Mid-summer in the Southeastern Appalachians of Western North Carolina: Barefoot Gardens and Orchards (in east Asheville) are many shades of plush green and hoped for promise. (Much attention and work precedes and weaves throughout the hope)!
With our orchard beginnings 22 years ago, we learn more and more each season. For instance… everyone loves fruit.
Everyone! Two-leggeds, four-leggeds, winged ones, and others. For example, we have avian dynasties that go back to the late 90’s: in particular, Catbirds, Brown Thrashers, and Robins. All are prodigious fruit eaters. Each spring they return, start building nests, and proceed to raise up to three successful nestings. They know that all of the fruit belongs to them:
I’ve attempted to tell them that the fruit is not wild, and, in truth, is well attended, yet thus far, they pretend to not understand H. sapiens sounds.
These three are joined by other bird varieties, and most (almost all) of the small fruit (cherries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, wineberries, goumi’s, blackberries, mulberries, serviceberries, blueberries, grapes, and elderberries) are bird-consumed.
Unless, of course, we cover specific fruit with bird netting. And we do this some, mostly on the blueberries, and sometimes on the cherries and grapes.
And then, as if to rub it in our faces, they begin to peck and feed upon the larger fruit: peaches, pears (Asian and European), and apples.
It’s a stiff yearly tax we pay, to grow abundance in an urban oasis.
And, of course, this is the challenge of just the feathered ones! Alongside, in order of severity, are insects, squirrels, voles (underground-dwelling, root eating rodents), bears, and woodchucks.
It is difficult to grow fruit organically in the southeast, due to high humidity, and it’s resultant disease issues. With the selection of specific resistant varieties, along with various cultural practices, we are able to lessen the disease issues.
What we have little control over, are the issues in the first paragraphs of this article: namely, producing such lush abundance in a semi-forested, urban environment.
In Permaculture, we teach, that in Nature, are no unfilled niches, no unused food sources. A surefire and easy way to design for complexity, is to create niches: Nature will fill them (complexity is a result).
At Barefoot Gardens, we have created lusciously complex and productive ecosystems, including food forests, interspersed orchards and gardens, medicinal and culinary herbs, honeybees, chickens, zone 5 wild space, as well as home economies of pottery studio and kilns, and Shaker-style broom making space.
In spite of the fairly extensive fruit predation, we do harvest and consume some berries, pears (Asian and European), several varieties of apple, Asian and American Persimmon, Paw-paw, some native Hazel nuts and Black Walnuts (not to mention summer garden foods).
Bill Mollison said “if you have fruit, you have friends”.
In spite of all the natural fruit predation, we do have fruit, and friends as well. And yet, at times I wonder… if we had more fruit to share with our fellow two-leggeds… would we have also an enhanced, super abundance of good and loving friends?… Plenty enough to share with others?…