December 2011 came roaring in like a lion bringing with it anomalous Santa Ana winds the likes of which we’d never seen before. And though the wind subsided in a matter of days, the devastation left in its wake was phenomenal! Across the Southland damage was extensive. The devil wind gusting at 80-90 mph uprooted entire trees, snapped limbs and branches like twigs, downing power lines, telephone poles and light standards, causing damage to or destroying automobiles, homes and rooftops.
In addition to the extensive property damage caused by the winds, the psychological effects were equally as devastating. The cruel winds managed to dash the hopes and dreams of countless Californian’s who, in addition to preparing for the coming holidays must now deal with the additional task and expense of clean up and repair. Sometimes nature can be quite cruel.
At the mouth of the canyon above Azusa where wind gusts reached upwards of 130 mph, a close friend of mine sustained major losses to his two thousand tree avocado grove, the largest organically grown ranch in Los Angeles county. Located along the base of the foothills the grove lies directly in the path of the gale-like wind that blasted out of the canyon. Damage was extensive, but actual tree loss was minimal as they were able to upright several of the younger trees and re-secure them, whether the trees respond properly or will be lost will not be known until spring.A large portion of his loss came from the countless avocados that were torn from trees and scattered throughout the grove. They covered the ground like a carpet of green. This fruit was to have been part of his spring harvest. Although he was able to salvage over two hundred cases of fallen fruit and sell it, most of the fruit is too young and therefore unusable. It remains on the ground.
Another important part of the grove that was all but lost is the thick, rich, fertilized mulch that blanketed the ground throughout the grove. The mulch provides a protective cover over the soil around the trees to help retain moisture, reduce erosion, provide nutrients, and suppress weed growth. Most mulch was carried off by the high winds leaving behind dry unprotected soil. Under these conditions a hard rain could add to their woes. My friend estimates that it will take up to two months to re-mulch the entire grove perhaps longer. How long it will take for the grove to rebound remains to be seen. Much depends on how the trees respond. A best case scenario would see the majority of trees responding well, a worse case would be the loss of many more trees. Only time will tell.
In spite of the damage and the many unanswered questions my friend remains remarkably optimistic about the future of his avocado grove. Many people would be discouraged or disheartened by a similar plight, their spirit crushed. But not him. He is no stranger to adversity. His “glass half full” optimism is one of his character strengths that has helped him to be so successful. He has always had a positive outlook and attitude.
Since his retirement a few years ago he has poured his heart and soul into transforming his ranch into a thriving, productive, self-sustaining operation. With the assistance of his son and nephew who manage the grove, his brother and their crew, the ranch has been transformed into a thing of beauty, truly a work of ‘art’. Then the harsh December winds blew in.
No doubt it’s a setback, and it will take some time to regroup and rebuild, but he is confident that they will be okay. Like he said, you can prepare for a lot of things but when Mother Nature throws you a curve there isn’t much you can do about it except deal with it.
And he will, of that I have no doubt.
“Buena suerte mi amigo.”