When I was visiting Point Reyes, I stopped my car to look over the hills covered with scrub oak, dry grasses, and poison oak. How daunting all those miles of hills and valleys would have seemed to me if I had to travel in a slow, bone-rattling oxcart, or on horseback, or worse, on foot! Those hardy Californios and explorers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries might walk for many days to get anywhere. They thought nothing of riding 150 miles to attend a dance, known as a fandango. Men and women would camp and sleep on the hard ground under a blanket and the night sky. Besides hundreds of elk and deer, they might meet up with bears, wolves, or mountain lions. Much of the time there were only trails, no roads for a wagon or cart. Now we cover the same distance by car or truck in a matter of hours.
Fresh, ripe fruit just picked from a tree is much juicier and sweeter than store-bought. As I bit into one of our plums, I thought about the lives of early California people, both Native Americans and the Mexicans, and understood how much they yearned for fresh fruits, berries, and especially greens after a long winter without any. When my plum tree produced masses of fruit last year, I decided to preserve as much as I could. It takes lots of time and energy, boiling jars, picking, pitting, and cooking the fruit, and preserving it in canning jars. But it is worth it to have sweet plum jam on toast when snow covers the ground. Early settlers would not have that luxury of juicy stone fruit jams, but they would have stored apples and pears for winter and maybe citrus fruits would be brought on ships from southern Alta California. How lucky we are in the twenty-first century to get produce from around the world. Yet I still think that your own homegrown fruits and vegetables taste the best.