will take 3 hours to go 99 miles between camp and church. There happened to be an over-sized forklift over the side of the mountain that day too…it fell off of a semi…they needed a huge crane to bring it back up the steep embankment, so the road was closed.  I never did get all the way up to the camp.

Camp Blogaway breakfast

A chance to learn and to meet new people who blog!

Here it is….one week before Camp Blogaway ’12…and I’m getting excited.  Looks like it’s going to happen for me!  There is the small risk that something will block the road down the mountain on May 5th as I drive back to Escondido to direct the choir, but we’re just not going to think about that. Please keep your fingers crossed for me, okay? It will be a three hour drive back to church. The choir will perform for 25 minutes, then lead the music for Confirmation. We’ll meet our brand new bishop for the first time at a reception. Then I’ll get back in the car and make the 3 hours drive back to Camp Blogaway.  (Do you think anyone at church will mind if my perfume is “Campfire”? )

Some of you are shaking your heads and wondering if I’ve lost it. I just really, really want to go to Camp Blogaway.  It happens only once a year.  I can meet some of the people whose blogs I read regularly,  learn more about photography and writing,  expand my food knowledge,   become more inspired for improving my own life,  which will make me a happier and better  wife, mother, teacher, choir  director, band member and person.  And my Avocado Sister Rachael of La Fujimama is one of the presenters there!

Camp Blogaway or Bust!

Stay tuned…I’ll tell you all about it when I get back!

Fried Egg Flowers: The Matilija Poppy!

Matiljia Poppy...

Matiljia Poppy is nick-named "Fried Egg Flower"

The first time I saw a Matilija Poppy I could hardly believe my eyes!  Such a large flower, with petals so white that they could be a bridal dress for a Barbie doll!   Not only are they magnificent, but they are also a native plant in Southern California!  A wild flower!  I have noticed them growing on the Del Dios Highway, close to Del Mar, Ca.   A neighbor of ours who was into horticulture once told me about them,  and showed me some that were growing on her property.    Two years ago I bought a plant labeled “Matilija Poppy”  and it did flower with large white blossoms, but I soon realized it was  a rock rose,  NOT  the special flower I expected.

 

Last year I bought another plant labeled “Matilija Poppy”  from a nursery that specializes in native plants.  It was expensive, so I hoped it was the real thing, and since it was blooming when I bought it,  there was little risk!    Someone told me that they are very tricky to get started, so I wasn’t sure if it would grow on the ranch.    I planted it on the bank between our house and the avocado grove.   Information  online stated that I should cut it back in the fall, but I didn’t because there was new growth coming on the old stalks.   By the end of winter, I could see that new stalks were growing from the ground,  so I went ahead and cut the old ones.   A few weeks ago I noticed buds forming!

Matiljia Poppy buds

Buds on the Matilija Poppy plant!

If you are a native Californian,  these flowers may not seem that special to you.  I grew up in Vermont with the beautiful woodland and meadow wildflowers of New England.   In Vermont, I know when to expect each flower to sprout and bloom during the all-too-short spring and summer months.   It is such a pleasure to finally have a little bit of familiarity with the native flora of our avocado ranch.    To find a bud like this one is exciting!

Matilija Poppy bud opening

Early in the morning, the flower begins to open!

It’s easy to tell why they call this  a “Fried Egg Flower”, isn’t it?  The petals are the whitest white and the center is the color of the freshest yolk.  Since the flowers don’t last a long time,   this is blooming just outside my kitchen window.

Matilija Poppy blooming

The poppy has opened!

This is only the first blossom for 2012.  It’s going to be glorious to see the rest of those buds mature and bloom!

Want to see an avocado  recipe that will remind you of this flower?  Take a look at Black Bean Cakes with Fried Eggs and Avocado Crema on Chow.com.

http://tidymom.net/tag/im-lovin-it/
 

 

Every Day is Earth Day in the Avocado Grove

Hawk

A Red-Tailed Hawk

We see hawks all the time here on the ranch…flying by…soaring on the wind…but rarely sitting low to the ground.  We saw this fellow this afternoon near our house.   Sitting  there in the Cotoneaster bushes,  we worried that he might be sick.   Maybe he’s just young and doesn’t know he should be high up in a tree or keeping watch from the top of a telephone pole.    He finally flew away, and we are richer for having the opportunity to  see him up close.

Avocado grove with older trees and younger trees

Older trees create a dark forest while the smaller, younger trees are in the light

Avocado groves provide shelter for so many creatures!  I love to  look for animal tracks after a rain.  We often see the prints of coyotes, racoons, opossum,  and sometimes bobcat.  There used to be deer in this area when the land was first planted in the early 70’s, but I have seen only one in the 30 years that I have lived here with The Farmer.

animal track

Who made this foot print?

