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Fall is a wonderful time at the orchard.

Fall is a wonderful time at Churchill Orchard.

Summer is over – summer’s a hard time at the orchard, hot and kinda dull, with lots of repetitive walking of irrigation lines and checking on gopher traps.

In the fall, after the heat breaks, all kinds of things start happening.

* We got 1.7″ of rain the day before Election Day and on Election Day itself – sweet, slow, gentle rain that soaked in and didn’t cause any damage. And there’s still 4-5 months to go during which we might get more storms, so this rain not only makes me happy it also makes me hopeful.

* the Kishus are beginning to turn color – meaning it’s time to estimate the crop size and start measuring the sugar. We are expecting a decent harvest of kishus, so there should be an adequate supply for mail order and wholesale both.

* Also as the fruit starts to turn color, Kishu Pilferers show up. I post signs. Kishu Pilferers bring out my churlish side – churlish Churchill, that’s me.

* We ran an experiment to see if we could substitute grazing sheep for flail mowing and weedeating to control weeds.

Sheep Trials at Churchill Orchard video

* Maybe 6-7 years ago, Mrs. Mercer took out 40 acres of old valencia orange trees. She had them all piled up in enormous piles and was going to burn them. Mike got the bright idea that we should buy them, grind them up, and haul them to our orchard for mulch, and that’s what we did.

The transaction took place in late summer, and the mulch was due to be spread before Christmas of that year. Hah! But lo, a spreader has materialized over by the stacks and stacks of mulch, so maybe before Christmas of this year. It could happen.

Same Kishus, More Folks – we sold out in 5 hours. Why? Read on.

Same Kishus, More Folks – we sold out in 5 hours. Why? Read on.

2nd Feb 2022

We’ve heard from a number of Kishu customers and prospective customers who missed the window for Kishu ordering this year.

We sent the Kishu email alert at 8:30 am Saturday Jan 22 – and sold through 4 weeks of 2022 season Kishus by 1:30 pm.
We were caught by surprise.

Our fruit sold with astonishing speed.
If only we could grow, harvest and pack it as fast.

We will be shipping different (and delicious), fruit later in the season. Please keep an open mind to our organic Pixie tangerines, avocados, our Pages and our Oro Blanco grapefruits.

We’re not Amazon, nor the CDC — it’s just us, trying to implement a scheme that would distribute not enough fruit to too many customers.

First, we wanted to explain why we must limit our Kishu mail order supply:

Mail order Kishus are delivered on a tight and inflexible schedule.
They are slower to pack, and we often ship into serious winter weather.
We can’t sell our whole crop mailorder; we can only ship Monday and Tuesday, and we need our small crew to keep packing all week, because Kishus don’t hold on the trees, (like Pixies do).

How should we distribute the mail order Kishus we have?

Raising the price until demand falls off is not why we farm, nor who we are.
We don’t want our customer base restricted to people who can afford $300 — or $3000 — for a 9-pound box of Kishus.
We recognize that the price is already high for most people, but our pricing is tied to the cost to grow, pick and pack a small fruit that must be processed by hand, and not on a machine.

First come, first served would be most fair – many customers have asked to be “put on the waiting list” —  but does not work for Kishus.
We don’t know until harvest time how much fruit we’re able to supply –

It’s not just whether the crop survives the winter freeze, winds, and storms.
The cost of living and housing in Ojai CA has made it hard for us to find people to work in our packing operation, so the size of our staff is unknown until it’s time to open.

We’ve learned from experience that taking mail orders too far in advance can be expensive for us. Sometimes Nature has other plans for our crop, and refunding orders actually costs us money.
So we wait until we have a reasonable chance of delivering. And then we “alert” you by sending out an email.

We started selling Kishus through our online store back in 2009 and we’ve seen brisk sales before, but things have really mushroomed since the pandemic started.
Which is great for our little business, and we’re excited to try and keep up with demand.

We do have other lovely varieties coming up that don’t sell out immediately.

Thank you so very much for your interest in our fruit and for your support.

It means a lot to us.

Packing Kishus by hand in the barn Jan 2022.

2022 Season Preview

Many of you are new to Churchill Orchard and our little deal – let us introduce ourselves.

Churchill Orchard is certified organic by CCOFWe specialize in seasonal citrus and avocado varieties, which means our offerings change as things come into season.

We’re getting ready for our 2022 season.

Our mail order program runs January through May, and our offerings generally run as follows:


Kishus open for orders in late January

Yes, Kishus are coming. We have an ample crop this year.We hope to start shipping in late January, but the fruit makes the final call. We will email everybody on our mailing list when ordering opens.

Our webstore only accepts orders in season. We leave the items up all year long so you can see what we sell, but the store is “closed” most of the year. When you see “Add to Cart” on an item that means it’s available.

Orders will be shipped in the order received. We pick and pack by hand, and our weekly mail order output is about 2000 lbs per week (there are a lot of Kishus in a pound).

It’s a good idea to get your order in sooner – it helps us to have a couple of weeks of lead time to process your orders and respond to your queries.

