Ever wonder what an Ojai Pixie does during the off-season? Well here is a little insight about the secret lives of out-of-season Pixies.
Lately some friends of mine, during our usual after-school parking lot conversation, had asked me a few questions. First to pipe up was Rob with a pointed jab, "Hey George, why not kick down with some more Pixies, huh?" Kate squinted into my eyes like she was looking into the sun and squeaked, "Yeah, just where are you hiding them these days? I haven't had a good Ojai Pixie fix in weeks!" Other people looked over at me. The plea in her eyes opened my heart, but there wasn’t much I could do. "Well, to be honest..." Now a crowd was gathering, “The Ojai Pixie is out of season." It felt like those last three words were spoken in typical Hollywood-style slow motion. "OUT-OF-SEASON" I waited for someone to faint.
Later, as I rounded my dusty ranch truck full of chattering children, we flew past a grove of young trees on the corner, and I slowed down a little bit. What does happen to the illustrious Ojai Pixie during the rest of the year? With my three kids in the car, I proposed a mystery adventure: discover the secret life of little Miss Ojai Pixie during the fall.
Back at our ranch house, the kids tumbled out of the truck in a pile of backpacks, sneakers, and recess gossip. They were hungry, of course, but up for an afternoon of exploration. Matthew rounded up the dogs, I grabbed a cell phone, Andrew found a good hefty stick, and Mariana put on her pink hat. We set out for the orchard, which happened to be just 50 feet away. Along the path, they all spoke at once about their growing Pixie knowledge. "I get first dibs on the ladder!" from Matthew. "I like the little juicy ones the BEST!" hollered my 7-year-old baby Mariana. Andrew ran forward, skipping and exclaiming, "I'm just gonna grab one and eat it all up." But then they came to a sudden halt below the first tree. "Um, dad....
We looked up 20 feet at a deep dark shady green. There were plenty of leaves. There were plenty of branches, and I know we had put on plenty of water. But where were those juicy treats on this fine hot October day? "I'm sorry to tell you guys but they are not ripe this time of year." Sad faces looked down. But, of course, parents can't be correct all of the time. "I see one!" hollered Andrew. He and the others dashed forward to another tree. Luckily for them, the summer picking crew had forgot to pick one. This last lonely fruit is what my grandfather Elmer Friend used to call a 'shiner', looking brilliant against the lush green leaves. We all peered into the shady upper reaches of the tree's foliage.
"Daddy you gotta get it for me,” was the first thing I heard. "Jump up there and get her down so I can have some too!" followed, and "LOOK another one over there!" Jumping around, arms waving, the three kids acted like they just discovered the New World and it was made of pure milk chocolate. I took a moment to imagine how the other parents would have reacted; if only they knew. Two round slightly aged Ojai Pixies sitting in a tree...two left!
Quietly, I reached up and pulled the branch closer. It got very quiet. A twig snapped underfoot and a bee buzzed lazily by. All eyes soared upwards. My arms were at their limit and I pulled on another bit of foliage. The two Pixies inched closer and closer. Fingertips caressed the pale orange skin and a short tug set it free. One more to go. I held the first one in my outstretched hand, tugging the next branch. Small squeals erupted, a sort of jig was danced, glee oozed forth, a giggle...and we had them!
Mathematically, it is not hard to divide two yummy Ojai Pixies between three hungry children. Actually fairness and logic don't apply at all. Because it is so good and easy to segment, you just start handing them out one at a time. The juicy satisfied groans and smiles were equally shared, and we made sure to take our time. To chew into an Ojai Pixie slice on a warm sunny day in an Ojai orchard is to know paradise.
Once finished, the kids skipped around delightedly, while I stayed under the tree's spell. I had eaten a few slices myself, explained to the kids as a kind of "Peeling Tax". And as the afternoon wound down, shadows lengthening, I looked carefully for next year's prize. And there, in between flickers of sunlight, leaves, and branches, lay a tiny dark green orb. As I held the half-inch fruit between my fingers – carefully squeezing it, looking for blemishes, and other wants the tree could have – I sized up the rest of the little baby Ojai Pixies. They looked just marvelous. Green, dark, bountiful, and shiny – the trees were loaded with them! Soon enough, March would come around and little Miss Ojai Pixie would have her day of fame and glory again.
Just don't tell those other parents what we had for snack today.
Farmer George is a third generation family farmer on Friend’s Ranch, a member of the Ojai Pixie Grower’s Association. Look for genuine and delicious Ojai Pixies in the spring.