Though Wendell Berry is not without his detractors (who among us isn't?), he often speaks fundamental truths in such clear, compelling ways that they merit sharing.
In his latest book, Our Only World, Berry says two things that underpin the work of the BOP:
1) People and land flourish in each other's presence. We know that people often are harmed when dislocated and alienated from the land they love; but even more, as Berry (and the Bible!) remind us, the land suffers when it is alienated from those who love it.
2) "...how likely impossible it is to know authentically or well what one does not love, and how certainly impossible it is to love what one does not know."
The BOP believes in these two teachings. Our work both enables and relies upon knowing and loving the earth where we live, right in our own neighborhoods, our schools, our congregations, our backyards.
We are about so much more than putting trees in the ground. We work to inspire intimacy between people and land, which we hope then becomes knowledge, love and deep care and caring so that both people and land may thrive.
The Baltimore Orchard Project is proud to be one of the founders of the growing community-of-practice called "Community Orchard Network." We are an informal, on-line network of groups and individuals engaged in or exploring community/urban orchards. The Alliance for Community Trees has graciously taken responsibility for organizing and administering the group and our monthly webinars. You too can join the network by writing to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And you can also access our third webinar on urban foraging with Dr. Marla Emery, and one of our Stories from the Field with Rose Smiechowski of Hidden Harvest Pittsburgh here.
The temperature hit the high 60s yesterday - awakening the peepers and starting the summer chorus. It seemed a bit late this year. Usually one lone precocious peeper starts piping up mid-March, days before the others, hoping to wow and woo the females (if any have awakened yet from their winter slumber) and get a leg up on his competitors. This year, no doubt due to the cold, they all seemed to emerge at once, last night! Strong chirps filled the air.
And if the peepers are here, spring planting cannot be far behind. So get out your shovels, turn the compost one more time, and prepare for the vernal explosion of life.
As Maurice Sendak might say: Let the Wild Rumpus begin!
(If you live in the city you may qualify for a free fruit tree for planting this spring. For more information, please contact us: email@example.com)
The orchard movement continues:
In January, a group of urban orchard folks got together and with the help of the Alliance for Community Trees and the Arbor Day Foundation created the Community Orchard Network. We are now almost 200 strong, people who are involved in, or seeking to be involved in, creating, promoting and managing urban orchard work.
We hold monthly webinars (the last Tuesday of every month) on topics such as creating food forests, organic and permaculture pest and disease control, and more.
Our goal is to create a greater awareness of this growing movement of perennial farming in urban environments - and spread the word about the nutritional, environmental, social, economic, emotional and spiritual gifts of urban orchards and food forests.
If you want to join us, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org or Orchard@ACTrees.org.
To view our February 2015 webinar presented by Kyle Clark (urbanfoodforestry.org) and Katy Kolker (Portland Fruit Tree Project), click here
A wonderful quote from Shirley Trier of the Davey Resource Group:
"Trees are not just landscaping placed on top of city infrastructure, they are city infrastructure."
That is, they should not be seen as discretionary or marginal or decorative. Trees - including fruit trees - should be seen as integral to cityscapes as streets, sidewalks, buildings and water mains!
This means that they should be incorporated into plans, designs, budgets and imaginations of cities every bit as much as building skylines.
Joseph Sittler, a Lutheran theologian, wrote that nature was a theater of grace, and encountering it in the proper way was necessary for the sanity of the mind, the preservation health of the body, the uplift of the spirit.
We agree. We see our orchards as more than food-production sites (as essential as that is), but also as neighborhood theaters, patches of Eden, where the dangers of the world are still present and swirling about but are kept at bay and good things happen.
We see neighborhood orchards are theaters of refuge, camaraderie, discovery and goodness for those who enter, and a hint of delight for those who peek in while passing by. They provide a stage and arena for some of the most intimate and life-giving encounters. They are places to meet others in quiet and peace, places to sit and rest, places to play, places to encounter nature - especially in the city - where it thrives in deep and welcome company with humanity.
Two wonderful BOP events happened over the past seven days that remind us of this. We were honored to help dedicate an historic orchard at the Homewood Museum at Johns Hopkins University, one of the more-than-100 orchards that graced Baltimore City 140 years ago. This orchard - with its interpretive sign - helps mark the role of orchards both in the history of JHU and Baltimore.