We usually manage to ship for 4 weeks. If we still have fruit after the first round, we’ll keep shipping – as long as the fruit and the weather hold.

Visit the Kishu Mandarin product page at our webstore.


Farmers Market Mix Box in late February

We’re staying out of the Berkeley farmers market again this year.We’re short-staffed in Ojai, so something had to give.

We have a nice selection of fruit that we would have sold in the Berkeley market; we had good results last year offering our Berkeley range of citrus and avocados nationwide via our webstore.

So let’s do it again.

Here’s our Farmers Market Mix box offering:

3 lbs of our own Fuerte avocados, 3 lbs of Page tangerines,

2 lbs of our legendary Kishu mandarins, & 1 lb tree-ripe seedless Bearss lime

Nine pounds of gorgeous organic fruit – direct from our grove to your door!

We ship the avocados and citrus fresh picked, so the avocados will arrive still firm but half-ripe. Enjoy your citrus for a few days while your avocados become soft and ready to eat.

Check out the Farmers Market Mix Box in our webstore,

Seedless Kishu: This tiny heirloom mandarin, originally from China by way of Japan, is our earliest-season mandarin. Kishus are totally seedless, deliciously sweet and super-easy to peel.

Page: Deep, intense flavor which matches deep, intense rind and flesh color. Few seeds. Difficult to peel, but Page lovers cut wedges to eat or make juice. Chefs love Pages for frozen desserts because the intensity of flavor stands up to freezing and sugar.

Bearss Lime: Yellowy-green, juicy, and seedless, tree-ripe Bearss limes are a revelation.We allow our Bearss limes to get ripe on the tree, and the difference is astounding! Flavor, rind perfume, and juiciness abound.

Fuerte avocado: Before the Hass took over, this was the gold standard.Green-skinned, pear-shaped, rich and creamy. Harder to ship in bulk because of their thin skin, you won’t see Fuertes often in the stores. Our favorite avocado.

Read about our fruit varieties on tangerineman.com


Pixies and Hass Avocados in late March

Jim’s first tangerine love, the Ojai Pixie, returns in late March.Our certified organic Ojai Pixie tangerines are simply delicious—sweet, easy to peel, and absolutely seedless. Pixies store very well and retain excellent flavor for a remarkably long time. We ship Pixies in 9 and 25-lb sizes.

When the Hass are ready, we will start shipping our wildly popular Pixie Party Box – 6 lbs of our certified organic Pixie tangerines and 3 lbs of our certified organic Hass avocados. It’s a lovely spring treat. We’ll also offer 9-lb boxes of just Hass.

We ship the Hass avocados and the Pixies fresh picked, so the avocados will arrive still firm but half-ripe. Enjoy your Pixies for a few days while your avocados become soft and ready to eat.

Go to our webstore and check out our Pixies and avocados.


The Ojai Spring Fling Returns in April

In April, when our Oro Blancos are ready, it’s time to launch the Spring Fling. As we did last year, we’ll ship a 25 lb carton, and a Little Spring Fling – a 9 lb box.Juicy spring citrus in two sizes!

The Spring Fling comes with a colorful insert card featuring custom cocktail recipes using these delicious citrus treats.

Go to our webstore and check out our Pixies, Spring Fling, and cocktail recipes.

The Big Spring Fling Party Box – a dozen Oro Blancos with eight pounds of Pixies and four Vanilla Blood oranges.

Oro Blanco is a fabulous California hybrid – like grapefruit with the sugar built in. Vanilla Blood is an exotic low-acid supersweet blood orange. Pixies are in peak season in April – sweet, seedless easy to peel, and full of Ojai flavor.


The past couple of winters have been kinda unpredictable – and here we are, predicting again.

We are very grateful to you for your continued appreciation and support of our fruit.

We invite you to visit our web site where we will offer delightful TMI.

Jim Churchill & Lisa Brenneis

Churchill Orchard in the Ojai Valley

www.tangerineman.com

First rain

I’m not a regular poster on social media, not even on my own website. But it’s raining!   You have no idea how existential the drought is for us – even worse if it’s not drought but change of climate, from Mediterranean to Desert. That’s going to mean the end of our little tangerine pirate ship*, if/when it happens.

But right now it’s raining, an inch before Noon, and I couldn’t be happier.

In December of 2020 we received a wonderful write-up from the Wall Street Journal, touting our Seedless Kishus (which really are as good as the article said they are). Our mailing list almost doubled in a very short time. Trouble was, 2021 was a year of very low harvest for kishus, and we had a lot of new friends whom we couldn’t supply.

Kishus are a winter variety, so we begged you new friends to stick around for our spring variety, Ojai Pixies, which this past season we had in abundance. You stuck around, bless your hearts, and discovered the joy and delight of tree-ripe fresh-picked Ojai Pixies.

This year the varieties are reversed — we are looking at a good harvest of Seedless Kishus, while the Ojai Pixie crop is sparse. This means that we should be able to serve all our customers, weather permitting, with at least one carton per recipient of Seedless Kishus. We’ll have to wait and see how the Ojai Pixie crop is going to do – this could turn out to be the reverse of last season, and we may have to restrict sales of Ojai Pixies but should  be able to fill all orders for Seedless Kishus.

