#137, Visit the Flower Fields
A few days ago, I received a message from my first step-mom, Kathy, telling me that the flower fields in Carlsbad are blooming early. She remembered that I had the item on The List so when she was watching the news and saw the fields were bursting with color, she made sure to let me know. I am so glad she called. I hadn’t planned on visiting for another month and in that time I might have missed the bloom at its peak.
This morning I woke up and stared at the time, projected onto the ceiling. It was 5 am. I decided today would have to be the day. Sometimes you can’t wait to make plans with people, or wait for a day free from errands. You just have to clear a few hours and make a run for it.
That’s exactly what I did.
I had to be back by early afternoon so I checked my favorite app, Waze, to see how long it would take me to get to Carlsbad. Waze calculated that If I left within the hour, I could get there in a little over two hours. The longer I delayed, the worse traffic would get. If I waited another hour, it could take me two hours just to get to LAX. I quickly dressed and made sure teenagers had money for a Starbucks breakfast and that their alarms were set. Then I jumped in the Jeep and headed South.
I sensed that I was merely moments ahead of the traffic so I didn’t stop for coffee until I got to Oceanside. I always look around the city with a small sense of pride, as if being born there reflects favorably on me. I drove down Mission Blvd. and looked to see where a good cup of joe might be hiding. I had been awake for over three hours without coffee and that sad circumstance was lending a certain urgency to the situation.
Now this is the part of the story where I might have visited a sweet cafe with striped awnings and sipped my latte with decorative foam poured into the shape of a kitten. This would be an appropriate, and photogenic, breakfast before a lady’s visit to a field of flowers.
But the truth is, after many summers going fishing out of Oceanside Harbor, I only have one thing in mind: a chorizo and egg burrito. Oceanside will forever mean filling the bait tank with anchovies and heading out into the sunrise with a foil-wrapped breakfast made by my auntie with love.
I pulled into a place called the 101 cafe, but I drove out of the parking lot nearly as fast as I drove into it, after I saw a sign in the window that claimed they had “tourist information”. It might have been fine, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
I stopped again when I saw a weathered old place with a sign that said Diego’s 24-hour drive thru. 24 hour drive-thru means that they have good hangover food, and what better hangover food is there than a chorizo and egg burrito? I wondered a bit about my choice though when I saw that there was only one other person inside– the cashier.
I asked her, “Where is everyone?”
“At work,” she said, with a look that made me feel like a doof.
The drive-thru window had a steady stream of customers, mostly guys who looked like Marines from near-by Camp Pendleton. That’s promising, I thought.
A few minutes later, I had my $6 chorizo and egg burrito. It was on point. Not too greasy, not too spicy, it was exactly what I had in mind. They didn’t sell coffee at Diego’s (what the heck?) so I made another stop at 7-11 and then I was back on the highway with a view of the Pacific to my right and the early morning sun glinting off the windshield.
Gary Wright’s My Love is Alive was playing on the radio and my hair was whipping around in the cool ocean breeze. I was perfectly happy.
To realize just what I have found
I have lived only half of what I am
It’s all clear to me now
My soul’s like a wheel that’s turnin’
My love is alive, my love is alive, yeah, yeah, yeah”
See my 22 second Instagram video here.
Not for the first time I thought:
I never regret getting up too early, but I almost always regret staying up too late.
I arrived at the Flower Fields about ten minutes before 9am. I paid $14 for my ticket, and another $5 for a wagon ride.
When I handed an elderly lady my ticket, she asked me how far I had traveled to get there. When I told her that I had come from LA, she grabbed my arm and told me, as though I was an errant child, to visit the restroom immediately. The thought hadn’t occurred to me just yet, but I did as I was told.
As I walked in the direction she pointed, the view was stunning.
There was an “Antique Garden” filled with many floral displays, as well as a large cage with exotic birds.
I gave my wagon ride ticket to this friendly guy. I climbed up onto the wagon and sat down. A recording played which gave some history of the flower fields.
There is no way to prepare for you what it is like to ride through 60 acres of flowers. Pictures that are available online are lovely, but to be there in person is something else entirely.
It’s a great place to take photographs. There are designated areas where you can walk “into” the field of flowers. These spots are every selfie enthusiast’s dream. Weddings are also held on the property and they offer an Easter Sunrise Service.
Here’s a little history from the Flower Fields website:
It all began with Luther Gage, an early settler and grower who came to the area in the early 1920’s. He brought Ranunculus seeds and began growing them in his fields next to Frank Frazee’s small vegetable farm in South Oceanside. This started a business called “Luther Gage Giant Tecolote Ranunculus bulbs”. The name “Tecolote” came from the owls that nested on his property.
In 1933, Frank Frazee also started growing ranunculus and introduced his son Edwin to the art of seeding, cultivating and irrigating the pretty, but not yet popular flower. At the age of 16, Edwin Frazee quit high school to work full time on his father’s burgeoning flower operation.
The ranunculus is native to Asia Minor and a member of the buttercup family. Originally the flowers were single petal and ranged in shades of red and yellow. The beautiful colors and fullness of the flowers you see now are due to the careful selection done by Edwin Frazee over many years. If nature provided a full flower or an unusual color, Mr. Frazee would save the seed and plant them the next year. This resulted in full flowers in thirteen beautiful colors including picotee, (a mixture of variegated colors) that we have today.
Edwin Frazee made several moves over the years but in 1965 he moved his ranunculus along with gladiolus growing operation to the current site, land owned by the Ecke Family of Encinitas. They had previously used the land to grow poinsettias, but in the 60’s they moved all propagation into greenhouses. Paul Ecke Jr. and Edwin were both flower farmers which helped form a strong bond between the two men. When Edwin decided to retire in 1993 Paul convinced him to stay on as a consultant to a new grower to carry on his work. Paul brought in Mellano and Company another long time flower growing family to take over the growing of the beautiful ranunculus. Paul Jr. also looked at tourism as an important way to keep the fields financially viable as field grown agriculture had become increasingly more difficult over the years. The stage was set for the enduring preservation and promotion of this enchanting cultural emblem of Carlsbad. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch was born. (website)
So, if you read my blog post yesterday, the riddle was:
What flower’s meaning in the Victorian Language of Flowers is “you are rich in attractions”?
The answer is ranunculus.
Whenever you think that things are daunting and that life’s challenges are insurmountable, remember that something as incredible as this
was created with something as humble as this.
And guess what else I found at Carlsbad Flower Farms? Sweet peas!!!
If you love flowers, head to Carlsbad while you can. They are open now through May 8th, but the fields are covered in a riot of flowers today, this moment.
Sometimes we think we can’t do much with just a couple of hours, but we should challenge that thinking. I was back in the valley by 1:30, and my spirit was lifted and I had a story to tell.
280 days to go!