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Springtime Almond Bloom

Spring is here in California, and the almond trees have already blossomed and the nuts are starting to develop. I’m always amazed at how quickly it happens. For weeks, even months, we watch the buds slowly develop, then begin to swell in January and the first part of February, then POP! Out come the blossoms.


We’re working on a photo journal of the entire season…daily photographs of the orchard for an entire season that I hope to develop into a sort of motion picture, like a time lapse. I hope it turns out; it might be really fascinating. Anyway, here are a few samples for you to see…a sneak peek.

Quite a bit of rain came during the bloom, which is good…and bad. The bees don’t fly and work during the rain, and there is more possibility for disease in the orchard with so much moisture on the delicate flowers and young green growth; however, we need the rain so we thank God for it. We did get some nice warm, sunny days for the bees to work. I absolutely love to watch them work; they are such amazing creatures. The bees are so focused at there task when the weather is good that you can get pretty close to them without really offending them, so I captured a few of them at work. Look closely and you’ll see the pollen pockets on their legs. All the bees I photographed were foraging for pollen; some will harvest nectar, burying their nose down into the flower rather than working on top of the stamen.

If you’re interested, take an early morning walk with me…

While nature is at work, we’re continuing to sort and clean almonds from the last harvest, most of them to package up raw. We’re still making our roasted almond butter in small batches so that our customers get only the freshest, highest quality almond butter. We’re working on making Raw Almond Butter (in the second picture below), but it’s been tough to get the texture workable. As soon as we’re happy with it, we’ll add it as an option to our website too.

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Winter in the Orchard

The past few months have been pretty quiet on the farm. Leaves slowly dropped from the trees as the temperature dropped through November and December. December was especially cold for us here in the Sacramento Valley. We had many nights drop into the 20s, which is unusually cold for this area.

Most of our time has been consumed with cleaning and sorting the almonds after harvest. We also added several new flavors to our roasted almond lineup, and a very exciting new addition, Raw Vanilla Almonds. In the orchard, we’ve done minimal pruning, and my mom has helped out a lot with “poling;” that’s when you knock the “mummies” (nuts stuck on the trees that didn’t come off during harvest) off with a pole. This is our best defense against the Naval Orange Worm moth, the worst pest we have in almonds.

The scheduling didn’t work out this winter for the tree grinder to make it to our orchard like we hoped. The portion of the orchard that we were going to remove to start our new organic orchard is still standing. We are going to charge ahead with the transition to organic anyway. Originally we were going to just farm them organically, but because so many customers have asked, we are looking into certification. We’re just getting started now and it’s a three year process to receive the “certification.”

The rains have been sporadic this fall and winter, with just enough precipitation to bring some very foggy weather. That is, until this past week. God has seemingly opened up the floodgates! The past few days have brought rainstorm after rainstorm with several inches of rainfall. Cold rainy weather is never fun to be out and about in, but we are extremely grateful. Hopefully the snow-pack is building sufficiently in the Sierra Nevada mountains to fill up our reservoirs this spring and summer.

Here is a quick video I shot today while William (my youngest son) and I went for a ride through the orchard to take a look after the latest round of rain. Unfortunately the rain came with a strong south wind, taking a few of our trees over.

The trees are apparently anticipating the coming spring, because the buds are already beginning to swell.

The buds are starting to swell.

The buds are starting to swell.


The buds are just waiting to pop!

The buds are just waiting to pop!

In the News: Our farm was featured in the Davis Food Coop Newsletter this month!
Davis Coop Newsletter
Tom and Rebecca on the cover of the newsletter.
For those of you who haven’t been to the website for a while, we have great news: Free Shipping for all orders over $30!! For those of you who ordered within the past few months and took advantage of the free shipping, you may have noticed the minimum increased from $20 to $30 to qualify for the free shipping. UPS increased their rates at the first of the year, and the shipping costs were just too much for us on the small orders. Yet, we couldn’t give up on the idea…we still wanted to offer the free shipping to you all. Our hope is this will have the least impact on you because we know the free shipping helps out a lot.

Rebecca and I wish you all the best as this new year continues to unfold. We’ll be bringing more updates very soon as the season gets underway.

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‘09 Harvest Continues…with a glimpse to the future.

