The other day, I challenged myself – I was curious how many fruit trees I could find in my short walk to work.
I started at my house and traveled the eight blocks to the office at the fairgrounds. By the time I got to 25th Street and Main Avenue, I counted 43 – and that didn’t include what I thought was a mature plum-like shrub with a skunk taking cover under it. I decided it wasn’t worth the investigation.
Nonetheless, that is a lot of fruit trees – 24 apple, nine pear, three plum, three apricot, two sour cherries and two peach – about five or so per block. Even though I tried to check out each house, a small dog with a freakishly large-dog bark scared me away from looking at three backyards. So the total could be higher.
My next project is to look at those same trees (minus the apricot, cherries and peach – they have long been harvested) and see how much fruit is left at the end of October.
See, people love the idea of fruit trees, but things happen: people move, trees grow, homeowners age, people forget to prune trees. When those things happen, the lonely fruit gets forgotten. And they rot. Or attract animals – or prying horticulturists.
But not anymore.
From here on out, we will make sure all fruit are represented and taken care of.
Last year, we had the inaugural Homegrown Festival, and even though I walked away incredibly tired from turning an apple press all day, I also walked away very impressed. The brainchild of a couple of Durango’s city councilors, the Homegrown Festival became a very organic celebration of something very simple – the backyard fruit tree.
It worked. We had more than 600 people attend, 12 different workshops, four bands, 150 painted pumpkins, local food and edible trees and shrubs for sale, and on top of all that, we collected about 3,500 pounds of apples that we pressed into about 170 gallons of apple juice.
What does one do with all that juice? In traditional Durango style, we turn it into a local beer (the Bootlegger’s Society has to be one of the coolest partnerships I have ever seen), that will help fund the festival for the next year.
We have also added Harvest Week, which is going on right now with participating Durango restaurants featuring specials that include at least three locally sourced ingredients.
The week will culminate with the festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Buckley Park. There will be living local workshops; bluegrass, jam and gypsy music; pumpkin painting; apple slingshotting; pie eating and much more. All for free.
If you want to pay for something, then try fresh apple juice, pies baked by 4-H’ers and lunch from Zia Taqueria and Sunnyside Foods.
Lastly, we are also looking for trees to pick. If you are interested in donating fruit (and having your apple tree picked for you), please call the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center at 247-7676 before Saturday. How do you like them apples?
Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.