Thursday, August 7, 2014

CA Adventure Part 2: Ventura

The unique beauty of a farm mingled with the functional aspects of growing food always amazes me.  The vista overlooking acre after acre of avocado, lemon, and lime trees is breathtaking.  The massive water pumps and miles of irrigation pipes serve as reminders of just how hard it is to grow good food in a land of drought.  The combined effect humbles me every time, this tree-to-table production I tend to take for granted as I select avocados and citrus off the grocery shelves, year-round.
Each visit to the ranch results in new discoveries.  This year, I learned just how different the ranch is in July than it is in early June.  The most shocking discovery I made was that avocados are harvested just once every year.  Once a year!!  And the differences between east coast farming and west coast farming aren't actually all that different after all - for the strawberry season had long since ended when we arrived in mid-July.  
The view from the ranch house - such beauty!
Still, some things were just exactly as we've always known them to be.  Pax made a beeline for the very same John Deere that every other boy has ridden and loved in past trips.
I ran beautiful 5 mile routes each morning, different every time.  I started each run near the eucalyptus that borders the property, then turned at the avocados.  I snaked my way up and down each row, then headed over to the lemons one day, the limes another.  I criss-crossed the barren strawberry mounds, and marveled at the reservoir water in this drought-stricken land.  The tread on my shoes filled with lemon thorns, bark from the trees, and the ashes from small fires made by the pickers in the field who, at lunchtime, warmed their tortillas over the small open flames.

When one of Jeff's most favorite cousins, Mark, arrived on the Ranch, he brought the mischief along with him.  Within minutes, the two grown men had launched an attack on Leo and Aidan, continuing a long-standing tradition of lemon fights.  Apparently, rotting lemons are best both for their (relative) softness and for the stinky residue they leave behind:
A dog toy, intended for launching tennis balls, is repurposed as a lemon launcher.
About to be pummeled.....
TWO GROWN MEN waiting quietly and patiently for their targets...
Their intended targets - inexperienced, loud, and impatient -
but thrilled nonetheless with the lemon fight.
Pax wisely joined Jeff and Mark's team.
Time slowed in a most delicious way during the hours we spent with Grandma and Grandpa:

I never miss the opportunity to dip my toes in the ocean, and getting to visit the Pacific always feels like an extra-special treat.

Our kids have developed their own list of "must-do's" during these trips to California, which was pretty cool to realize.  I said to Jeff, "I love that we've been doing this trip long enough now that they have come to expect certain things, that they know this area and these people well enough to have set ideas of what needs to happen."  Thus, our first stop on beach day was at the huge pirate ship with a zip line.

A short time later, we met up with the whole crew at a great little area of the beach that is home to myriad creatures, including sea anemones, hermit crabs, and even the occasional dolphin in the bay.

Predictably, Mark was there with more mischief.

That night, we had a family dinner.  Back at home, "Family Dinner" consists of 7 people, and when we're really lucky, that number goes up to 11 people.  In California, 27 gathered together that night, with 14 others too far away to make it for dinner.  Wow!  The best part for me, aside from time with Grandma and Grandpa, was watching how quickly our kids were welcomed back into this village of kids and adults who so lovingly care for one another, include each other, and delight in each other.

 Before our bittersweet farewell the next morning, we met up with Mark and Gwen one last time for breakfast at a wonderful little cafe at a local airport.  The kids could watch small planes take off and land and run around in the specially-designed play area, complete with speakers to hear the air traffic control on duty at the moment.  Mark and Gwen's oldest daughter claimed Aidan as her own, and he reveled in acting as her big brother-cousin.  Personally, I was super-excited to see a real, live motorcycle gang member, having watched waaay too much of Sons of Anarchy before heading west.  

With hugs and kisses all around, we said farewell to Grandma and Grandpa, and to our fabulous hosts, Uncle Charles and Aunt Laurie.

We loaded ourselves into the car and began the trek out to Palm Springs for a visit with our long-time friends, the Grants.  The sadness at saying goodbye in Ventura gradually and eventually gave way to excitement, especially as we drove thorough this part of California - not only do the wind turbines signal that we are getting very close to Palm Springs, they are also really, really awesome to see!  They are enormous, and there are hundreds (thousands?) of them covering vast portions of the desert.  The turbines always provide rich fodder for discussion on conservation, ingenuity, and creativity.

Part 3 of our trip began shortly after the turbine sightings....

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