Thursday, April 19, 2012

What was THAT noise?!

The Sounds of an Orchard

Have you had the sheer joy of walking through a fruit orchard? Walking in a straight line – with towering trees on either side – clear blue skies seen in bright, glorious stripes overhead? It’s an amazing sight – but even MORE so – it’s an amazing SOUND. 

Walk with the Avocado Diva – and HEAR with I hear…

First you notice the wind – sometimes whispering through leaves. Then it might rattle a few boney limbs of trees that need to be pruned. Every once in a while – a gust of wind will burst through – and the trees will make a chorus of sounds – raspy gasps of leaves and branches straining to hang onto their trunks – a grunt here and there with squeaks of protest from the larger limbs.

Once you get used to the almost spooky nature of the wind – you notice the sound of bees. There are ALWAYS bees in fruit orchards.  Avocado orchards have something blooming almost year ‘round. The “alternate” pollinator trees may be in full bloom – while the dominant trees are not. Or if you are very lucky – its full bloom time for the Hass – and the bees are making a MASSIVE sound. A hum that can almost overwhelm you with it’s sensory overload. Your primal brain fears the threat of that hum. On those days, I don’t dare to part the leaves and peak inside the trees – looking for the green pears that drip from the branches deep inside the trees. Best to leave it alone – and leave the busy bees to their work.

Next – if you pay attention – you’ll notice the crackling of leaves under your feet. Most avocado orchards are carpeted in dry, brown leaves scattered in thick layers along the rows and encircling the trees. The dry, crunchy leaves blanket the ground, keeping in the expensive, precious water so hard to find in the desert of southern California – but so critical to growing these subtropical fruit. Crunch. Crunch, Crunch – your boots help pulverize them into smaller, more decomposable pieces. Like a child – once you are aware of the leaves, you want to stomp on them and hear the crunch. Taking joy in the fun of mashing them and hearing them snap and pop! 

Again – if you are very, very quiet and stand quite still – you will hear wildlife. The screech of a red-tailed hawk or two – high overhead…. circling on the thermals – fighting over mates and territory.  The raucous crows will caw-caw and make that horrible crow “gurgling noise” that sounds like African drums - cawing in a staccato that makes you grow goose flesh and shutter.  

Quieter and quieter now – if you stand really still – you’ll soon hear the scurrying feet of small rodents and reptiles in the dry, crackling brown carpet of leaves. Quick – hurried feet most likely mean a squirrel or a rat! Tiny sounds could be a lizard or a mouse. The sound I most dread – the steady, constant rattle of the leaves – is a snake. Their long, lithe bodies make a long, constant “hiss” of moving, dried avocado leaves. It makes me shutter – and quake. It’s because of them that I always wear boots in an orchard. Finally – coming out of my fear… I can move again as the hiss fades away from me. 

Crouching down now, to try and stay absolutely still: I hear another very low but constant sound. The sound of water – squeaking and shushing out of hundreds of tiny, constant drip feeders. Avocado trees love water – but they don’t like swampy roots. So water is given like an “IV” – in a constant, slow drip – hour after hour. 

Now – with patience and a keen ear and a bit of luck you’ll hear the clip-clip-clip of another thirsty creature – the coyote.  Again – the light, steady “crunch, crunch, crunch” sound of a critter coming through the bone brittle leaves – this time a four footed fellow. Greedily – he is too impatient to lick from the slow dripping black water valve, he uses his canines – and rips open a gash in the black tubing that snakes through the orchard bringing water to each tree. The precious life blood of water pours our uselessly in the middle of a open area – he drinks his fill – then lopes away – head down – aware I’m there – but not caring. Almost smiling at how he steals the water and makes the rancher angry with his greedy destruction. 

I carefully ease up from my crouching position – adding a new noise – the creaking of my own knees ...and walk out of the orchard as quietly as I can. 

No comments:

Post a Comment