Every harvest with the GAP has a story, some more memorable than others. Something stands out – the setting, the characters, or the plot – and in this case it is all three.
It was getting to the end of cherry season when an acquaintance called and asked if we could help out his elderly friend Joan, who was a bit overwhelmed and hadn’t been able to get her cherries picked. “They’re organic” he said. (We all know what that means – a little white worm in each and every cherry.) “I don’t know” I told him, “We’re really swamped right now”
“She has a Kootenay cover”, he said. My ears perked up. I had heard about Kootenay covers – special polyester fibre nets that are put over cherry trees to keep out the dreaded cherry fruit fly – but had never seen one in action. I immediately agreed to call her.
I recognized the property. The house is older and set back from the road, hardly visible behind a number of mature fruit trees. There is often a “Honey for Sale” sign at the end of the driveway. There was much more there, however, than I realized. It appeared to be a once-thriving orchard with numerous mature apple and pear trees, as well as apricots, plums, grapevines, raspberries, and a large overgrown vegetable garden plot. Several dilapidated outbuildings, piles of rusting tools, and an old apple press completed the picture.
And then there was the huge, old cherry tree completely enveloped by this white shroud. I was certainly not expecting it to be that big and couldn’t imagine how they got the cover on. “I had some friends come and help” Joan said, and I could tell she was not entirely comfortable inviting perfect strangers into her private Eden to pick her fruit. I tried to re-assure her that we had some expertise and would be respectful, careful and appreciative of her kind offer. She reluctantly agreed to let us come and I set up a harvest for later in the week.
When we arrived, Joan had opened up the cover and rolled up the edges so we could get underneath, but it was kind of like working in a sauna. We picked over 300 pounds of beautiful, organic Rainier cherries with hardly a fruit fly in sight, and Joan was more than happy with our work. She invited us back several more times to help harvest her apricots, apples, pears, plums, and grapes.
Joan is a long-time organic grower with a wealth of knowledge and experience, but sadly, despite the help we are able to offer as far as harvesting, she is no longer able to manage on her own, and has found a new home for her bees and put her property up for sale. It looks like another Brocklehurst homestead will be converted into neat townhouses and another piece of farmland will be lost as we continue to pave over paradise . . .