Welcome back! I hope that everyone had a restful and relaxing holiday season.
We had hoped to keep the farm completely closed for a full two weeks this year during our “winter break”, but the weather (as usual) had other plans. Without fail, the wet weather of early December stopped right around the time we scheduled our annual “closure”, and a bout of dry wind just before New Years forced us to change our plans.
With temperatures prognosticated to plummet on New Year’s Eve, we jumped into action to harvest citrus in our most freeze-prone orchard. And we were glad we did! In the end, the weather forecasters missed the mark and temperatures got even colder than expected. New Year’s Day morning was a frigid 26 degrees. It was nice to spend that morning in front of a roaring fire knowing that we had done our best.
The mandarins we picked on New Year’s Eve are from trees that we planted in 2006 and have never harvested. Normally, citrus trees take about 4 years to start producing fruit. These trees, however, have had a rough life.
You may remember a photo I posted in the newsletter back then of trees completely encased in ice. These are those trees. Three times in their short lives it got cold enough to burn off most of their leaves. As a result, they are stunted. They should be 8 feet tall but are barely 5 instead. And instead of beginning to bear fruit after 4 years, it took them 6.
The trees produced their first crop in 2012. The fruit was a few weeks shy of ripening when a freeze just after New Years ruined the fruit. Then came the freeze of 2013 in early December, which destroyed not just the heavy crop of fruit but also damaged the leaves and some branches. We had just finished installing a frost-protection system for the orchard, but the intense cold overwhelmed it.
|Wilted leaves and ruined fruit after last year’s freeze|
Amazingly, those little trees rallied in 2014, pushing out another heavy crop of mandarins. And this year, they ripened sooner, thanks to the warm fall.
As it turns out, 26 degrees isn’t “too cold” for these mandarins. While we picked the vast majority of them last week, a few got left behind in the frenzy. We went out and checked them this week and they seem to have survived intact. Which is great news.
We ended up with just over 2000 lbs. of fruit from the one acre orchard. That averages out to a little more than 200 pounds of fruit per acre per year that we have been growing those trees. (In contrast, a single mature citrus tree produces several hundred pounds of fruit each year) After 9 years, the orchard may have finally paid us back what it cost just to buy the trees and plant them.
Sure, we should have torn the orchard out 5 years ago when it was half dead after the 2nd freeze. But we sure aren’t going to cut those trees down now! They still owe us for fertilizing, irrigation and TLC.
The mandarins in your boxes represent 9 years of collective grit, determination and irrationality. But they are delicious. Enjoy.