Tomorrow is Arbor Day, now we have three important weekends in late April to remind us of our ties to the Earth, and to our past. Cool rain is falling today, but is no problem. The 4 rows of peas that I planted on 3/24 (and wondered if they survived those grim wet weeks) all poked up shoots on the first warm day early this week. I even planted ‘purple’ beans this week.
We have had good growing weather for our hoop houses. At the Earth Day Fest, Local Foods Farmers Market, and Dinner, at Dickinson College, Carlisle, we were the only vendor with fresh salad greens, radish and onions. Folks starved for fresh and local greens were smiling as they walked away with bags of our produce. The sumptuous dinner was scrumptious, too - our thanks to all involved.
We began our Arbor Day early up here on “Frostbite Flats”, our name for this high valley between two mountains. I stopped down at Adams county Nursery to see if they had any “Williams Pride“, a heritage resistant and early bearing variety. They finally had some on stock, and I got two on M-9 (dwarf) rootstock and planted them in our former wine grape arbor. When we moved in here everyone told us that we couldn’t grow wine grapes organically here in the humid east. Well, I had sixteen great harvests, made some fine wines, and now have to admit, dang it, in the long term they were right!
We have replaced the vines with dwarf resistant apple trees on the existing trellis. I’m sort of an impatient guy, so I like getting fruit off these dwarves during their second year in the ground. When we started out, I planted a lot of non-resistant varieties to see if I could get good crops. I now believe, after twenty-five years of effort, and some good harvests, that backyard organic orchardists should stick with the resistant varieties, and a few semi-resistant ones like Yellow Delicious, Jonagold, and perhap Fuji.
I will be celebrating Arbor Day this year at Westminster College, in New Wilmington, in Western Pa. I am joining their Campus Greens in a ceremonial tree planting. I have a special dedication for the tree I plant. It will be for Captain Arthur Dunn, class of 1939, who graduated with a Math degree. This lead him to volunteer for the Army Air Corps, when WW II broke out. He became a flying meteoroligist in the USAAC Weather Squadrons in Britain. These groups distinquished themselves by finding ‘the hole in the storms’ of early June 1944. This calm between storms allowed the Allies to land on D-Day with fewer casualties, because the German Army stood down on their Atlantic Wall, figuring no one could land in these storms. I only met my father, Art, briefly. He came home from the war to marry my mother, who was a war widow already. Art’s health was shattered in the war, and he died of a heart attack in 1954, at age 36, when I was four years old. I will be proud to plant a tree in his honor at his alma mater. I urge you all to plant a tree for your ancestors, too.
Thom (Dunn) Marti
PS: I still make berry wines, but I have taken up making hard cider to replace our grape wines. Some day I will publish my beer, wine, and hard cider recipes on this site.