New Year 2017

MONDAY

Today was a holiday for most and we took it easy also.  We do have plans for tomorrow.  Bonnie went out and did a little shopping and I fired up the grill and we had the Sahlen’s Smokehouse Hot Dogs for supper.  Then a nice chat with our daughter.  Thats about it for today.

TUESDAY

It was about 55 when I got up this morning and it struggled to reach 60.  We had heavy cloud cover and the sun never made an appearance.  People say this much cloudy weather and cool temps during the day is unusual for here.  I for one am ready for it to get a little warmer so I can enjoy sitting out.

So we had a tour of Martha’s Garden’s scheduled for today.  This is a Date Farm and mostly its the Medjool dates that are grown here.  The tour guide Chris said it began as a hobby but now they have over 8000 trees on over 100 acres.  So I learned a lot about date growing today.  It is very labor intensive and almost all work is done by hand.  Each tree can be touched up to 18 times a year.

We left a little later than planned and the GPS took us a crazy way but we made it just as people were loading up.  We found two seats, paid our $10 a piece and settled in.

This is Chris introducing himself and telling us that the farm was started in 1990 by the Rogers family with 300 Medjool offshoots.  Date palms are always started from offshoots which are clones of the mother plant.  The pits, if propagated usually form mutated plants and inedible fruit.  These palms are decedents from the 9 surviving palms (started with 11) that were brought from Moroaco in 1927 by Walter Swingle, an American horticulturist, when the species was threatened with extinction.

Off we go with frequent stops, pulled by a Kubota UTV.  As you can see the soil is very sandy.

This is a male tree.  One male can provide enough pollen to pollinate up to 50 female trees.  Only the female palms produce fruit.  Its also a bit difficult to look at the tree and tell which it is.

When the male produces a flower stem it is harvested when it is ripe and the pollen is collected.  Then each of the female trees are hand pollenated by workers when they flower.  Nothing is left to chance.  This is a male flower

Closeup this is the picture that was on my FaceBook.

This is the female flower and the strands that the fruit grows from.  The plants love to produce fruit and up to 80% of it is hand  removed to give the rest room to grow and allow air to circulate to keep the dates dry.  String is attached to each branch to make it curve down.  It helps it not to break as the fruit gets heavy and makes it easier to pick.

As the fruit ripens a bag is tied around it and a metal ring inserted to spread out the fruit.  This keeps birds and insects off it and catches any ripe dates that fall off.  During harvest each tree is checked for ripe fruit and harvested 4 times.  Now imagine 8000 trees with multiple fruit bearing stems each with a bag tied on it.  Think about the manpower it takes to do this.  Chris said at peak times they have 100 workers on site.

Once a palm is planted it takes 7 to 10 years before it produces enough dates to pay for what it costs to maintain it.  Each tree is planted 30 feet apart and there are 48 trees per acre.  Each tree needs 125-200 gallons of water per day which is pumped from five 200 foot deep wells.  Are you starting to see why these dates are expensive?  Each tree can produce up to 300lbs of dates.  This level of production is reached after 20 years.  A tree can produce 80 years or more.

These are the offshoots growing.  They are removed by a chisel like tool.  They are kept tied up, more labor.  Each one is worth up to $65.

These trees are 7 to 10 years old.  All growth is from the top.  So the fruit is higher each year.

This is one of the nurseries and the trees have been trimmed and de-thorned.  Nasty very sharp thorns grown on each of the stems and have to be removed each year, more labor.

Very young palms about 30% of these will not make it.  Can you see the brown ones that have died.

This is the device the workers use to get up into the trees to trim, thin and harvest, it can reach up to 50 feet high.

The date harvest ended in November and now the trees are being trimmed and de-thorned.  The new flowers and fruit will start in February six months later the harvest will begin.

A view from the upper level grove.

We believe this to be the owners home, there was a trampoline and peacocks.  We were moving to fast for pictures.

But they have a nice view of the mountains

Chris is telling us about the freezer buildings.  The dates are frozen and it does not affect their quality or taste.  The was also a Beaver Motorhome parked in this area.  Looked like it was getting a new air conditioner.

Near the house there were quite a few trees still with dates on them.  This is a different variety.  Chris said there was not a ready market for them and they had no room in the freezers for them so they were just left on the trees.

From there we headed back the store where we started.  Bonnie bought us Date Milkshakes and we watched the movie they had prepared on date production.  The shake was good but very sweet almost too sweet for me to finish.  ALMOST!

You are looking at one happy girl.  While we were on the tour we got a text that our granddaughter had passed her driving test.  Congratulations!

We headed home and we ate up the rest of the steak and au gratin potatoes and coleslaw for supper.

So the wedding planning is getting into full force hopefully we will have a date soon.  She said yes to the dress and now has it on order, thats a big thing checked off the list.  We also made reservations for Bonnie to fly home in a couple weeks to help with the plans and arrangements.  Flights are much cheaper out of Phoenix, reservations made, now we just have to get her there.  I did check and there is a shuttle I think its about 176 miles to the airport, it leaves at 5:30am.

So we did quite a bit today no wonder I am tired.

WEDNESDAY

Nice to wake up this morning to blue skies and sunshine.  Hopefully I can get out and get some sun today.  Lots of pounding over at the new house project so I went over to check.  Still hard to see much progress but there is some.  Looks like they are working on a hot tar roof.  The red trailer is the tar pot and pump.

I see rolls of tar paper on the roof ready for the tar.

Looking through the wall I see they did the prep for a washer and I see quite a bit of PEX tubing run for hot and cold water.  Later I noticed the air conditioning crew was also running lines.

Well we made it into the low 70’s today and I was able to sit out and read for several hours.  I got through a magazine and quite a few chapters on my Kindle.

Several humming birds came close to check me out and one sat in the tree in front of me for several minutes.  I tried to get a picture with the iPhone but it was to far away as it blended into the tree.  Lots of military jets were flying today out on the bombing range.  I did not hear any bombs but they were flying overhead and turning to go back down the range.

It cooled off shortly after 4 so I went in and watched an episode of Homeland.  Then I was waiting for the sunset to get really good and I almost waited to long but did capture this one shot.

Thats it for the first part of this week and I need to get the dishes done.  Thanks For Checking In!