 

There are many creatures that make their home in the grove:  rabbits and squirrels,

squirrel at this avocado

Squirrels love to eat avocados!

moles and voles,

mole tunnel

A mole or vole made this tunnel

snakes, lizards and snails,  bees, spiders and bugs,  mice and rats,

eaten avocado

What animal was eating this avocado?

birds of all size and color!  We even have a pair of mallard ducks who return every year.

mallard ducks

A pair of mallard ducks

Grasshopper

Even grasshoppers are interesting to watch!

Today is Earth Day,  inspiring celebrations all over the nation.  Thousands of people gathered today in San Diego’s Balboa Park to see exhibits of earth-friendly products,  participate in activities for the children and consider ways to make life more green.   At the same time,  real farmers were working their land.   The Farmer (my husband) wasn’t available to go anywhere this afternoon, but stayed home to irrigate the grove and do chores to get ready for the week ahead.  As I drove past  farms and groves this afternoon, I could see other farmers on their tractors, or working in their fields.  Yes, even on a Sunday afternoon…and especially at this time of year.  It’s springtime and there’s plenty to do!  On a farm, it’s Earth Day every day!

farmland

Farmland near our avocado ranch produces commercial flowers

 

Why We Cut the Trees Down: Avocado Trees Can Regrow!

cut avocado branches

Cutting tall avocado trees to stumps

I remember the first time we cut down some of our avocado trees.    We cried.  All of us.  Mom, Dad and the four kids all shed tears.  Those trees had been planted by The Farmer during the 70’s,  we were married in 1982 and the children had been born in the next 7 years.    In 1993 we cut down some trees  so we could begin building our house on the site.    We had outgrown our mobile home, and had planned for years to build a family home.   We finally  cut some trees down and created a homesite.   As much as  we wanted that house, it was hard to see those trees cut down.

tall avocado tree

This tall tree grew back after stumping years ago

The next year we  cut lots more trees, but left  four foot stumps.  Acres of four foot stumps.   This was a completely different situation.  The trees had grown so tall over the years that the only area that would produce a crop was at the very top of the canopy.   We needed very tall ladders to reach the fruit,  and lots of water to maintain the tree.   Farmers all over our area were cutting down acres of trees to save water due to rationing.   The other reason for cutting trees was to let them regrow.  The shorter trees would grow foliage and bloom again,  producing many  more avocados if they were given the proper care.

short young trees and older tall trees

Tall trees behind the short younger trees that were planted 3 years ago

 

avocado stumps painted white

Stumped avocado grove, painted white to protect from sun damage

If you drive through Southern California and look at the hillsides where avocados are grown,  you will see acres of white stumps.  These are the avocados that have been cut down and painted to protect the trees from sun damage.   The stumps take less water while they regrow,  and will produce beautiful avocados again in about 3 years.  Sometimes we graft a different variety to the stump and when it grows back it produces that variety of avocado.  I’ll write more about that at a different time.

stump has grown back

This tree was stumped and grafted to a new variety

We have stumped several times over the years.   Taking acres of avocado trees  out of production for several years is a challenge financially,  but it also helps to save water and is considered a good practice in avocado farming.  Some farmers choose to thin their trees instead,  keeping them shorter but letting them grow rounder.  Some farmers cut their trees,  but leave the branches longer instead of cutting all the way to a four foot stump.

tall avocad branches are cut

These trees regrew once, and are being cut down again to re-grow

This week we are cutting down a block of  very tall trees.    It’s sad to see them fall,  and the sound they make as they break and crash is heartbreaking.   The beautiful shaded walkways under the trees are gone  now, but I can find other places on the ranch to walk where it is still shaded.   We have had visitors who have enjoyed the “magical forest”, as they called it.   Gaby from What’s Gaby Cooking.com and Matt of Mattbites.com were here last year and proposed having a blogger potluck under those trees.   Rachael of La Fuji Mama and I have had fun walking through the avocado forest and taking pictures there.  Now we’ll have more light for our photographs, and so will the avocado trees as they regrow.

sun comes through avocado trees

Sunlight helps the foliage to grow and allows the tree to blossom

Our lives are somewhat like an avocado tree, don’t you think?  We can grow and expand,  reaching for new heights…but every now and then we need to cut back,  take a breather and think about the future.  When we begin to grow again it may be in a different direction or with a change in productivity,  depending on how we are fed and nurtured through the change.

 

tall avocado trees

Tall avocado trees form a canopy and the fruit grows at the top

Even though tall avocado trees and beautiful, and create a magical forest for visitors,  the trees use more water, are more difficult to pick, and are not reaching their full production potential.  They have to reach for the sunlight.

healthy avocado trees

Sunlight reaches shorter trees and fruit is easier to pick

Farmers  bear the cost of cutting down the trees and caring for the regrowth even though they  will have no avocados to sell for several years.  This is just another part of the investment that goes into producing  delicious California avocados from California Avocados Direct.

Other posts about our avocado ranch that you may enjoy:

Picking Out the Best Avocados

Where Do Baby Avocados Come From?

End of March: Finding Flower in the Avocado Grove

 

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