Two years ago, Durango and the surrounding area had a bumper crop of apples. The lack of a spring freeze when the trees were in blossom made for heavy loads, bending branches and all sorts of fruit.
Unfortunately, during that same year, we had a late freeze that greatly reduced the amount of fruit, berries and acorns at higher elevations.
Those two scenarios did not end well for many homeowners who have fruit trees. Their fruit quickly became shared fruit with local bears. As hungry bears searched for food, they picked, damaged and destroyed many trees.
Proactive property owners who decided to sacrifice the crop, picking all the immature fruit, probably saved their trees. Bears are not the best tree pruners – they don’t pick the fruit gently from the branches but rather pull, push and even rip branches off to achieve their goal.
Jump forward to 2014, and we seem to have the opposite scenario in many locations: Early freezes decimated the blossoms on fruit trees while wild fruit and acorns flourished in upper elevations. Travel north to the “apple belt” of Hermosa and you will be hard pressed to find much of anything. Typically, this area of the county yields tens of thousands of pounds of fruit and has become the honey-hole for harvesting for the Apple Days Festival, which will he held Oct. 5 in Buckley Park – more about this event in a couple of weeks.
And while that may be good news for those who dislike bear-human interaction (yes, me included), it’s bad news for Apple Days. I hope we can find our apples. But we need a little more help from all of you. If you have a tree or trees that need to be harvested and you are not able to take everything, let me know. We will add you to our list of trees to pick.
The list – if you want your apples picked or if you want to pick apples – is online at www.fruitglean.org. The Fruit Gleaning Hub is a partnership between us at Colorado State University Extension Office, Healthy Community Food Systems, Fort Lewis College Environmental Center and Bear Smart Durango. There was this realization that all these amazing apple trees in the area either went unharvested or were just too big for one person to harvest all the fruit.
And bears like apples. A lot. Maybe even more than me and my kids. Combined.
So the smart Bear Smart people created a form that will literally take you three to five minutes to complete. If you have apples, your name will be added to the viewable list. If you want to harvest fruit, then just go to the list and make the contact. It’s quite simple, and you will be doing your part to reduce the opportunity for bears to feed in our yards.
If you are computer unfriendly, or have an unfriendly computer, call Susan at the Extension Office, and she will enter your information into the database. Susan can be reached at 382-6463. Once your tree gets harvested just let us know, and we will take it off the list.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.