Wednesday, September 14, 2011

California 'Cots 2011

An apricot orchard in Los Altos Hills.

I drove up into the hills above my house today. The windy roads took me a couple of miles in distance and a few hundred feet up into the foothills of the Coast Range. And into the past.

If you don't look too closely, Los Altos Hills still look charming and rural, the way the Santa Clara Valley looked when I was growing up here--before it was Silicon Valley, the home of high tech billionaires.

Today, I was in search of apricots, and my quest involved a nexus of old and new.

That's because the last remaining large apricot orchard in the Hills belongs to the Packard Foundation--of Hewlett Packard fame. Where one acre building lots now sell for $2 million dollars and up, the Packard Foundation has sixty acres in orchards. That's green space in more than one sense of the phrase.

En route, I pass a lane that looks like one where kids I grew up with used to play kickball. The houses weren't fancy then.  Families sold the fruit on their trees to the local canneries, or canned and dried their 'cots themselves. The minimum lot size in Los Altos Hills, then and now, is one acre.

The Packard apricot orchard. I meant to get up here when the fruit was ripe and taste a warm, sun ripened Blenheim 'cot again.  For old time's sake.

Mike, the Packard's land manager, met me by the orchard with the goods. He had dried cots from the 2011 crop. Like candy to Santa Clara Valley natives. For a small amount of money, Mike will sell the Packard bounty to locals in 4.5 lb bags. That is hundreds of dollars worth of 'cots at the local specialty market. And the fruit would probably be from Australia!

I guess my sister now knows what she's getting for her birthday.

I had a good talk with Mike about how he controls predators like squirrels, rats, and gophers and keeps them from spoiling his crop. Mike is a big man who grew up on a farm and has the hands of farmer. Big, working man's hands. He told me how he controls his miscreant pests (he traps them and sends them to the Next World). But he doesn't bother the birds. "They don't do much harm," he says. Big Mike is a gentle man.

Winding down the road from the orchard, I saw the New Los Altos Hills.  A house that looks like it is going to be big enough to be a hotel.

I'd say this looks like an apartment building, but Los Altos Hills has no commercial or industrial zones. So this has to be a house.

This being America, I uphold a person's right to build any size house he can afford. But if I had my druthers, and could afford the land, I'd have a smallish house and a nice large orchard. So I could hire Mike to manage my land. And give 'cots away to all my friends. That would be wealth indeed.

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JanetGrunst said...

Aww, this made me homesick for a much earlier time when many of us could pick cots in Los Altos, in what we considered the Apricot Capital. Only few weeks ago I experienced a similar nostalgic moment - when we had a fairly strong earthquake. Strange – the things that touch our hearts. Thanks Robin!

Devon C. said...

Dried, chewy, apricots from California are my favorite dried fruit.

Robin Chapman said...

I have a strange premonition that you may be getting some soon from either your mother or your aunt ...