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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/224

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214
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

before the last apple blossoms are gone in the orchards; cherries come next, then the early apricots and plums; the procession goes on month after month, even after the leaves fall. Late apples, pears, and Japanese persimmons mark the California December, mingling as they do with the ripening oranges and lemons and a few figs hanging on the leafless trees.

Although the details of the orchard work vary considerably in different parts of California, the more important elements are much the same everywhere. The winter work of pruning is succeeded by the spring work of cultivation and the summer work of harvest. A highly organized system has been developed; laborsaving machinery is used to a great and increasing extent; and the actual cost of producing a pound of fruit can be proved to have lessened every year. One hesitates to say how cheaply fruit can be grown under favorable circumstances by intelligent Americans who know the business. Men are becoming rich at prices that ten years ago would have seemed ruinous. Of course, there is a limit to the process of cheapening production, but the end is still far off. The planting and culture of orchards; the thinning of green fruit; the gathering, handling, packing, shipping, and marketing of ripe fruit; the canning, drying, preserving, and other methods of utilizing fruit products—all these are in a process of continuous evolution.

The foregoing glimpses of the subject indicate more than the beginnings of a great industry. Whoever visits California will see surprisingly vast and imposing results in concrete forms. Valley after valley, town after town live by the toil of the orchardist and vineyardist. The sight is a cheering one, because successful fruit culture requires a high degree of skill and intelligence, a thickly settled rural community, and especial facilities for communication with all that these things imply. The road-improvement societies are little needed in California fruit colonies. Sometimes the macadamized and sprinkled highways extend six or eight miles out of the town to the very edge of the orchards; then, as the wheat fields are reached, they degenerate into very ordinary country roads.

But the educational requirements of this specialized industry extend into new departments of science, and are continually developing so rapidly that only a few trained observers can take note of the advance. Horticulture, applied to the daily needs of such industries as I have described, leaves its servants no time to dream dreams about possibilities of orchard life a century or even a decade hence. Multitudes of perplexing problems of culture and management arise, but two great tasks are always with the educated orchardist or vineyardist. One, briefly stated, is, "Can I produce new and vastly superior varieties by cross-fertili-