By Fred Owens
Waiting. I'm in the town of Ojai, at the library, waiting for some thing or some one. If I look up from this desk and look out the window, facing north, I can see a ridge of mountains close to 5,000 feet high. The highest one is called Topa Topa.
The mountains are green, peopled with low bushes that stay green all summer. They don't need rain. It hasn't rained since May. This is a dry country.
Yesterday Bob Dent showed me around the Deer Creek Olive Orchard in the upper part of the Ojai Valley.
I waited to meet him at 3 p.m., waiting at an outdoor cafe called The Summit. I got there early, at 2:30 p.m. and had a Pepsi with ice.
I like to get places early so I can see the sounds and hear the scenery, watch the cars go by, and look at people coming and going.
It was hot, it's often very hot in Ojai, but then a cloud came in at 2:45 and it was cooler and I took off my sun glasses.
The cafe closed at 3 p.m. but I was still waiting for Bob Dent. I called him on my cell at quarter past -- he said sorry, slipped his mind, be there in a minute.
So he pulled up in his truck and I followed him over to the orchard.
He showed me around. They have trees planted in 2006, doing fine at 6-feet tall. And they will be kept only 6-feet tall. People don't use ladders any more in the orchard work -- too many accidents, and it's tiring, climbing up and down. Better to just keep the trees small and reach them from the ground.
The olive trees are of a type called arbequina, an Italian variety. The slim silver leaves look so natural in this dry climate.
Bob said he had worked avocados for many years, but olives were much better. "You can't miss watering the avocados, they get stressed right away, but the olives are more forgiving, used to dry country and they don't need as much water."
In fact, a bit less water makes the tree produce more fruit.
The harvest will be in late November. It's a small orchard, a crew will come in -- guys who can pick olives like bandits and go from one orchard to another -- they will come in and pick the Deer Creek olives in one day.
Then the olives go to the press to get the oil. This is scheduled and booked. You have 48 hours, by law and by custom, to get those olives to the press, so you must have that arranged with careful people who know their business.
Deer Creek produces EVOO -- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the very best.
Bob Dent doesn't know the olive harvest or the oil press, but he knows how to tend the trees year round.
He has a dog named Lily, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. She followed us around the orchard -- a very intelligent animal. Bob keeps the grass mowed between the rows. He uses a gas-powered hedger to cut down the suckers that spring from the older Mission trees. And other chores.
This orchard has 40 or 50 old trees, maybe one hundred years old. Olives give fruit for many, many years. But these old trees have been trimmed at the top, and that forces too many suckers to come out of the base, so Bob will be cutting back those suckers for a few years now.
Fruit flies are a problem. but olives don't have too many pests. They are just a hardy kind of fruit, and make such a wonderful oil. Olive oil is good for you in many ways.
That's the Olive News from the Ojai Valley. But don't forget the dahlia Open House at Love House Dahlias. It's blossom time, hundreds of gorgeous dahlias. Open every weekend in September.
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