Lisa and Mike and I are busy preparing for the coming season – testing a new carton, going around estimating the crop size, shoring up our back office routines.

Also mending the harness and sharpening the shovel…

We duck the Christmas craziness – the fruit isn’t ready in time, and neither are we. Lisa will send out ordering information in January, and we will start shipping in February, weather permitting.

We always say “weather permitting” because Nature rules us – we could have a killer freeze, for instance, and lose our crop. It has happened. Or an insane north wind, knocking all the fruit off the trees – which has also happened.

Thank you for your support, whether you have been with us for 15 years or for one year. We are grateful to have the opportunity to serve you and we look forward to this winter with renewed, rain-borne hope.

Jim C

*We call it a pirate ship because we’re just 3 people who believe that the world should be able to experience what tree-ripe fresh citrus fruit tastes like. We don’t wax our fruit to gloss it up, we don’t promote outside our little list of followers, we don’t use Influencers, we don’t post, we don’t optimize for search engines. We just grow fruit, let it get ripe, harvest it and send it out. We often feel like we’re navigating our way through an increasingly monstrous ocean of giant capitalist entities all seeking to penetrate everyone’s minds; we on the other hand are just trying to sell fruit that tastes good. We still think the object is more important than the image.

And that’s why we call ourselves a little pirate ship.

Heart of Pixie

April 1

We head into the heart of Pixie and Hass avocado season. Most of our acreage is planted to these two varieties. This is the season of larger picking crews and 1000-lb bins.

 

Spring 2021 – a note from Jim

20th Mar 2021

Momentarily bucolic — dawn at the orchard.

The organic Kishu season has ended at Churchill Orchard, and the organic Pixie season has begun.

Kishu season was kind of a project – we got that lovely write-up in the Wall Street Journal in mid-December, right as we were starting a season where the crop size was a fifth of the previous year’s. We knew we didn’t have the fruit to serve all the new potential customers, and we had to say No to thousands of would-be customers who signed up – a stressful time for sure.

But it’s Pixie time now, and a different story. We will have enough organic Pixies for all, and as some of the other fruits that we grow come ripe we will add them in to our product list. There will be Hass avocados, Oro Blancos, and a couple of mixed fruit options.


Jim with his new tractor. Shiny and clean for a couple of days.

On the farm – the new tractor that we bought in December arrived this week, finally, and Mike immediately put the little gannon box on the back and started preparing the ground for his garden.

We fertilized all the trees in late February – early March, to give them food to grow new leaves during the spring growth spurt.

The drought continues to reign supreme here in Ventura County — so far this rain year we’ve gotten a total of about 6″, and we’re halfway through the last month that might have any chance of rain. (There is no “typical” rain year here, but the annual average is 14″.) Lake Casitas, the source of our water, is at a hair under 39% full, which is not good. We will probably have to turn off the water on some of the least productive or least desirable trees in order to make it through the year.

One of the ways we deal with the drought is by obsessively monitoring our irrigation. We use a device called an atmometer that measures evapotranspiration, to know when and for how long to irrigate, and we walk the irrigation lines every time we irrigate, looking for leaks, hose damage caused by mischievous young coyotes, blocked emitters – anything wasting water or causing individual trees not to receive their share. That irrigation season is about to start in earnest, where we will be watering each block of trees between weekly and every 10 days or so.

This being my first blog post, I’ll see if I can’t update it regularly with farm news.

thank you for reading!

Jim Churchill

Kishu Outlook – cloudy, but should clear up.

Jan 7, 2021
We’ve been hearing from many of you wondering if there are Kishu mandarins for sale this year.
Yes, Kishus are coming.
We hope to open ordering in late January, but the fruit makes the final call.
We have to limit our sales this year – it’s a small crop, and we’ve had a tsunami of new interest after a lovely write-up in the WSJ. This always happens in years when we have a small crop. Must be nature….
For pre-existing customers, there will be a 2 box limit this year, because this is a small crop year after 2020’s bonanza harvest. If nobody orders, then we will offer another round.
More Drama.
We’re having some trouble getting our carton order filled this year (no cardboard available til March, they tell us) – creating complications. We need a special box to qualify for the Fedex rate we want to use. So while we are scrounging for boxes, we can’t tell customers what the fruit and shipping will cost this year. Depends on sourcing the box.
So we haven’t said anything.
Besides, the Kishus aren’t ripe yet.
Aren’t you glad you asked?
Thank you for sticking with us through all our agri-drama. Means a lot.
Jim Churchill and Lisa Brenneis
Churchill Orchard
Hope for the future – mail order Ojai Pixies and Hass avocados in March: We hope you’ll consider trying our first tangerine love, the Ojai Pixie, when the fruit is ready in late March.
We also offer a Party Box – 6 lbs of Pixie tangerines and 4 lbs of our certified organic Hass avocados. It’s a lovely spring treat.