Trees are heavy with fruit up here in the Allegheny Highlands as we approach the season of ripening.  Thanks to adequate rainfall last year and no late frost in the spring, we are expecting to harvest a major heap of apples, many of which are heirloom varieties planted three generations back.  From peach preserves and cobbler to apple butter, sauce and pie the fruit is only useful when its gathered, and there is no shortage here.  We haven’t planted many fruit trees this year, but have considered taking cuttings from certain heirloom varieties and grafting them onto standard root stock.  This would be an affordable way to grow a larger number of trees at a time and hold on to these rare apple varieties.  We would name this portion of the program “throw apples atch’ya”.

 One of our participating garden sites is in Hillsboro, WV at the birthplace of Pulitzer Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck.  High Rocks has found a great opportunity to partner with the museum at the Pearl S. Buck’s house through Grow Appalachia to create a community garden space.  The garden has been named after her award winning novel The Good Earth, and is home to an orchard that features over 30 varieties of apple trees.  The Good Earth Garden site hasn’t been cultivated in over thirty years, but is extremely fertile and productive.  All the produce grown at this site has been donated to our local food pantry through a program called “Plant A Row for the Hungry”.  This garden has also become a great location to host workshops including one titled “Growing a Healthy Garden” where market growers in the community came to share their gardening secrets and wisdom about soil health and pest defense.  Next month the birthplace will host a workshop on seed saving and heirloom gardening.

Aside from orchard dreaming, Grow Appalachia participants are making use of this cooler weather to spend time canning the surplus from their gardens.  We recently partnered with the county extension agent to host  a workshop on canning safety.  The workshop was well attended and participants learned the proper method to preserve their produce without risk of contamination.

We’re planning to continue with site visits through the coming months to help out with harvests and canning.  We are looking forward to the gathering later this fall in KY, so we can all celebrate our hard work of the season.