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Friday, April 29, 2011

Almonds fresh from the tree…and a cautionary tale

Last week we spent a day in Yosemite with Nate’s parents. (It was beyond breathtaking, by the way.) On the way home, we drove through California’s Central Valley (you know, one of the world’s best spots for growing food). We passed acres and acres of fields and orchards. On the particular road we were on, there were a gazillion almond trees. Here are a few unripe almonds from some of those trees. Aren’t they pretty?

None of us had ever seen an almond tree. We were intrigued. You could tell the fruit was in its early stages and Nate’s mom, Pat, was dying to hop out of the car to get a closer look. We finally found a spot where it was safe to pull over. As the car came to a stop, we noticed a “Beware of Dog” sign on a fence surrounding the orchard’s farmhouse. It was a few yards off and we kind of figured it was more of a sign to scare people. Nate’s mom hesitated before getting out, but we told her, “It will be fine. Go ahead!” So, she hops out of the car and walks to the nearest tree.

As her hand reaches out to feel what the almonds are like, we suddenly hear barking. We are all surprised. Yeah, we saw the sign. But still. Really? There is an actual dog to beware of? Nate’s mom sort of starts to panic. With only inches to go before her hand will reach the forbidden fruit, we all see it. The dog. It’s small, but scrappy, and has a fierce bark. And he’s running our way. Fast. Pat tears for the car, all the while yelling, “I’m just going to look at them! I’m not picking them!” For some reason, the dog didn’t listen.

Did you know that mini van doors close slowly? Well, they do. Thankfully, it closed just before the dog got to us.

As we drove away, laughing hysterically, I asked Pat, still recovering with adrenaline coursing through her veins, what the almonds felt like. “I don’t know, I didn’t even touch them!” Of course we laughed harder.

A mile or two down the road we saw a fabulous produce stand, surrounded by almond trees. We stopped to buy some nuts. Nate and Pat recounted the close call with the dog to the woman who owned the market. She told them they were more than welcome to look at her almonds and even pick a few to look at more closely. She wouldn’t even sic any dogs on us.

Thanks to Pat’s persistence and bravery, we all got a close-up look of an early-stage almond. And we all learned a lesson. If an orchard has a “Beware of Dog” sign, probably best to beware!


  1. 1
    Tammy Blais

    This experience is priceless! I only wish I could have been a witness. I would have been rolling with laughter right along with you. …a memory to treasure!

  2. 2

    How funny! My dad had an analogous experience with cotton plants in Missouri!

  3. 3

    Oh thank you so much for my entertainment of the evening!! And I’m so jealous. My Dad wrote a book about Yosemite when I was growing up so I spent a lot of time in the park and have so many wonderful memories there. And we used to pick almonds along the highway but never, ever had a close call with a almond guard dog. There WAS that time in Yellowstone, however, when my mom kept telling my brother and me to get closer and closer to a herd of bison to get a great picture…we were very careful and watched where we walked but then the biggest one started snorting and pawing the ground and did a few mini-charges at us. Thankfully this was in the 80s when van doors were manual and you could close them REALLY fast! But my personal favorite was when my Dad tried to get a really great close up of a female moose in northern Maine. It charged him and he took off on a dead sprint. Sadly his sadistic family locked the van doors so he had to keep on running…I think we’ve been forgiven…

  4. 4

    I laughed out loud but had to control myself since I’m in a Starbucks at the moment – hahahha – great story!! And thx for the almond pic – I’ve never seen them in an unfinished state before. 🙂

  5. 5

    Too funny! Small world too…the husband & I spent today in Yosemite (A-maz-ing!!!) and we live in the Central Valley. I hope the almond guarding pooch didn’t give our town a bad rep 😉

  6. 6

    I love to see you write this. I grew up on an almond ranch right in the middle of the Central Valley and yes, I agree, it is the best place to grow food. We are so fortunate to live in this area.

  7. 7

    Great story! I was lucky enough to receive a couple of pounds of fresh pecans from one of my Dad’s relatives that lives in Georgia. She has the trees growing right on her property and she was even kind enough to shell them herself before sending them my way.

  8. 8

    Great story to have!

    We had an almond tree growing up–I loved how fuzzy they were. We never got any nuts, though–squirrels got them all every single year.

  9. 9

    What a great story! I’m almost certain you traveled through my hometown. I grew up with an almond, walnut, orange, pomegranate, lemon — (oh, and everything else) tree in my backyard while growing up in the Central Valley of California. The rich peat dirt, hot days and cool evenings are the perfect recipe for one of the biggest produce exporting cities on the West Coast. Asparagus, strawberries, cherries – I didn’t know produce could be so expensive until I moved away. I sure do miss those San Joaquin Delta breezes when I’m dealing with East Coast humidity. I sure do miss my Half Dome and Yosemite something fierce!

  10. 10
    Jenny Huntington Allen

    Oh Pat! I love this story of you…

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