Friday, January 27, 2017

Back to real time

We're still in El Centro.   The schedule was to leave here this morning and make our way to Ajo but the winds kicked up this morning and we like to think we learned our lesson about driving a high profile vehicle in a high wind advisory.

Driving through the center of El Centro (I know, that sounded a bit redundant) we noticed this traffic signal looked odd and it was hard to clearly see the illuminated color.

When I zoomed my camera in I saw it was more than just a traffic control device.  It was a high occupancy condominium!

The reason for our El Centro (not exactly a destination) visit was to take a farm tour conducted by the University of California's research facility in Holtsville, a few miles from here.

Every time we pass through this area we wonder about what is growing in the huge, immaculate fields.   We wonder what the workers are picking, why the rows are planted the way they are, what the machines are doing in the distance, why one canal looks full and another is almost empty.    We wish they would label the fields along I-8.    Every single time we pass by....every single time.  Evidently we aren't the only ones.    Pam and John took this Farm Smart tour last year and we planned our winter's travels so that we will be here in January for the start of the year's tours.

The cost is $25 and I wondered if it would be worth the price.....After spending 5 1/2 hours at their 250 ish acre site in Holtville I can honestly say it was!    Coffee and home made cookies (and strangely....popcorn) during registration, a cooking/eating demonstration (carrot salad made from their own carrots), an interesting classroom presentation about agriculture in the Imperial Valley, its history and water issues (past and present) and some interesting videos of all the very specialized machinery used to harvest and pack our vegetables.  Afterward our host answered our questions, gave us a little honey tasting (locally produced honey) and sent us back to the welcome area for lunch.    Have you ever tasted avocado honey?    Mmmmmm.    

Dave enjoys his cup of coffee while we wait for the tour to begin

these two were recruited to help with the cooking demonstration

We saw evidence of the children's programs this staff conducts. Next to the classroom is a pizza garden complete with wheat, tomatoes, and herbs.

red durum wheat

illustration of how much water it takes to produce a dressed cheeseburger!

After lunch we boarded the tractor pulled hay wagons for the trip into the fields.

We wondered if they were doing an experiment on the hay/straw bale seats to see if contact with human buttocks caused them to regrow.

The tractors pulled us through the experimental fields, stopping here and there for explanations and questions.

The tractor ride wasn't bumpy exactly, but it's movement made it hard to take photographs.      My tactic became, aim at something, shoot, and hope you have  it in the frame.

No one home in these burrows

In one area, a colony of burrowing owls had taken over holes next to the farm road.   Their homes were marked with little pink flags so no one accidentally fills them in while maintaining the road.   Our vehicles couldn't stop, only slow a bit so..... point, shoot, point, shoot.

nope, not here either

almost missed this little guy....look at those yellow eyes!

success at last!
I finally got lucky and captured these two curious guys, making eye contact with us as we rolled by.

We learned about the various types of irrigation being tried and used in the valley.  Some very high tech. and some very rudimentary.

One of our drivers demonstrated the process of siphon irrigation and invited us to give it a try.     Needless to say, it wasn't as easy as it looked!

We even had a bit of entertainment by way of Blue Angel flyovers and practice runs.

Surrender Dorothy!

At the morning's registration we were given an orange bag, at the end of the hayride we find out what we'd use those bags for.

We pulled up to a huge vegetable garden, rows and rows of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, turnips, carrots of all colors, celery, daikon radishes, leaf, romaine and head lettuce, etc.    We all waded into the thick green rows and dug, and pulled and cut as much as we could carry away.   Pam suggested we take our own knife along on this tour....we were glad we did!

a worker harvesting carrots

and lettuce

At the end of the afternoon we were treated to ice cream and a little door prize action before lugging our heavy bags out the driveway and into our cars.

Beluga's refrigerator overfloweth.....



  1. I remember when Pam and John did this tour. Looks like a great day. We are thinking of doing this tour. I better get my butt in gear and see if there are any openings.

  2. We have our tour scheduled for 2/7/17. Looking forward to learning about farming in the imperial valley and picking a nice bunch of veggies. I told Lisa to clear out the fridge before we get there! :-)

  3. So glad you were able to take part in the tour. It was so informative and answered many questions I had developed traveling along the fields. We didn't have any carrots:( There was a whole area of an experimental field for rainbow carrots, but not for us! It is such a well done day and worth more than the cost.

  4. Glad you stayed put! Center of El Centro.....ha. I think the vegetable tour wrapped in cookies and ice cream is brilliant - everybody has to love something :-) Nice catch on the owls!! So cute. So's the picker :-)))))

  5. Looks like a very informative tour—cannot believe the amount of water it takes to make a cheeseburger! Love the photos of the Burrowing Owls. I'm glad you didn't give up on getting a shot of them. Very artistic shot of the lettuce picker. :-))