Sunday, April 12, 2009


Sarah's extended family, who I lump all together and call "the Fusanos," are one of the biggest surprise benefits that have come from being married to her. I wasn't sure about them at first. I tend to be kind of reserved and aloof, and they that way, but I have come to love them. They have become a real blessing to me over the years. They really are some of the nicest folks an in-law could hope for. For some time, Umpa (Sarah's Grandfather), has been inviting me to come up to Lindsay to show me the family's olive and orange groves as well as the ranch house up there so last week I took him up on the offer. Sarah's cousin Dave came along too, which I was glad for. I always like hanging out with Dave.
I thought Lindsay was fascinating. Everywhere we went groves stretched away for miles in just about every direction, and as we drove, Umpa would point out the different crops- grapes, peaches, kiwis, pistachios, plums, oranges, lemons, almonds, pecans, olives, etc... The central valley is like a huge mega-garden criss-crossed by roads and irrigation canals. Seeing such an army of little trees, all standing neatly in their columns and extending as far as the eye could see was a more impressive sight to me than the giant sequoias. Except for a tour of duty in World War II, Umpa has worked in olives pretty much his whole life. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the industry. Their various groves are spread throughout Lindsay, and we spent a fair amount of time visiting all of the groves and checking up on things.
While we were driving through one of the groves Umpa started picking some of the old wilted looking olives that were still hanging on the tree, and eating them! They looked pretty nasty, but Dave and I tried them. The first one I tried was actually pretty good. It tasted a lot like a black olive, but with kind of an edge to it, but the second one I tried was just inedible- way too bitter. Umpa was eating them like popcorn though.

In recent years the family has diversified into oranges as well as olives. I don't think I ever ate an orange fresh off the tree until I moved to California, and let me tell you, that is a whole different fruit than the ones we used to buy at the supermarket growing up. They are unbelievably sweet- like nature's candy.

Dad, I know that you also appreciate a good orange. I wish you were here to share in the bounty. I brought home a couple of buckets, and my fingers have been sticky, with orange rind under my finger nails, ever since I returned home.

Lindsay is olive country, and the Fusano's are olive people.

The Ranch House, as they call it, is owned by Sarah's Uncle Beany. It sits in the middle of an olive grove on a little hill overlooking a valley. It's a beautiful spot.

The olive trees were budding while we were there. Umpa thought they would probably have to thin out the buds by "spray thinning" or the trees would produce smaller olives, which are less profitable. That sounded like a bad thing to me, but he talked like it was a good problem to have.
We drove up to the top of a hill behind the house to have a look around. The view from on top was pretty amazing.

Those are olive groves in the forefront and the darker green groves in the distance are oranges.
Dave is the man.

On the drive back home we stopped at the Sandrini Road exit on the 99 to take a pee. All the men in the family who pass by stop and pee there and sign their names and the date on a certain post next to a vineyard. So I made a dark spot on the ground and signed my John hancock on the post. When in Rome...
It's hard to believe that it's all picked by hand.
Here's Dave doing the honors. Umpa looked on and said, "Fools names and fools faces always appear in public places." Needlesess to say, he did not sign his name to the post. I was really glad, and grateful to Umpa, for the opportunity to go see the sights up there. Next time I think it would be fun if Sarah and the kids came.


Liana said...

I love this post, Josh. I feel like I just took a little tour with you - what a neat family!!

Annie said...

Thanks, Josh! The pictures are great- it's making me want to take another trip!