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It has been many months since I sat down and wrote a blog. Once the growing season is finished and the winter arrives I go into “vacation mode” from the ranch. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually go on vacation, but I do have a tendency to step away from things for a spell. I always have blog ideas in the back of my mind but it is a different matter to actually sit down and compose a blog. 2013 was a busy productive year for Erickson Ranch. We grew wonderfully delicious sun-ripened fruits and vegetables and made more luscious jam. Our customers make our business and we are blessed to have such a terrific, loyal following.

Years ago the winter season at the ranch was a quite time to reflect and catch up for the next season. The times they are a’changin’, for now there is minimal downtime and though our fruit stand is not open we certainly don’t stop working. It is a time for repairing equipment, tractor driving, pruning, removing old non-productive trees, replacing with new varieties, grafting fruit trees and making changes to our landscape are only part of the never ending jobs that make up farming.

Changes have occurred since we last visited so let me catch you all up.

Murphy and the pumpkins!Unfortunately we lost the last of our “Old Group of Pups”, Murphy, in November. Please visit previous blogs about our other dogs. She lived for 17 long years and her life as a farm dog couldn’t have been better. She was a drop-off like most of the animals we have accumulated over the years. I will never forget the first time I saw her tied up next to a barn down the road from us, with a bowl of water and food. She desperately wanted to get off her leash but I couldn’t let her loose until I got to know her a bit better. Each day I came by, made sure she was safe and our friendship quickly grew. The time came to let her run and did she ever run. Like lightening! She quickly was out of sight and I began to wonder if I had not done the wrong thing. Fortunately for me she returned and though exhausted, she was one happy pup. I had to tie her back up as she was not mine – Yet! We already had several dogs and were not living at the ranch at the time, so I questioned if we should take on another animal. That question was answered quickly as I just couldn’t allow her to stay down on the side of the old barn any longer and it saddened both of us as we separated after each running session. She quickly became part of our expanding collection of farm-dogs as she soon established her special entertainment for our customers.

100_0311Remember I mentioned that she could run like lightening? She became aerodynamic when her tennis balls were thrown. Her ears flattened against her head as she took off like a rocket in hot pursuit of the elusive tennis ball. When in her prime no other dog could match her. She perfected a game that provided endless entertainment for our customers. The kids would throw a tennis ball on the slanted aluminum roof of the fruit shed. The moment the ball impacted the roof, Murphy would stand at attention, with her head pointed in the direction of the ball drop. She would focus intently as the ball rolled down the corrugated aluminum and position herself perfectly to catch the ball at it fell to the ground. To the absolute joy and delight of the children, she would catch the ball before it hit the ground and proudly drop the ball at their feet for another toss. She never missed! At one time we had a basket overflowing with tennis balls brought in by visitors to watch “Murphy’s Game”

As Murphy grew old her fatigued bones could no longer run and jump for the beloved tennis ball though every time we threw it for another dog, one could see the desire in her eyes.

As her days grew short and the stiffness made it ever so difficult to get around, she was at her happiest as she sat next to her favorite friend, Maggie. Maggie has worked with us for many years and the bond between the two friends ran deep. Murphy was happy to sit with Maggie and watch the folks come and go during the long days of summer. We miss our Murphy and it just won’t be the same without her.

What can we say about the drought? When asked how the weather is going to effect the ranch, I have to ask the expert, Ray. He has no control of the weather and he has to do the best he can with what Mother Nature brings his way. If one wants to continue in farming weather is an occupational hazard that has to be taken into consideration as you plan each season.

005Grafting of peaches is underway. Raymond continues to increase the varieties of peaches through grafting. In early January through early February the grafting season begins with new varieties to be grafted or root-stocks planted to start new varieties. We have white and yellow peaches from our opening the 3rd weekend of June through October. Get your taste-buds ready.

010We installed a new high-tunnel hoop-house this winter. A hoop-house is similar in looks to a green-house though with no electricity. The warmth of the hoop-house is generated from the sun. When the ends of the hoop-house are closed the temperature increases to promote the growth of the planted seeds. The purpose of the hoop-house is to prolong our growing season by providing early and extended late vegetable production such as tomatoes and lettuce.

One of our goals for the jam production was to improve packaging. We sought out and found a new 2 and 3 jar gift pack packaging as well as gift bags with our logo on it. More to come. Jam is similar to wine in the fact that to know what one is getting, one must taste. We are fortunate to be able to present our jam for tasting during our off season as part of a variety of Suisun Valley events. You can find us at Il Fiorello Olive Oil during those events. Our jams have also been featured at the Green Valley Country Club breakfast menu through the kindness of their head chef Jason O’Kennedy.

The life of a farmer is always changing to stay ahead or even close to the curve. It is difficult, especially in the state of CA, but I couldn’t see Raymond doing anything else. He is an excellent example of what embodies a farmer. As part if a third generation farming family, he comes by it naturally as farming is in his blood. He is forever thinking of how to expand his product and distribute it in new ways.

I look forward to visiting with our next blog. Regards from Erickson Ranch