Monday, January 23, 2012

Did You Have a Tree House ---??

Inside a "Cathedral Like" huge, old avocado tree

This past week I had the pleasure of taking two journalists to a remote ranch here in southern California. It was an ideal day – blue skies, thin winter clouds running across the arch of sky, like streamers fluttering quickly before the rain storm predicted - rare rain. 
Both of these young ladies had never been in an orchard, they disclosed. I literally stopped in my tracks (with one bumping into my back). The thought startled me! How sad for them.
I grew up in orchards – orange, lemon and avocado. They are my playgrounds. As I child – I ran up and down the long, leafy rows – playing tag,  hide-n-seek, sometimes dodging the Mexican field workers – who would alternately yell at us in Spanish or smile shyly.
We children would grab windfall fruit – fallen oranges, rotten lemons, wrinkly avocados – throwing them at each other or playing made-up games to see who could fling them the farthest or highest - to watch them splat their juices on the hot summer soil...
Beautiful avocado green leaves and buds 
Back to the present: the journalists snap pictures and asked me questions. They love the avocado-green ("from the 70s!" one remarked.) They exclaimed over the huge size of the leaves, the range in sizes of the fruit. So many things I take for granted – was new and exciting to them. The hundreds of busy, buzzy bees scare them a bit.  We are all startled by the sound of a creature running away as we part avocado branches, peering inside trees for the green fruit camoflagued so well. "It's probably just a squirrel, I assured them"… hoping I am right, but fearing it might be a snake.
We step around piles of steamy horse manure; natural fertilizer among the rows of trees.  We skirt long rows of firewood, neatly lined up along the edge of the orchard (winter work and another source of revenue for orchard owners). We move steadily through the orchard - me explaining how hard it is to make a living growing and selling avocados and why Hass is an ideal cash crop. We reach the very far edge – where there are 3 gigantic, old avocado trees – the Avocado Diva’s favorite kind of trees. I'm giddy with excitment.
Hass trees - growing in rows
For sure these are not common Hass trees – probably Bacon or Fuerte – Heritage varieties that still grow here in Ventura County. Often I discover rare trees in this manner – walking an orchard - finding a lone tree or two, forgotten, on the edge of an old ranch.  I am not disappointed as we walk up – the fruit hangs like long, dripping Christmas ornaments - the classic tear-drop shape of a Pinkerton.  Pushing the leaves and branches back further – we go inside this massive, "cathedral like" tree – and discover a hidden treasure...
The tree has child-like stairs, nailed up and along two of the three thick, twisty trunks.  Looking high above our heads, we spy the plywood floors of two long-forgotten tree houses. The photo-journalist takes a couple of artistic snaps and moves along – but I am transported back over a few decades to my tree house.
I can clearly remember climbing rickety stairs – nailed in with my father’s hand-me-down, rusty hammer. My plywood club-house floor had a dangling sign that said “GIRLS ONLY” crudely written in paint – while an almost identical structure a few avocado trees further down the orchard read “BOYS ONLY”.
My sisters, my neighborhood pals and I spent countless hours on those dusty plywood boards – plotting and planning how to annoy the boys – drinking pop out of glass bottles from the corner gas station.  
Long, skinny, "tear drop" shaped Pinkertons
And in that quiet stillness, slowly sipping our soda – our tree would explode with a half-dozen crazy, wild boys throwing rotten lemons at us – or spraying us with water from squirt guns!  How angry and indignant we got!  (Even though we were just discussing doing the same thing to them.)
“What are these?” – - - I am startled out of my memories, as the journalist brings me back to reality. She asks me another question about some new, oddly shaped avocados she’s discovered.  "Bacons or Zutanos?" she guesses, proud of her new knowledge – So I show her how to tell the difference.   I’m transported back to the here and now – to answer more questions about my passion – Heritage Avocados and saving these cathedral trees.
The Avocado Diva grew up in Ventura County on the now defunct Adore Farm and the surronding orchards owned by the Camarillo and Petit families. Her children are 5th generation Californians from this same county. She runs an on-site store, blog, and website where she sells Heritage Avocados (rare, unique and historic avocados) as well as helps try to keep them growing - by purchasing the fruit from small, local, farmers and ranchers.
You can help to - sign up for the "Diva Club" - and get rare, unique avocados shipped right to your door each month. Save an avocado variety. Save a tree. Save a farm. 


  1. Brenda, great job. I loved the vivid description of the orchard and the contrast between your knowledge and that of the journalists.

    I would like to see your name connected to this post and your website. This blog can become part of your avocado diva website. It will drive traffic there.

  2. Nice story Brenda. Where will the article by the journalist appear?


    Here is the link to the article that came out in the Moorpark Acorn. Thank you for your kind interest.