September at the Ranch
As the days shorten, the evenings cool and the seasonal crops change the sense of autumn’s arrival is felt.
“Never a dull moment” and “always a job to be done” has been the ongoing motto of the staff at Erickson Ranch this year. With the hot, dry weather of 2013, the ripening of the fruit including apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, pluots and apples have been ahead of their usual ripening schedule. It all began with the Blenheim Apricot which ripened early and lasted only 2 instead of its usual 3 weeks. We are fortunate to have been blessed with a bounty crop, allowing us to make jam and dry the rest. The Blenheim is, by far, the best apricot hands down for flavor and no matter how you preserve it, that flavor is enhanced. We are also in the process of drying peaches and pears. The process of drying is quite time consuming as it entails, slicing, drying in the sulfur house, air drying, washing, drying again and finally packing. The final product is well worth the effort as the process enhances the natural flavor of the tree ripened fruit. The memories of summer come flooding back as a piece of dried fruit is eaten on a cold winter day.
The deliveries of fresh peaches, nectarines and tomatoes to several independent grocery stores and restaurants has increased this year as we expand our territory from Santa Rosa to Oakland and in between. The delivery business begins slowly and patience is required as a trusting business relationship is cultivated. Over time the rewards for that patience are rewarded. We can say without a doubt that our deliveries are packed with pride and we deliver the best we have.
Our son, Ross, is growing heirloom tomatoes, asparagus and other crops as he establishes his client base for deliveries. His interest is to set up the recently purchased hoop-house to enable the growing of more tender plants earlier each season as well as during the winter. He is also “cultivating” a nice crop of hens for eggs. They are looking healthy and happy and next season he should have farm eggs to sell. The small family farmer is always searching to expand the season with new ideas and products. It is a “tough road to hoe” (literally!) but I am full of pride that my son wants to continue the family business into the next generation.
Jam making continues. With the faster than usual season and the demand for more jam, the jam making keeps us busy, busy, busy. It takes a crew to can as the fruit must be picked, ripe, washed, cut, cooked down and then preserved. We all work in tandem to make some delicious jam, I must say. There is nothing quite as rewarding as turning tree ripened fruit into a beautiful, delicious jar of fruity wonderfulness! Ripe fruit, less sugar, and lots of elbow grease make for a delightful jar of jam. We have expanded our canning this season to apricot and blueberry syrup, which gives us a bit of a new twist on some delicious fruit. Jam tasting takes place every weekend at the fruit stand and we have attended several events for jam tasting and selling. In order to sell jam, I find it a bit like wine tasting. There is so much jam available as with wine and if one can taste the product they are more likely to purchase it. Jam tastings also give us a chance to talk about our product which gives it a personal touch.
The tomato and pepper season is upon us. Actually the season is in full swing. Folks sometimes think that once the kids go back to school the growing season is finished. Nothing could be farther from the truth, especially for the farmers in Suisun Valley.
Fruit and vegetables have had the pleasure of soaking up the sun all summer and are now showing off their wares. There are still peaches, nectarines, apples, watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers, peppers and more. Don’t forget the Pumpkins and all the fall fun that is right around the corner.
We are having a few fun upcoming events so please take a look and come out to visit us in September. Our annual Adopt-A-Pumpkin has begun and we are having an All Things Tomato and Pepper event with a recipe contest and lots of fun.