Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Fruit is ripening, and the feeling is high. We’re so rich with abundance and good fortune, give thanks little baby, my oh my. That expresses how I’m feeling these days. We’re having a really good season so far, the produce has been bountiful with incredible sugar snap peas, more greens than we’ve grown before, super garlic and Walla Walla onions, plenty of Yellow Finn potatoes, beautiful carrots and lettuce. Now come some of the warm season vegetables: string beans, summer squash, cucumbers, basil, and later on peppers and tomatoes. The planning we did at the beginning of our season has rewarded us with a consistent source of produce and a crop plan that we can implement with any needed adjustments for years to come. And I am grateful for the crew of committed people doing what it takes to produce food, keep house, teach classes and create a beautiful welcoming place.
I’m also extremely grateful for what happened around here in the past, because without the past, there would be no now as it is. And the now as it is filled with FRUIT!!! Peaches, nectarines, apples and crab apples! (Babcock, Independence, Red Gravenstein)
My early gardens were on rented land, so I didn’t plant fruit trees – but acquiring Camp Joy made pursuing this more perennial dream possible.
Many of the apples and pears were planted in the winter of 1971-72 – and now these same trees are at full maturity and producing well. (I’ve picked apples from trees as old as 90 years). The peaches and plums are shorter-lived and most of our current trees are from the mid-80’s. Twenty-five to 30 years is old for a peach.
A few words about ripeness. In ‘70 and ‘71 I picked Santa Rosa plums for market in Santa Cruz. The fruit was field picked, then sized and sorted before “shipping” to San Francisco. The fruit needed to be red, not purple, and firm to make it to market in good shape – but out in the orchard it was different. The best fruit was ripe for eating on the tree, and it would drop in your hand at the gentlest touch. In fact the very best plums had a few blue jay pecks – the surest sign of full-fruit sugar. None of these fruits left the orchard – you had to be there on the ladder in the tree to experience them bursting in your mouth. Here at Camp Joy – because of our small size, wea re able to let the fruit attain full color – before picking – but they still must be firm to survive the buckets, boxes and baskets. Apples might be ready to eat right from the baskets (in fact some, like Gravensteins) will over-ripen in a few days so cook them! But peaches, nectarines and pears will be disappointing if you don’t let them sit for a couple of days (even more for pears) until they soften by the stem end of the fruit – gently press with your thumb. Another way to tell is by closely watching the color change – with the “eye of a painter” you can see fruit ripen – the color gets warmer, subtle greens deep in the fruit turn more to yellows and reds. The birds are the real teachers – they always know the ripest fruit on the tree – the ones with the deepest blush and the sweetest interior. Good soil, the right combination of sun, shade and temperature, enough healthy leaves per fruit, and withholding water during the final ripening lead to the best fruit. Interestingly, each year is different. One year’s favorite apple may not be the best the next. The conditions mut be perfect during that fruit’s ripening period, we think it’s nice that way – enjoy.