Vineyard, Farm, and Orchard in California by Ella M. Sexton

Long ago the Mission Fathers taught the Indians to plant and to take care of vines and fruit-trees. They built water-works to bring life to the thirsty trees in the dry summers, and to grow oranges, limes, and figs, as well as peaches, apricots, and apples. They trained grape-vines over arbors and trellises round the Mission buildings, and from the small, black grapes made wine. Olive trees and date-palms did well at the southern settlements. But most of these orchards died when the Mission Fathers were no longer allowed to make the Indians work for the church property, though a few old palms and olive trees are still standing.

During Mexican days each ranch owner raised enough grain or corn and beans for his own family but planted no fruit, or but little, while the Americans who came to seek gold thought farming a slow way of making a living. People soon found out, however, that our fine climate and rich soil made good crops almost certain, and there was such demand for fruit and farm products that more and more acres were cultivated each year.

Our leading industry now is farming and fruit-growing, and California's delicious fresh or cured fruit is sent all over the world. Large amounts of barley and hops are shipped from here to Europe, and our state produces almost all the Lima beans used in the country.

The citrus fruits, as oranges, lemons, and pomelos, or "grape-fruit," are called, grow in the seven southern counties, or in the foothills on the western slope of the Sierras. The trees cannot endure frost and must be irrigated in the summer. Orange trees are a pretty sight, with their shining green leaves, white, sweet-smelling flowers, and the green or golden fruit. About Christmas-time, when oranges ripen, both blossoms and fruit may be picked from the same tree. Los Angeles and Orange County grow most oranges, but San Diego is first in lemon culture. Half a million trees in that county show the bright yellow fruit and fragrant blossoms every month in the year. The other southern counties also raise lemons by the car-load to send east, or for your lemonade and lemon pies at home.

There, too, the olive grows well, that little plum-shaped fruit you usually see as a green, salt pickle on the table. The Mission Fathers brought this tree first from Spain, where the poor people live upon black bread and olives. Olives are picked while green and put in a strong brine of salt and water to preserve them for eating. Dark purple ripe olives are also very good prepared the same way. Did you know that olive-oil is pressed out of ripe olives? The best oil comes from the first crushing, and the pulp is afterwards heated, when a second quality of oil is obtained. Olive trees grow very slowly, and do not fruit for seven years after they are planted. But they live a hundred years, and bear more olives every season.

The black or purple fig which grew in the old Mission gardens bears fruit everywhere in the state. Either fresh and ripe, or pressed flat and dried, it is delicious and healthful. White figs like those from abroad have been raised the last few years, and it is hoped in time to produce Smyrna figs equal to the imported.

While peach orchards blossom and bear fruit six months of the year in the south, most of this pretty pink-cheeked fruit grows in the great valleys, or along the Sacramento River. Pears also show their snowy blossoms and yellow fruit in the valleys and farther north. The Bartlett pear is sent to all the Eastern states in cold storage cars kept cool by ice, and also to Europe.

The finest apricots are those of that wonderful southern country, miles and miles of orchards lying round Fresno especially. Yet the valleys and foot-hills produce plenty, and in the old mining counties very choice fruit ripens. Apples like the high mountain valleys, where they get a touch of frost in winter, though there is a cool section of San Diego County where fine ones are raised. Cherries do well in the middle and valley regions, the earliest coming from Vacaville, in Solano County.

Grapes grow throughout the state, though the famous raisin vineyards, where thousands of tons are dried every year, are around Fresno. Most of the raisins are dried in the sun, but in one factory a hundred tons of grapes may be dried at one time by steam. The raisins are seeded by machinery, and packed in pretty boxes to send all over the coast, and through the states, where once only foreign raisins were used. Many vineyards in the southern part and middle of the state grow only wine grapes, California wines, champagne, and brandy having a wide use.

Great quantities of fresh fruits are used in the state or sent away, while the canneries put up immense amounts, also. Canned fruit reaches many consumers, but it is expensive. Our cured or dried fruit, however is so cheap and so good that millions of pounds are prepared every year. Such fruit ripens on the tree and so keeps all its fine flavor. It is then dried in the sunshine, which not only fits it for long keeping but turns part of it to sugar. Apricots, peaches, pears, and cherries are usually cut in halves or stoned before drying. Prunes are first on the list of cured fruits, and they seem the best to use as food. The ripe prunes are dipped into a boiling lye to make the skin tender, then rinsed and spread in the sun a day or two. They are then allowed to "sweat" to get a good color, are next dipped in boiling water a minute or two, dried, and finally graded, a certain number to the pound, and packed in boxes or sacks.

Several kinds of nuts grow well in the state. All the so-called "English" walnuts, with their thin shells, are raised in the south, Orange County furnishing half the amount we market. Peanuts and almonds are a good crop there, also, though almond groves are in all parts of the state. Both paper and thick-shelled almonds are usually bleached, or whitened, with sulphur smoke to improve their color.

Santa Barbara and Ventura are the bean counties of the state, and send Lima beans away by train-loads, while Orange County grows celery for the Eastern market. Very high prices are received for this celery and other vegetables sent from California during the winter season when fields are covered with snow in the East.

And did you know that the state produces a great deal of sugar? Tons and tons of sugar-beets are grown throughout the farming lands, and harvested in September. When the juice of these crushed beets is boiled and refined, it makes a sugar exactly like cane sugar and much cheaper. One-fifth of the beet is sugar, it is said.

Even the dry, worthless mountain sides are valuable to the bee-keeper. The bees make a delicious honey from the wild, white sage, which grows where nothing else will live. This sage honey brings the very highest price.

Oats are raised in the coast counties, and corn in the valleys, but owing to cool nights and dry air the corn seldom makes a good crop. Orange County, however, claims corn with stalks twenty feet high and a hundred bushels to the acre. In the south, also, that wonderful forage-plant, alfalfa, will produce six crops a year by irrigation and give a ton or more to the acre at each cutting.

Along the upper Sacramento River stretch the great hop-fields full of tall vines covered with light-green tassels. At hop-picking season many families have a month's picnic, children and all working day after day in the fields and pulling off the fragrant hops. Indians, too, are among the best hop-pickers. The dried hops are bleached with sulphur, baled, and in great quantities sent to Liverpool, where with California barley they are used in brewing malt liquors.

An odd crop is mustard, and at Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County, enough for the whole country is grown. Both brown and yellow mustard is cultivated, and the little seeds, almost as fine as gunpowder, are sold to spice-mills and pickle-factories.

Whole farms are taken up with the production of flower-seeds or bulbs, with acres and acres of calla-lilies, roses, carnations, and violets. The tall pampas-grass, with its long feathery plumes, gives a profitable crop. Indeed, one can scarcely name a fruit, flower, or tree that will not thrive and grow to perfection in our mild climate and rich soil.