Please Welcome Chris Waldref to the Orchard

February 14, 2017

Thanks to the efforts of City Fruit, we have a paid intern to review our stewardship of our fruit and sm-chris-wp_20170209_13_57_09_pronut plants. Chris Waldref (see photo) will critique our orchard management plan and ensure that we follow it (see plan documents in the Library Page).

Chris was born and raised in Seattle. After studying Environmental Science at the University of San Francisco and then living for a short period in Spokane, he is glad to be back in his home town. He worked with City Fruit last year as a Pest Prevention Steward and Harvester and is very excited about his new role as Freeway Estates Community Orchard Advisor. He is eager to help with orchard plan development and assessment. Chris is interested in urban ecology and enjoys spending time in our city parks and green spaces.

Sat, Feb 18, 1-3, Pruning Class
Sun, Feb 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Mar 19, 2-4, Work Party

Chris will visit at various times throughout the year, making observations and gathering valuable data. I know our volunteers are looking forward to having an outsider take a fresh look at our methods.

Ruth

Planning for 2017

sues-jan-lettuce-wp_20170115_001January 31, 2017

Eleven thoughtful volunteers met this month to sketch out a vision for the coming year. The Cider Fest will be our key event, we will add a few more fruit trees and bushes and the food bank bed is expanding. (Note Sue’s gorgeous December lettuce, photo taken just after three periods of below freezing temperatures!)

There is plenty of work just to maintain what we already have in place so we curbed some dreams to be respectful of our existing resources. In addition to our regular workers, If we can entice everyone who volunteered within the last couple of years to come to just one work party in 2017, we should be able to keep the orchard looking lovely. Several volunteers are committed to volunteer recruitment, including a summer work party posting to Seattle Works.

nora-and-liz-on-ivy-wp_20170115_003You will see more elderberry and fig trees this year and you will see less English Ivy. Nora, Liz and Ellen are driven to ivy removal and, by the end of this year, the native plant area should be appropriately named!

Also, we are hiring. Please see our Library page for three documents that relate to this position.

We are looking for a fruit tree specialist to review our orchard management plan, make plan recommendations, visit the site monthly to make plant and soil observations and ensure the management plan is being followed by volunteers. City Fruit has graciously offered to help us with the interview process and this position is posted on their website.

We are estimating that the job will take 20 hours minimum, spread out over the course of 2017, and we are willing to pay $15-$30 per hour, depending on the candidates qualifications.

We need more than one volunteer who is committed to learning all that he or she can about the care of fruit trees. In order to continue high standards for tree care and to continue to offer educational events related to urban agriculture, we hope to find someone who wants to practice their management skills with fruit and nut trees. This internship offer is our part to increase the pool of qualified orchard stewards in the Puget Sound area.

Sat, Feb 18, 1-3, Pruning Class
Sun, Feb 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Mar 19, 2-4, Work Party

Kudos to all for 2016 improvements above and beyond maintenance:

•    Revised orchard walking tour flyer
•    Productive Food Bank bed, plus
•    Four new successful gardens
•    Native plant area development: 4 new plants plus non-native plant purge
•    New rolling drawer under table in shed
•    Bountiful harvest from all beds and fruit and nut trees and berries
•    New outdoor bench
•    Newly planted persimmon, pear and mulberry trees
•    Milkweed installation as part of the Endangered Species Coalition effort to provide food for Monarch butterflies
•    Events! Successful pruning class, Night Out and Cider Fest
•    Productive work with Hazel Wolf students and Kids Co students
•    Hosted CityFruit bike tour
•    Beautiful new artistic paver pathway to herb spiral
•    New volunteers and new gardeners, Ryan and, soon Michael, Stuart and Mitch
•    Regular City lawn mowing
•    Grape trellis installation and wiring added
•    Regular monthly blogs
•    Development of orchard management plan
Ruth

Harvest Highlights – Part II – Fruit

December 07, 2016

Now for the fruits of our labor. 2016 was our fifth season and we finally picked a substantial amount sm-east-pear-orcas-wp_20160803_002of apples, enough to test and to share. For the first time kiwi berries developed and both chestnuts produced fully pollinated nuts.

We still need to inspire one or two fruit lovers to take on more care of the fruit trees but, in the meantime, we are forwarding a written orchard management plan to CityFruit in hopes of enticing one of their orchard stewards to help with management next year.

To expand my own education, I continue with classes and workshops and I follow-up with summary articles for publication in the WCFS BeeLine.

Berries began in May with the Honeyberry and ended in November with Albion strawberries and a few everbearing Heritage raspberries. (There are ripe black nightshade berries but we didn’t allow enough to survive to make jam this year.)

The apple and pear varieties had a good fruit set except for the William’s Pride, recovering from its huge outburst in 2015, and the Northern Spy, which is still hiding behind the apron. We grow just a few European pears but we landed enough of the sweet Harrow Delight and the meaty Orcas to begin the complicated tasks of testing for ripeness and determining storage times.

bitter-pit-wp_20160821_002We thinned over 100 apples from the Honeycrisp and we still ended up with a mountain of them. There was some evidence of bitter pit (chemical imbalance involving calcium) but almost all of the apples were edible.

We applied nylon footies and netting to a sm-fuji-w-apples-wp_20160911_001percentage of the apples in order to determine whether these barriers would help prevent insect damage from either or both apple maggot or codling moth. The good news is that the only insect damage was from earwigs munching the tops of a few apples. As such, we can’t yet report as to whether the footies or netting are effective pest barriers.

The four-way pear is now a three-way pear. Pseudomonas (widespread bacterial group) set in sm-pear-pseudomonas-wp_20151018_003during the summer of 2105. Some, fearing spread of disease, urged us to take out the tree. Instead, we pruned out the black branches, including one entire grafted variety, in hopes that the tree would heal. The tree bounced back this season and bore fruit.

I stacked the deck by hand pollinating the chestnut trees and we got nuts from both trees. We are experimenting with the easiest way to remove that softer, bitter inner layer of skin from these protein packed gems.

The hardy kiwi plants are my spiritual practice. They don’t like our wet soil but I refuse to give up. We finally got one of the females to the fruiting stage this year and then she just up and died. No note or anything. We replaced her and hope for better luck. There is another female, still alive, who witnessed the whole thing. We hope she learned something from the fate of her sister.

Remember, you do us a favor just by walking through the orchard. You are all welcome to the regular third Sunday, 2-4 work parties, and you don’t have to stay for the whole time.

Ruth