Monday, September 8, 2008

Do You Prefer Almonds...or Amonds?

Finding myself in the midst of orchard heaven, there is an abundance of healthy farm fresh produce on practically every country corner. Agriculture is really the heart of our communities here in the central valley and harvesting is in overdrive. During the winter months it can get very foggy but during harvest the dust that is thrown up by all the equipment lingers in the air until it settles. While the topsoil is airborne it creates a cloud that resembles fog on a chilly morning awaiting the sun to break through. It is especially created when the almond and walnut orchards are harvested.
One of my favorite memories includes the reason why people here call almonds, "amonds." Before living here I thought farmers simply picked each and every nut from the tree until the crop was barren of any lingering produce. I was awakened one morning during our first year of marriage by a thunderous shaking of the entire house and a low groaning sound coming from outside. I knew that our home was surrounded by almond orchards, although the almond ranchers call them amonds, I hadn't the faintest idea what was causing such a ruckus. I went outside to find each tree being shaken by the base of it's trunk by some machine that resembled a robotic Tonka truck, a cross between the Back to the Future Delorian and Batman Begin's mobile with additional arms in front to grab and agitate the tree until it yielded all it's fruit.
Once this was accomplished a separate machine more along the lines of a street sweeper would come along and sweep the floor of the orchard and cause all of the nuts to gather in the center between each row of trees

In addition this would throw all the dry top soil to be tossed in the sweltering hot air. These machines would then be followed by yet another mechanized, foreign looking, dust covered tractor that would pick up the rows of now "amonds" and deposit them into a hopper. Once this process is finished the one time almonds, after being shaken and falling from their fruit bearing limbs, ranchers now call amonds due to having the "l" knocked out of them.

In the end I guess the "l" must linger on the tree for next year's crop to hold on till the next harvest!

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