The heat of the summer tends to linger in the valley. September in our little expanse of northern California doesn't signify the beginning of cooler weather. Whether starting school or celebrating a last summer camping trip on Labor Day, the heat is our constant companion.
The nice thing about our extended warm season is the amount of time we get to spend outdoors throughout the year. Farm stands, farmer's markets and the like stay open well into October and some even year round. Fruits and vegetables fresh from the earth don't disappear just because school's back in or summer is "over". New seasonal crops of fruits, vegetables and flowers begin to appear. September brings the start of pumpkin season, promising that eventually the heat will fade and fall will make it's appearance.
Erickson Ranch is still in full swing in September, peppers and pumpkins are the show stoppers starting this month. Ray and Vicky host a variety of events throughout the year. There's always some type of entertainment, ranch exploration and they invite local vendors to come and set up shop for the day. While the work is never done, there is a sense of mellowing around the ranch in September and I gather Ray and Vicky feel a sense of celebration is in order for the fruits of their labor. The events to come still mean a lot of work, but there's a great sense of joy and community that emanates during these final months of the ranch being open to the public.
One of the first things I discovered about Ray over the year, was his passion for birds. I clearly remember the first day I met him and how he drove me around the ranch explaining all about the fruit trees and the history of the ranch. At one point we got out and did more exploring by foot. I recall him stopping and pointing across the tops of the orchards at the large hill, covered in trees and brush that borders their property and telling me to look at the white tail far... far... far off! In my ignorance I thought 'how can he see a deer THAT far away?!?' But the better and the right questions was 'How can he see a HAWK that far away?!' Growing up on the ranch Ray developed an appreciation for the birds that lived on and migrated to the ranch each year. He can tell a bird by it's song, knows when and where specific birds will appear, knows their patterns and all about their lifecycle. They have special bird houses high up on poles at the ranch and they work with the Napa Solano Audubon Society to bring awareness to the public. Which is how I got the beautiful photo of the owl above .. there was also a hawk! Both injured and taken care of by awesome volunteers a the Audubon Society. Over the course of my visits I was lucky enough to see a melange of beautiful birds over and over, the sense of wonder and awareness has never left me. To this day I notice each and every different bird that comes into my yard and crosses my path. Our little guy has grown a love for birds as well, perhaps it's ingrained or perhaps I have eagerly pointed them out to him. Either way, it's fun to see his eyes dart to the sky, finger pointed high.
It's amazing and humbling to see someone like Ray, so in tune with nature, to see someone work their land, appreciate all that it has to offer and on top of it being their life's work (which means having ups and downs), enjoying it to the fullest degree. With all the go-go-go of our busy lives, it's a breath of fresh air to see and a great lesson in slowing down and enjoying the things we each have worked hard to have in our lives and to notice, appreciate and take care of the things that nature has bestowed upon us.