April 25, 2016

Orange Blossoms


There are a few smells in the farming life that hold a special place in my soul. One of them is the divine smell of citrus blossoms. Satsuma mandarins, Valencia oranges, Meyer lemons and Navel
oranges are all in full bloom right now. Their evergreen leaves dark with experience are accompanied with a flush of lighter green leaves. The light and dark green of the leaves are sprinkled white flowers that are noticeable to an observant eye. They look plain enough from a few yards back, but their smell lures me in just as it does the thousands of bees.

Citrus blossoms don’t smell great until they are open. I first select a cluster of young flowers that are not yet open. They tickle my nose, but smell more like orange leaves - a nice smell, but not the smell I am looking for. Next to them is a cluster of blossoms that are open. The white flowers have peeled back, exposing the inside of the flower. I breathe deep, and it smells divine. I do it again and again.
I feel like my five-year-old daughter, Lola, doing the same thing over and over and over and over again. For a few moments, I am truly living in the moment, appreciating the beauty of our citrus orchards.

As I enjoy the smells of the orchard, I hear the bees. They are very busy, buzzing from one open flower to the next. They pay no attention to me, and one has no issue sharing the same set of flowers I have my nose planted into. Hanging from the little creature’s legs are two large clumps of pollen luggage attached to its legs and evidence of its long day on the job. The bee moves from one flower to the next. I admire the stripes of deep amber and black on its body and its awkwardly shaped, big eyes. Its wings move so quickly; they appear as one big blur until it stops on a flower, then they lay on his back, clear in color, but visible.

The act of pollination is happening. Across the street, an orchard sits neatly tucked under white nets, which cover the trees and are buried into the ground, making it impossible for bees to get into the flowers. This is an orchard that does not want to be pollinated because the fruit it bears will be seedless if the bees don’t get to the flowers. If they do get to the flowers, the fruit will produce seeds.
It is not our orchard, but I stop to admire the farmer¹s ability to separate bees from their flowers. After a few weeks, once the pollination period has passed, the nets will be removed and that orchard will look the same as our orchard of seedless mandarins.