Tag Archives: harvest

New Watering System Is On Tap

October 1, 2017

It’s fascinating how one mulberry or one thornless blackberry can sustain me while I work in the sm-persimmon-wp_20171001_002orchard. Just that brief sweet juicy explosion can satisfy, nourish and make me smile. These two fruits are new to the orchard and they have proved their worth.

It will be several weeks before we know whether the new persimmons will mature or not but otherwise, we are nearly finished with the harvest.

We have donated an estimated 244 pounds to the food bank. Now, however, the sun weakens and plant production is slowing.

sm-reseeded-lettuce-wp_20170928_001The transition to fall plants such as radish, lettuce, cilantro, mustards, arugula and various cover crops has begun. Check out that germination rate of lettuce that Sue let go to seed! It looks like carpet. Thinning could be a challenge.

We ended up with tasty samples of all apple and pear varieties, even though the winter moth larvae took out many of the blossoms last spring. The good ole Liberty was the best performer and we have enough Liberty to reward the Cider Fest volunteers this coming Saturday.

The dry summer taxed every plant. Our aim is to water just enough to keep the fruit and nut trees in good health. I believe that they got enough water but next year’s crop will tell the tale. We do think the berries and grapes were under watered.

Sat, Oct 7, 2-5, Cider Fest!
Apple contributions are welcome! We have science exhibits for the kids. Cider and pie slices.
Sun, Oct 15, 2-4, Work Party

Sun, Nov 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Dec 17, 2-4, Work Party

In the interest of saving water, saving time watering, and allowing watering to be physically easy, we have applied for another Seattle Dept of Neighborhood matching grant. It’s a small grant, about $10,000, but should be enough to buy a manual pump, ollas, some vertical perforated pipe and low-pressure, gravity fed drip irrigation materials. We also are beneficiaries of a used 1,000-gallon cistern, which could be enough assistance to free us from using city water.

We are in need of a mechanical or civil engineer to help us with choice of pump to carry water from shows-hose-in-and-hose-out-treadle-pump-1the cisterns out to the beds. Choosing the right pump will be critical to the efficacy of the whole irrigation system to the food bank beds. Contact us if that engineer is you or your friend!

Please join us for our annual celebration next Saturday between 2-5pm, rain or shine.


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.


CIDER FEST – Celebrate the Harvest Season

October 15, 2014

We accomplished so much but let’s focus on the harvest! Apples, pears, honeyberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries took center stage.

Liberty & Spy

Liberty & Spy

By the end of April all fruit trees, but for the William’s Pride, had flowered nicely. The Willam’s Pride was the only tree to offer fruit last year and it has slight biennial properties.

At the June 15 work party, the crew culled the apples to one every six inches and to one per cluster. (One volunteer agonized over cutting out fruit, but accepted the practice as good for the trees and the fruit.) After the culling, our beginning inventory was:




Pear-                                        Apple-
Rescue-1                                 Liberty-59
Highland-0                               William’s Pride-59
Orcas-2                                    Honeycrisp-16
Harrow’s Delight-3                    Northern Spy-21
Early Fuji-11

Oh, Fuscum! The four-way pear has a bad case of pear trellis rust and ours is not the only case in town. The fungus is hard to beat due to the juniper trees in the neighborhood (the alternate host of gymnosporangium fuscum). http://pep.wsu.edu/hortsense/scripts/query/displayProblem.asp?tableName=plant&problemID=802. Nevertheless, in August we gleaned two Orcas, one Rescue and two lovely small sweet Harrow’s Delight.

Oh, Rats! Something bit the Liberty apples and broke branches. I asked for confessions but no one came forth. Hence, we enforced the Tanglefoot treatment. Yes, rats can jump, but we calculated that they would not want to climb down a trunk of the sticky, gooey mess.

On August 24, we picked up the first drop, a Liberty. On that date, there were 59 Liberty, 20 Northern Spy, 14 Honeycrisp, and 8 Early Fuji. The two William’s Pride had been picked but I salvaged one from behind the fence. It was mighty big and good and it weighed in at 13.5 ounces.

After the William’s Pride came the Honeycrisp, changing color dramatically toward a streaked red. On August 22, I picked one and let it sit five days. Hmm, delicious. One of the largest, it weighed in at 14.5 ounces.

Oh, furry flying beasts! Coddling moth damage was apparent on almost all of the apples. Luckily, the apples are still perfectly edible. Perhaps we will test out nylon footies next year, to discourage the moth from laying her eggs. No sign of maggot fly or scab! (Did you know that the worm can munch away on an apple even when it’s in the refrigerator?)

During September, we played the ‘when are apples ripe’ game. We tested the drops as well at apples picked. Some were put in bags in the basement, some in the refrigerator and some on the counter. Dates were noted when they dropped, when they were picked, how many days they sat, either in the refrigerator or on the counter, and when they were eaten. Some were shuffled off to volunteers for opinions. In the end, it was terribly confusing but we are learning when our apples are ready to pick for short-term storage.

The Liberty was prime mid-September. The Early Fuji was likewise mature. Work party volunteers reported the fruit was scrumptious with cheddar cheese.

Today, there is still one Northern Spy on the tree. The biggest one picked was 15.5 ounces and it will make it into a donated apple pie this Saturday at the Cider Fest!

Sat, Oct 18, 2-5pm, Cider Fest!
Bring your neighbors.
Sun, Oct 19, 2-4pm, Work Party
Sheet mulch and shed planning.
Sat, Nov 1, 2-4pm, Work Party

The Maraval chestnut had a setback from sitting in a bath for three weeks this past spring; the tree was an eyesore by June. Based on advice from Bernie at Washington Chestnut Co., we cut it back severely.

The hardy kiwi needs about five years to bear fruit. And, just to slow the process down at bit, the leaves turned yellow this summer. They did perk back up after we added nitrogen. Onward and upward.

Orchard work seems a lot like soccer … a game of mistakes. However, we are learning and many thanks to our wonderful mentor and master pruner, Ingela Wanerstrand. Hurrah also to the 40 volunteers who have given over 1,200 hours so far this year!


141009 Shitake from FECO 915Time to be paying attention to those Shitake logs! This is my first mushroom from the FECO log inoculation last fall. It’s nearly convex so it’s past its prime. Still, we devoured it.

I was less than diligent about watering this summer but I would often douse them with laundry water. Mid-September, I soaked the logs for 24 hours to stimulate the fruiting: 12 hours in the garbage can, then upside down for another 12 hours. Nine days later, voilá!