Wow, it has been a busy week and a half!  Since my last post, when we knocked the almond trees, we’ve been working like mad in the orchard getting ready to actually harvest, pick up the nuts off the ground!

Blowing almonds

Blowing almonds

After knocking the nuts off the Nonpareil trees (every other row), the first thing I needed to do was blow the almonds off the Carmel rows (alternating with the Nonpareils) so I could irrigate them while the Nonpareil variety was drying on the ground.  The trees are very thirsty as long as they have the nuts still on them.

Briden raking

Briden raking

Zech, Caleb, and William helping rake.

Zech, Caleb, and William helping rake.

Then the boys helped me rake a lot of the areas that are too tight or too difficult for the sweeper to get to.  After six days of drying on the ground, the almonds were ready to be swept into windrows.  We hired our neighbor, Jerry, because he has a small sweeper that fits down our narrow rows.

The sweeper moves the bulk of the nuts, but many of the almonds get caught around the trunks, in small holes in the ground, and sitting in the crotch of the trees, so we have to go through the orchard and hand rake and pick by hand to get the rest.

Rebecca raking - a California farm girl!

Rebecca raking - a California farm girl!

Zechariah - he likes to rake barefoot (crazy kid)
Mikaela, young Cali farm girl, raking

Little William (3) likes to help, but I think he does more damage with a rake than good!  He does like to play Mr. Quality Control Inspector though…

Rebecca came across this rare, very unusual almond, a double kernel shaped like a butterfly.

Double "Butterfly" Almond

Double "Butterfly" Almond

Finally, we had the orchard ready, and called the harvest crew to come with the pickup machines.  The new, modern equipment is really fascinating to watch.  They work so fast and efficiently.


They load our nuts into a truck, and off they go to the hulling and shelling plant to have the hulls and shells removed, and we’ll get them back in large wooden bins in a couple weeks.

…if you’re interested in a glimpse into the future at Briden Wilson Farm, we’re preparing to remove part of our orchard this fall/winter. The trees are getting old and many are diseased, many are tipping because of rotting roots, and some are just dying. We are strongly considering putting in the new orchard and farming it organically. The area where we live makes that very difficult because of our weather conditions and certain pressures from pests, but we really want to give it a shot. I know many of our customers are interested in organic product, and to be honest, since we live in the middle of our orchard, we would prefer it too.

Here’s the beginning of the process…

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2009 Harvest is Here!

It’s finally here!  Today we “knocked” the first variety of almond trees.

The process of shaking the almond trees is still referred to as knocking because before the days of big machines, the trees were literally knocked by hand with rubber mauls.

Briden with a maul knocking almonds by hand.

Briden with a maul knocking almonds by hand.

The actually knocking/shaking of the trees goes pretty quickly.  Each tree is shaken for only a few seconds, and it’s like a shower of almonds falling to the ground.  It really is fun to see in action.  If you watch closely, you can actually see the branches raise up (even though they look like a blur) as the weight of the almonds (still inside the shells with the hulls attached) is removed.

Next we’ll be raking, blowing, and sweeping the almonds into windrows so they can be picked up by the harvester.  Harvesting almonds and irrigating the trees during harvest is a very manual process.  The almonds need to stay dry while they’re on the ground.  If they get wet, they will become discolored, and can even get moldy if allowed to stay wet for too long.  Harvest demands long hours of tedious labor, but the reward is worth it!  Who wouldn’t be satisfied with a handfull of fresh crunchy almonds?!

Almond tree shaker in action.

Almond tree shaker in action.

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Final Harvest Prep

We’re just a couple days away from “knocking” the first variety of trees.  The nonpareil almonds are dried enough so we can shake them off the trees.  They will finish drying on the ground before we sweep them up and harvest them.

The nonpareil almonds ready to be knocked.

The nonpareil almonds ready to be knocked.

Briden "knocking" an almond tree with an old fashioned maul.

Briden "knocking" an almond tree with an old fashioned maul.

My boys have been helping me get the orchard ready for the shakers and harvest equipment to go through the rows of trees.  Another large nonpareil tree fell over just a few days ago, so I tasked the younger boys with knocking the almonds off by hand so I can cut up the tree and move it out of the way.

Within a few days I should have photos and videos of the harvest in action, so check back soon!

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