Tuesday, November 13, 2012

China Ranch

(continuing from yesterday)

We descended the one-lane dirt road into Amargosa Canyon, just south of Tecopa (CA). As we slowly made our turns on the winding, narrow passageway, we noticed that it was getting warmer.

With the truck's thermometer reading 101 degrees--a jump of nearly 20 degrees--we drove the final few yards into an oasis. This exotic array of greenery was the heart of China Ranch Date Farm.

Around the beginning of August, the dates are covered with a white muslin bag (or a shirt or a towel) to protect the dates from birds and insects. The bags also help to catch any dates that ripen prior to the beginning of the date harvest.

Judging by the yellow or orange color, the dates shown here have not yet ripened; the protective covering must have fallen off, leaving these exposed.

There are 15 varieties of dates grown on the Farm; one of these is Barhi, and the information on the card by the palm read:
"A round, soft, light-colored fruit, barhis can be eaten before they are completely ripe, in what is known as the 'Khalal' stage. At this point they are crunchy and sweet, like a small apple. A much sought after variety by Middle Eastern customers, barhi offshoots are difficult to obtain and very expensive. We got lucky."

Date Palms are unique in that they are either a male palm or a female palm. The male palms produce pollen, and the female palms produce flowers. Unfortunately, neither birds or bees are attracted to the flowers, so the females have to be hand pollinated.

Around April or May, as the fruit begins to "bud" on the strands, the thinning process begins. In each bunch, about 90% of the dates are removed. This allows better air flow and the chance for each individual date to grow to its optimum size. Interestingly, the number of pounds per tree will be the same, it's just that the dates will be significantly larger.

We arrived in the middle of harvest season, which extends from September to January, depending on the variety of dates. Each tree produces 100-300 pounds of dates, again depending on the variety.

The Modest Museum includes exhibits and artifacts from early Indian sites and archeological digs, the pioneer families that were here in the early 1900's, and the mysterious Chinese man who is thought to first have settled the canyon here.

We passed two areas of new growth palms on our way out of the Ranch.

Passing through Tecopa, we saw the sign for Cynthia's: "Be a desert dweller with a stay in one of our fun and swanky converted vintage trailers. Our well-appointed guest rooms feature stylish decor with special attention to color and comfort. Our rooms welcome guests with plush beds for a good night's rest, and spacious bathrooms featuring artful mosaics.

"Located in the quirky old mining town of Tecopa and three miles from scenic China Ranch, you will find yourself immersed in a desert community like no other" (discovercynthias.com).

This is the Faith Community Church of Tecopa.

We are taken by the colors of the mountains in the area of Death Valley and took these photos on the way back to Pahrump.

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