And with the help of 20 volunteers from the energetic and committed Repair the World Jewish service learning corps, we cleaned up and repaired an unkempt orchard, on the way to replanting it with fruit-bearing trees that will feed thousands of people for decades to come.
We are heading into the closing weeks of the harvest season, readying for the fall planting, and continue to be awed and amazed at the gifts of urban orchards.
In his last masterpiece, Wild Fruits, Thoreau gives us an intimate tour of the vegetative life in his New England neck of the woods across the span of the year. He was a dedicated note-taker with a keen eye for observing the flow of nature's rhythms. Over the course of years, he tracked the budding, blossoming, ripening and end times of hundreds of varieties of plants, many of them edible.
What a gift it would be to have such a guide for Baltimore, unique to our region and to the climate variability we are now experiencing. The BOP is hoping to begin recording all these times for the fruits we harvest, both to help us better plan our yearly harvest schedules and to anticipate yields and their timing. But also to serve as records for comparison five, ten and twenty years from now so we can track how climate change is affecting our work.
If you are doing this - or interested in helping us keep such logs regarding your fruit trees and berry bushes, or those in your neighborhood - do let us know.
Meanwhile - here is another insight from our fellow-traveller Thoreau (also from Wild Fruits) that we also whole-heartedly endorse:
"I think that each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or a thousand acres, either in one body or several, where a stick should never be cut for fuel...a common possession forever, or instruction and recreation..."
We agree: which is why we speak of a virtual orchard in Baltimore, and a virtual food forest - for we imagine them to be comprised of hundreds of lots and backyards and community gardens and campuses cast across the metropolitan region.
And we would add food and foraging to the gifts that such places offer us all.
Last week, Ben (our BOP Program Coordinator) and I were approaching an overgrown lot which once had aspirations of becoming a neighborhood orchard. We were checking it out, hoping to help realize its dreams. The weeds were as tall as I - a towering 5 feet or so - and as thick as molasses. To fight our way in, we needed to clip away some hops that were vining up and around the gate, and then to clear something of a path to check on the young trees that were somewhere inside. I went to my car to get a pair of loppers, and as I approached the gate a second time, this time armed with a sharp instrument, a small boy, about 5 or so, came tooling down on his scooter. He stopped a stranger-appropriate distance from me and plaintively, so plaintively it could break your heart, said, "Please don't chop down the apple tree."
I assured him we were there to help the tree, not chop it down. We were going to figure out how to help clear the lot. He immediately disappeared, and came back with a shovel!
I sadly had to tell him it would take more than a shovel to help clear the lot and that we weren't going to be working on it now - but that when we did, we would very much welcome his help.
He went away, somewhat disappointed - he was hoping for an adventure and to be helpful - but came back now and again over the next little while to check on us. Just before we left, Ben braved the thicket and discovered the two apple trees that had been planted there two years ago. One had one lone but lovely apple on it. That was the entire harvest.
Ben picked it, and we gave it to the boy.
Here's to a whole bushel of apples next year.
The winter of 2013-2014 was devastating for local figs. Most varieties suffered, their leaves and branches dying back to a small portion of their prior selves.
This is being reported on several websites and confirmed here in Baltimore by our hardy group of Fig Tree Buddies. These are BOP volunteers who adopt a fig tree to check on and monitor.
The good news, however, is that figs are hardy plants and are taking this year to recover. Some have put on several feet of new growth already. If your fig tree is one of these, folks at Edible Landscaping recommend selecting 3-5 of the larger, healthier trunks to save and weeding out the smaller new growth. This should strengthen the tree and help it survive this coming winter in tact and enable it to produce figs next summer.
In the long run, this may provide healthier and more productive trees.
If you know of fig trees in the area - or any other fruit trees - please do let us know. We have 245 fruit trees registered on our Tree Registry (not including the trees we plant with schools and organizations), and we would love to double (and eventually triple and quadruple and more!) that figure.
And remember the fall planting season is fast approaching. Fruit trees make beautiful, enchanting neighbors.