January 04, 2016

Photo Essay: Harvesting Oranges in Heritage Park

This is January in California: the beginning of the orange harvest.

There are lots of opportunities to pick your own fruit in Southern California all year long, but I haven't taken advantage of any of them yet. No cherry-picking in Leona Valley or apple picking in Oak Glen or Julian. No watermelons in persimmons or pomegranates in Ojai pixies.

I haven't even visited a pumpkin patch out here. Most times, I'm proud of myself if I shop at the farmer's market.

I didn't grow up doing any of these things, either. We didn't cut down our own tree for Christmas. We ate vegetables that came in cans and fruits in the form of jellies.

But there's really nothing like a food source that goes from tree to tongue, so I headed out to La Verne  to pick some oranges from the grove on a one and a half-acre ranch surrounding the historic Weber House, which was saved from destruction in the 1980s.

Every Saturday from now until March, for just $5, the La Verne Heritage Foundation will provide the five-pound bags...

...and the pickers...

...and set you off to their orange trees.

Of course, early in the season, there are plenty of oranges to choose from within arm's reach...

...but some people's pick for the perfect fruit might be hanging from a branch a bit higher than eye level.

The Weber House was not only saved, but is also open for tours.

Built in the late 1880s, it was a private home for John Weber, a long-time resident of La Verne, who resided there until 1914.

After that, it became part of a working citrus farm, and its present-day condition has been restored to a recreation of its 1915-era past. It was actually relocated a few blocks here to Heritage Park.

Sure, you can just take your oranges and run, but it's fun to explore the antique equipment...

... like the horse-drawn "spray rig" made out of a 1930 Ford Model "A" truck.

Some of those orange trees can grow pretty tall.

There's also the historic Sloan Barn...

...and a historic display of rusty old hoppers, tractors...

...manure spreaders, furrowers...

...oil and water tanks, smudge pots...

...wagons, trailers...

...and, of course, flatbed trucks.

Now, it's not so much of a commercial endeavor as a community one.

So you pick as many pieces of fruit as you can, and without weighing them...

...cram them all into a five pound bag.

When I set off to go picking, I asked if there was a particular spot I should start from. The gentleman at the front kiosk sent me to the back, where the fruit on the trees "don't look so pretty, but they're the sweetest you'll ever taste."

And he was right.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Anaheim Packing House, Restored and Reopened
Photo Essay: Last Chance Weekend Scenic Excursion, Santa Paula to Fillmore
Photo Essay: E. Waldo Ward & Son Ranch
Photo Essay: E. Waldo Ward Gourmet Foods, Redux
Photo Essay: Them Apples
Photo Essay: Gone Fishin'

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