Author Archives: Ruth

You Need This Kind of Friend

April 25, 2021

An old pal and I were talking about different kinds of friends. We have friends who challenge us, helping us to be the best we can be. Hopefully, we also have a friend who thinks we are wonderful and that everything we do is amazing.

Joan Davis. Everyone needs a friend like Joan Davis. I have never met anyone so cheerful and warm in all my life. Her smile is permanent and actually does go from ear to ear. I believe she has posted some positive comment for every FECO blog written.

Joan is moving to the Hearthstone in a couple of weeks. At this point in time, the Hearthstone has restrictions on visiting but residents can come and go as they please.

Thermal Compost Class
Sat May 15, 10-12
for reps from giving gardens
Please email us if you want to volunteer at FECO freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail

When Joan told me about the move I asked her to meet me at the orchard. I predicted that she might be a bit sad about this big transition coming her way. I even brought a clean hankie, in case she broke down.

Nope. Here is what she said, “It’s great! I won’t ever have to go up those stairs again!” Then she gave me a can of sardines. (It’s a old joke.)

Joan has been a friend of the orchard since the beginning. We really had struggles at the start of FECO. There were many days that I didn’t think I could keep it up. As I write this, I am realizing that her support really helped push me along.

There was a time, early in 2011, when no one from the core group was interested in working on a grant for the orchard. Then Joan raised her hand.

During the grant periods, keeping track of volunteer hours became important. Joan took on that task. She tracked hours for four years, including the busiest part of orchard development, the 2014 and 2015 infrastructure matching grant.

But the job that we could always count on her for was – event greeter. If there was a job made for Joan, it was greeter. She greeted hundreds of people, during nearly every FECO event.

Joan has endured some pretty tough obstacles in her life but she didn’t sour. She sees the glass full to the brim.

I love you Joan.

Ruth

Pruners Without Borders

March 15, 2021

FECO volunteers, Reid and Jacob, both well over six feet tall, used their height last summer to glean a few figs from a tree in Green Lake Park. They agreed that the tree needed care.

This spring, Reid asked me if I might be interested in helping them prune the tree. I was game. “Sure! Ask Colleen Hackett, at Park N Rec, what she thinks. She knows us and she knows we prune fruit trees.”

Kevin, senior gardener for Green Lake Park, appreciated Reid’s ask for permission. Kevin expressed real delight in having volunteers eager to care for this tree. He explained that it had been planted in 2005 by a Parks Department employee but they could never afford the staff time to prune and care for it.

FECO Plant Sale! Sat Mar 20, 10-1
masks and distancing
everything from Starts to Finishes
Fig pruning class
Sat Mar 27, 10-11:30
donations welcome

We were delighted and a little surprised at the prompt and positive response. I met Jacob and Reid at the tree site. I have never seen a fig tree so dense and tangled. The fig looked as though it had never been pruned. It suffered from abuse – people pulling branches down or climbing the tree to get at the figs. This tree offered an opportunity to sharpen our rehabilitation skills, and do to so in a public space where we can’t control what others might do.

The important part of any pruning effort is to understand the goals of pruning for a particular plant. Kevin stated his goal, “If you can remove the very low branches and the huge forest of suckers around the base of the tree, my mowers will be able to get closer to the trunk.”

For our part, we decided that our long-term goal is a healthy tree that bears and ripens a good crop of figs year after year. We know it will take a few years of pruning to remove damaged and excess wood, and create good structure for fruit bearing.

Time to get to work. Reid, Jacob, and I brought out our loppers and pruning saws on a chilly, windy March morning. With a focus on reducing the tree mass, we made only thinning cuts. The heading cuts, that stimulate growth for next years fruit production, will need to wait until we have created good structure.

I’m grateful to Reid and Jacob for hatching the idea of taking this tree into our care. If you see a plant or area that seems neglected, ask the caretaker about it. You just might find yourself with a good opportunity to improve a public space, and learn a few things along the way.

Nancy

Is Anything Happening in the Winter? Don’t yawn yet!

February 16, 2021

“Do ya need any help in the winter?” Visitors stop us from our work and ask this question, with some frequency. My response is, “Yes! But the winter tasks are not very sexy.”

How lucky are we. During these winter months, an energetic group of volunteers kept their shoulder to the plow. Here is what they have been working on, to stay warm:

moving plants, making new beds, working on drainage, root pruning, sheet mulching, building rabbit fencing, propagating plants, accounting catch-up, building and installing art, weeding and pruning out invasive plants, pruning perennial plants and trees, searching for winter moth eggs, rebuilding plant supports, ordering seeds and planning for spring gardens.

Volunteers needed! by appointment please email
freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com
Feb. 20, 11am Ingela tree pruning
Feb. 27, 10:30 Nancy grape pruning

Meanwhile, if you peel up that layer of snow, activity abounds and another group of volunteers are busy generating heat.

Tree roots grow in the winter, as long as there is moisture and the soil temperature is about 40°F or higher. On February 15, mid-afternoon, I took a soil thermometer and measured 40-42°F soil temperature in several locations at FECO. The air temp was 43°F and the snow temp was 35°F. The warm spot was within the chip pile at 50°F, a clear signal of active microbial life.

In fact, at 32° F, many microbes can thrive. Stoop down and imagine them snarfing up organic matter and ‘pooping’ out nitrogen and other nutrients that plants salivate for. Look closely and watch the plant root tips dribble out sugars, to bargain with the microbes for those nutrients.

All those biological and chemical processes require energy and produce heat; just the same as the volunteer work above ground. So, eat up first then come out to enjoy the outdoors. The volunteer schedule is on the Calendar page.

Many many thanks to our winter volunteers: Sue, Joe, Nancy, Miles, Nematode, Paige C, Rotifer, West, Reid, Worm, Lee, Amoeba, Jake, Bacteria, Becky, Jodi, Actinobacteria, Meg, AL, Gabbie, Pat, Karin, Kate, Fungi, and Melody

Ruth

Tree Dormancy
Kuhns, Mike (3/9/2020)
Utah State University Forestry Extension
https://forestry.usu.edu/ask-an-expert-new/watering_dormant_trees

Low temperature limits of root growth in deciduous and evergreen temperate tree species
Alvarez-Uria, P., Körner, C. (01/10/2007)
Functional Ecology, British Ecological Society
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2435.2007.01231.x

Lab 5: Soil and The Carbon Cycle, Part A: Soil, Carbon, and Microbes
Carlton College EarthLabs
https://serc.carleton.edu/eslabs/carbon/5a.html
Image: Cicle_del_nitrogen_ca.svg:
Dréo , Johann (User:Nojhan), (03/30/2006)

Microbe Diet Key To Carbon Dioxide Release
Manzoni , Stefano, Porporato, Amilcare (08/05/2008)
Duke University
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080731173125.htm