Guest post from Cheenius; also posted on the Transition Charlottesville blog.
You have to love a class where one of the first questions the instructor poses is: “Does anyone here faint at the sight of their own blood?” Good stuff. Luckily, Cheenius is known for being fearless and intrepid.
About a dozen current and wannabe orchardists met for a one day workshop led by Alexis Zeigler of Living Energy Farm. Alexis has hundreds of fruit trees at various properties, and this self-taught expert provided a wealth of information as well as hands-on experience. He pointed out that we have all been duped by a culture of deception when it comes to fruit, thinking that the shiny apples and plump peaches of the grocery store are desirable. In reality, those fruits have been sprayed with fungicides and pesticides up to 14 times during their growth. Meanwhile, because industrial farming only serves up a relatively small number of fruits varieties, we don’t realize that fruits like the paw paw, persimmon, and muscadine are much better suited for the mid-Atlantic and are incredibly disease and insect resistance. In some cases, these little-known fruits also offer more vitamins and even protein than we get from the ubiquitous red delicious apple. I was definitely inspired to think about my fruit tree choices in a completely different way.
After learning the characteristics and hardiness of some of the main fruit and nut tree families, we moved on to propagation. We covered seed and root cuttings, and then spent the rest of our time learning to graft. Turns out, once you know which parts to line up, it wasn’t that hard, but it was invaluable to have Alexis there — definitely not the kind of thing you can learn from a book. Along with knowledge, we all left with some actual grafts that we should be able to plant in 4-8 weeks. What did I end up with? Pretty excited about some blight resistant pears, hardy almonds, and some paw paw seeds that I’ve already put into pots. Planning to add kiwi and persimmon to my yard as soon as I can figure out a good location. Great class!
Thanks, Cheenius! Can’t wait to hear how your new plants turn out!