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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring and new life on the farm

Spring is here and the best sign of spring is new birth whether its baby chicks, bunny rabbits, blooming trees and in our case young almond trees. Over a month ago we had a big rain and wind storm that blew over 200 almond trees on our farm. So this spring, we replanted these trees. Every spring we go through all our fields and replant any openings where we lost trees throughout the winter and the previous growing season. If the orchard is over 20 years old we don't replant the openings because it takes 3-4 years for an almond tree to produce nuts and replanting does not make economic sense. An orchards life is generally 25-28 years before we remove it. So we have to think if we will get a good production out of the tree to replant or not. Most of our orchards are less than 20 years old, so we replanted all the openings except for one older orchard.


When we replant, we plant the tree into the prevailing wind and with a bamboo stake for support. This will ensure the tree has a defense against those wind storms and hopefully keep it in the ground for 20+ years. Replant trees are harder to grow than a whole orchard of young trees. The replant trees are surrounded by older, taller and bigger trees that tend to block out the sun needed for the tree to grow to its fullest. Because of this we need to pay extra attention and make sure these young replants get all the nutrients and care they need!

Enjoy your spring and all the new, young beautiful things nature is blessing us with!
Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrate National Ag Week!

This week, March 23rd- 29th, is National Agriculture week. This week we celebrate the farmers and ranchers who work everyday to provide us with food and clothing we need every day. They work day in and day out caring for the crops and animals we eat three times a day. Have you stopped to thank a farmer today? Why does society set aside just one week to those who work so hard to ensure we have food on our tables? Next time you see a farmer, stop them and say thank you. It doesn't matter if it's National Agriculture Day or just an ordinary Wednesday, farmers like to hear from the ones enjoying their labor. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget where the most common of things comes from or to just stop and take value in the resources we are given.

I ran across the below picture on social media this week and thought it says it perfectly. Farming may not be the most glorious or beautiful jobs out there, but they are the ones we utilize the most. The farmer may not get to wear fancy clothes to work or enjoy the comfort of an air conditioned office all day, but his sweat and hard work goes into providing for millions of people. This week lets honor agriculture and do your part in ensuring agriculture has a place in your tomorrow. 
Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Planting an almond orchard

Tractor creating berms
So we prepped the field, installed the irrigation system, now we are ready to plant our next almond orchard! Before the trees come we have to make berms or mounds for the trees to be planted on. Berms help to divert rain water and irrigation water away from the tree trunk to prevent root and trunk diseases. To make the berms a surveyor comes into the field and measures the row spacing with laser surveying equipment. He marks the center of the berm with a white bag for the tractor operator to know where to put the berms. 




We make our tree rows 24 feet apart so the trees have plenty of room to grow. The tractor goes through the orchard and makes the berms for the trees to be planted on top of. Once the berms are formed then we go through the orchard and lay the drip hose on the mounds for irrigation.  When the drip hose is connected to the irrigation system, then it's time to bring in the trees!


The surveyor comes back and measures the tree location for planting and marks the location with a plastic straw. Then a tractor pulls the trailer of trees through the orchard and the tree replaces the straws. A crew then goes through the orchard and plants each tree.


Each tree is planted 16 feet apart down the row in this orchard because we planted hard shell variety trees which will be smaller trees. Normally, we plant 18 feet apart for soft shells varieties that tend to be larger trees.  Now we have an almond orchard and in 3-4 years we will have a crop! 
 
Until Next Time,
Almond Girl


Monday, March 17, 2014

Installing a drip irrigation system

The orchard we took out in out with old, has now gone through the reestablishing phase. The old orchard was on a flood irrigation system, which was very popular when the orchard was planted in the early 80s. Now we have come further with technology to know that drip irrigation is the best irrigation system for our soil type and water conditions.

Building a drip irrigation system takes multiple steps and is a several week process. First we ripped the soil, then we leveled the field to get ready for the new system. We worked with an irrigation company that engineered and designed design the new system. We hired a surveyor to lay out where everything was going to be placed, prior to starting construction of the new irrigation system. Knowing where everything is going to be installed before you get the to the field helps speed up the installation and avoid confusion.


