I’m Lori. You’ve likely seen me asking questions and taking pictures anywhere orchard stewards are gathering. I’m a community story wrangler and a City Fruit volunteer. All the photos I gather live here, a testament to the amazing people who care for Seattle’s fruit and nut trees: http://seattleorchardstewards.tumblr.com/.
Gail asked me to start blogging once a season for City Fruit to summarize what’s been happening across the Seattle orchard steward world and to eventually tell longer orchard steward stories. Grateful for the chance to do so. First up, harvest season. Yay!
Piper orchard’s festival of fruit (Sept 15th)
I’d never been to the North end’s Carkeek Park, or to Piper orchard within, in my 20 years in Seattle. I can’t believe it took me so long to find this amazing place. What the heck have I been doing with my time?!
After months of hot weather and no rain, by mid September the rest of Seattle was crisp (and many of us gardeners more than a bit cranky about it). So walking through the densely forested park–with it’s self-created humidity and damp, earthy smell–up a steep hill to the festival site was pure delight. I’d been sick that week, and I swear this walk healed me.
We drank fresh-pressed cider and ate a slice of apple pie. Then, 20 minutes later, after the pie contest winners were announced, we had a couple more pieces of the award-winning pies for good measure. That was the polite thing to do, right? That is the lie one tells oneself at slice #3.
We talked to Gail who was sharing plums and information with passersby from the City Fruit table. We listened as indentification experts helped people identify their apples and, for a few, their pests.
Amy Yee orchard harvest/work party (Sept 20)
These trees sit up above the tennis center of the same name just up the hill from MLK Jr Way South, a few blocks south of I-90, and a long stone’s throw from Bradner Gardens. This was an especially fun harvest for me, because the work party was a large group from PopCap Games–the creators of the world’s best iPad game (in my humble opinion) Plants vs. Zombies, a game in which you defend your home from silly cartoon zombies via strategic and savvy gardening. Genius! And I got to meet one of the creators of the game! Ah, life was good.
I’d heard from other orchard stewards that the PopCap Games folks were fantastic work party folks, and they proved that rumor true. They cleared blackberries and brush, mulched around trees, and then harvested apples like they were in a World’s Best Harvester’s competition. So much energy! They were a lean, mean, harvesting machine, and a joy to watch as they came up with a myriad of ways to harvest: from small group approaches with the apple catcher sticks to traditional ladder work to climbing up into the trees themselves. Gail brought them a huge, gorgeous plate of sliced fruit from other area harvests. Um, yeah, I hope that was for the story gatherer too. Delicious!
Burke-Gilman Trail orchard harvest/work party (Sept 22)
The Slow Food work party was going strong by the time we got there. They were working thoughtfully, steadily, chatting, and laughing the whole time. Manifesting the spirit of their organization, I thought. They were so much fun to be with.
I got to meet Barb’s sister Jan, who’d come to Seattle to help out. This was hard manual labor: digging into rocky soil, digging out huge old roots, and with the Burke-Gilman traffic whizzing by their ears all the while.
Not sure I’d be able to get my sister to do the work, let alone be happy to be there.
Amazingness clearly runs in this family.
Dr Jose Rizal orchard harvest/work party (Sept 30)
You hike down a steep, and sometimes slippery, hillside to get to the orchard. And it’s worth the journey. The amount of work that it’s taken to clear the hillside, and liberate the fruit trees from the jungle-like conditions, is apparent. Somebody has devoted many, many years to this still-coming-back-to-full-life orchard. After being stunned into silence by the beautiful view of downtown, my first thought was “How the heck do they get a wheelbarrow down here?”
Craig and company were harvesting perfect little winesap apples, with an amazing view of downtown Seattle and the happy sounds of the adjacent off-leash dog park wafting up at them. And he gave me a few to try. What a treat! I look forward to getting back and hearing Craig’s stories in depth! As it was, I couldn’t stay long because I was on my way to West Seattle…
West Seattle harvest cider pressing (Sept 30)
Also great to finally see a cider press in action (at Piper, they’d finished pressing before we arrived).
Betsy filled our growler for us, we bought some plum jam from Gail, and then we watched the cider pressers do their thing.
The cider press seems like a tool designed to foster community as much as to make cider.
Old wisdom and damn good design, in my opinion.
And the weather was warm and sunny and perfect.
Life was good in West Seattle.
Martha Washington orchard harvest/cider pressing (October 14)
Jim invited us to the harvest and cider pressing event at Martha Washington orchard a few weeks later.
True Seattle fall decided to show up in full force this day, drenching us and teaching me that rain and my camera will never be the best of friends. As a gardener, though, I reveled in the rain after so many months of nothing. Yay rain!
Jim and company had thought ahead, and brought portable stoves, so we had hot cider to warm us from the chilly fall rain.
We learned that we were on the site of an former wayward girl’s school: the old trees, school trees. The beautiful colors of the umbrellas and clothes that the kid helper/harvesters were wearing leant an air of whimsey and magic to the very wet day. The rain-fuzzy images in my camera calling to mind the ghosts of those who came before us.
Is it any wonder I like to be in orchards. Seems like magic always finds me there. Thanks for the invite Jim. Great cider!
Burke-Gilman Trail cider pressing (Oct 21st)
Last Sunday I joined Barb and company again at Burke-Gilman–this time in the shadow of the ship cannel bridge–for their cider pressing event. The I-could-rain-any-minute sky cooperated nicely and gave mostly sun breaks to the 3+ hour event. Barb had invited some traditional dancers to bring good fortune to the harvest and make the cider taste better: I think they helped with the weather too.
Amanda from Solid Ground and Burke-Gilman steward Harriet were expertly working the cider press and encouraging those who came by on the trail to take a turn. I worked the press long enough that it was clearly an upper-body workout, which meant I could skip the gym, which was nice. But seriously, it was amazing to get a chance to use the press and to watch people of all ages do so as well.
We did free cider tastings of different blends and also one-kind varieties of cider. Other stewards sorted apples into “cider” and “eating” boxes and multched around nearby trees. Barb’s son and his buddy manned the information booth and proved themselves to be fantastic fundraisers beside the donation bucket. Such a fun day. ANd I came home with yet another growler of cider, which I’m sipping right now. So. Freakin. Good.
Happy fall, my friends!
You can find more photos and stories of Burke-Gilman events on the Burke-Gilman Urban Orchard Stewards Facebook page, and more photos of all these events at the Seattle Orchard Stewards blog. . If your orchard steward event wasn’t mentioned, invite me to the next one! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.