So the ground is level and you have your plan, next the pipe arrives in huge semi truck loads. We take the pipe on small trailers and lay it on the ground close to where it will be buried later.
There is one main pipeline that splits off into sub-main lines which are two lines running perpendicular to the main line. Next we we join the pipe together, the smaller pipe is glued and the larger main line pipe has rubber gaskets allowing it to be pushed together without glue.

Once the pipe is ready to be buried we have a trencher come dig the ditches for the pipe to go in. Then we take the string of pipe and drop it in the hole. It is like a domino effect with the long chain of pipe that is glued together and how they place the pipe in the trench. When the pipe is placed into the trench we need to cover it up so the backhoe comes in to do the job, but you need to make sure the riser doesn't get covered up for the drip hose to connect to.So a long piece of pipe is used to hold up the riser while the dirt covers up the pipe.

Once all the pipe is buried then the risers are used to locate where the tree rows will go and the drip hose can be rolled out.

Next we need to prepare the tree rows and get ready to plant!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Monday, March 10, 2014

Not only an employee, a member of the family

Growing up as a farmers daughter I drove around a lot with my father; checking on the trees, checking on the employees or just walking the orchards and learning from my Dad. I especially enjoyed checking the employees around lunch time, in which they would be cooking up some tacos, with homemade tortillas and salsa. At a young age I nicknamed one gentlemen, Taco Jesse, because he would always save a taco for me when he would see me coming. These lunch time visits were just the beginning of our family relationships with our employees. Every party or family wedding they would always be there to celebrate with us. Our employees had become part of our family as I grew up. From sun up to sun down, they spent more time with my family then their own sometimes. They weren't just working on my family farm for a pay check, our family farm was their livelihood too. If our farm was successful, they would be successful.

Our retiring employee with three generations of bosses
This last weekend I got to think about growing up on the farm and my relationship as a child with our employees. Two weeks ago, my husbands oldest employee came to work with a retirement letter. He had worked on my husbands family farm for 33+ years and Saturday was his last day. He started working for my husbands grandfather before my husband was even born. He was there when my father in law came home from college, got married and starting having children. He was there when my husband starting going to work in the orchards with his father and grandfather. He was there when my husband came home from college. He has been through three generations of bosses under the same farm and has seen two generations of almond orchards be planted. With that kind of relationship, he was able to see my husband grow from a small baby sleeping in the back of a tractor, to developing his passion for farming and coming home to do just that. Our farm would be nothing without our employees. They truly make our farm successful and we depend on them. Without their sweat, hard work and work ethic, our farm wouldn't be here.

Saying goodbye to a friend
To celebrate our retiring employee we had a party for our all our employees to say thank you for all he has done. It was at the end of the party as all three generations of our farm were saying good bye to our retiring employee that I saw tears building up in his eyes. He too had felt part of our family. He didn't just come to work every day as an employee, he came to work everyday to people who provided him a work family. As his 65th birthday is approaching, it is only fitting he turned in his work uniform, but we welcome him back anytime he wants to be part of our family. Truth is, he will always be a part of our family, each and every person who steps on to our farm is.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

There she blows...

Well, the Central Valley finally received some rain last weekend! While some parts of Northern California had a few inches, and neighborhoods in Los Angeles were being evacuated for fear of mud slides, the Kern County communities received anywhere between .35-.85 inches. It seems crazy, in our town some roads were flooded and lots of orchards lost hundreds of trees, and we didn't even get an inch of rain. What was most important was snow in the mountains and rain near the dams, which we received lots of. We are very thankful for what we received! But just because we received some rain we aren't free and clear, we are still in a drought. It could rain every day for the next month and we will still be in a drought.

The California Precipitation Stations measured Bakersfield to have received 1.55 inches of rain this season. Whereas in a normal year we should have received 4.57 inches thus far. The Central Valley is having 1-2 day periods of rainstorms and heavy wind followed by 30+ days of 70-80 degree weather. Our cities, drainage systems, highways, dams, all of our infrastructure is not built to handle this.  When orchards receive large amounts of rain and the soils become saturated, the root systems become weak. When this rain comes with heavy winds almond trees just fall down. Fifteen plus year old almond trees are extremely top heavy trees with poor root systems. Our farm lost about 200 trees from old orchards like these. Our orchards and fields are just not built to handle this. Pray for continued rain and that it comes over time, not all at once.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl