Eric Bunnell’s People: Community orchard bearing some ‘educational’ fruit

Fourteen Bartlett pears. Down one from last week.

Wait, no. Missed one in Tuesday’s count, hiding behind leaves on a branch. There still are 15 hanging in on the tree in the four-year-old Elgin Gleaners community orchard on First Avenue.

And while that might seem a disappointing result from the dozen varied fruit trees planted by the city, it also has been an education for the Gleaners, a food security partnership of St. Thomas-Elgin YWCA and Southwestern public health in which volunteers pick and share the community’s surplus harvest.

“I would absolutely say we are definitely learning about it,” Melissa Kempf, YWCA communications director, said Tuesday as she, Southwest’s Lindsay Dawson and Gleaner lead volunteer Michele Desjardin met to document the past week in the orchard.

And she observes, “Being on the administrative side, we have a whole new respect for farmers in our community!”

They post results on the Gleaners’ Facebook page, where the group keeps in touch and shares garden tips.

Sure, the Gleaners were hoping for more this year, the first year the fledgling orchard looked like it would produce.

Indeed, “We had tons of peaches – but the first and only frost got all the peach blossoms this spring.”

And they don’t know whether a couple of apples finally fell prey to deer out of a nearby ravine, or people.

However, as all Canadian gardeners know, there’s always next year.

Because of COVID-19, the Gleaners weren’t able to do a spring berry pick. Local farms were hesitant to open their fields until they figured how to cope with the virus. And the Gleaners, who number as many as 40 volunteers, stayed home.

“We were sad, and our volunteers were sad. We couldn’t do an early pick.”

But as we settle into this new normal of ours, several local farms and homeowners now have welcomed the Gleaners for a couple of picks in August and September. Lindsay says the group will have protocols in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

They’ll be out for pears and blueberries – last year, the Gleaners picked 400 pounds of pears and four flats of blueberries. The harvest is shared three ways between farmer/homeowner, the Gleaners and community food groups.

To become involved, email elgingleaners@ywcaste.ca

A bar of soap

I don’t get it. There’s what looks like a bar of soap zip tied to the stake for each tree in the orchard.

Michele smiles.

“I have bars of Irish Spring all through my home garden.”

It’s an old trick. While the deodorant soap promises on its box a “great invigorating scent” to “keep you feeling clean and fresh,” she says Irish Spring also deters deer.

Hmmm.

As you know, they’ve been a bit of a problem at the house. Heck, they’ve been a plague!

So far this year, they’ve visited under cover of night to enjoy artichokes, beans (bush and pole), beet greens, begonias (both dragon’s wing and tuberous), cucumbers, morning glory, Swiss chard, sunflowers, zucchini. And, maybe, some more.

It’s disheartening. But nothing, really, compared to the $28,000 worth of strawberries a local grower told us that he has lost while we were buying sweet corn the other day.

I’ve read that the last two winters have been very kind to them, and the deer population has increased to the point where more than one-third of motor vehicle accidents investigated last year by Elgin OPP involved wild animals – and mostly deer.

But, you know, it may not be just the weather. We humans may be more than partly to blame, ourselves, by upsetting the natural order of things, eliminating bears and wolves as predators.

We drove to Stratford the other day to find cheap deer netting. It seems to be in short supply. (And, golly, don’t trust the TSC website when it says there are three rolls in the east London store. The website isn’t always right, you know, says an annoyed clerk.)

But Irish Spring ….

I admit I had heard, but it sounded just too cute. And a reader who phoned to share a Mennonite friend’s tip to spread human hair in the garden … well, the thought creeps me out. (I just cringe when I think of those Victorian funerary hair wreaths. Ewww.)

Anyway, with COVID-19, can you even get safe hair? In spite of all the research, that’s one thing I don’t think has been studied.

But my sprinkling garlic and cayenne pepper hasn’t been overly successful. So there’s now a bar of Irish Spring standing guard in the garden over the one remaining sunflower.

One night in, and the sunflower still is there.

I have my hopes up.

And, you know, maybe it’s my imagination. But doesn’t the garden this morning look a little cleaner and fresher, as well?

Mixed emotions

There are cancellations left, right and centre these days.

But not cancelled is an online auction of Second World War memorabilia by Shackelton Auctions, Springfield.

It’s in the news because among the 1,200 lots are about 100 Nazi-related items that the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies says should be illegal to sell in Canada.

“Our position is that it’s disgusting and unacceptable that people should be buying and selling relics of murder and genocide,” Jaime Kirzner-Roberts is quoted by CBC Radio and by the JPost, which is the Jerusalem Post online.

“We find it very difficult to imagine any legitimate reason why someone would want to possess them.”

She says the items should be given to a museum to ensure they don’t end up in the hands of someone sympathetic to the cause they represent.

Shackelton is holding the sale on behalf of family of an Oshawa collector. It continues to Aug. 18.

Mike Shackelton is quoted: “I do have mixed emotions on selling these items, but the sale is going forward, and it’s our hope that these items land in the right hands.

“It is our hope that that these items do go to museums or to groups that are going to do the right thing. That will help us remember history so that these things don’t happen again.”

Fish fry cancelled

The Port Stanley Firefighters’ Association has cancelled its annual fish-fry fundraiser at the Port Stanley arena.

It’s a marquee event, but COVID-19 doesn’t care.

The smokeaters say they could have done a takeout thingy. But they decided that, in fairness to the village’s “fantastic business community” that supports them, they would ask patrons, in turn, to support local restos that now have reopened their doors:

“Our local restaurants and businesses have generously provided incredible co-operation and support over the many, many years we have had the pleasure to put on our event. Now, more than ever, they need our collective patronage more than ever.”

You know, it’s a thought.

Improvements at elevated park

Also cancelled, the annual Elevated Picnic atop the St. Thomas Elevated Park. And no other major events planned for this year on the repurposed Michigan Central Railroad trestle over Kettle Creek, the first park of its kind in Canada.

(Kinda too bad, isn’t it, that the astronomers didn’t set up this year for a public comet viewing. And aren’t the Perseids meteor showers just about upon us? Peak nights, Aug. 11-13.)

But the park remains a busy place.

Electricity, lighting and video are to be installed this month … the video hopefully to provide security against a spate of stupid vandalism that included damage to a signature sculptural installation, now removed for reworking by artist Christine Dewancker and its return.

That’s not all, park spokesperson Serge Lavoie says.

“In August, we’re removing half the coarse gravel and replacing it with topsoil. In September, we’re putting in sod. Finally, tree planting on the Arboretum Line will happen in late September or early October at the spot where the city ends and Southwold begins.”

Take that, novel coronavirus!

‘New normal’

August is here, already! Who knew that a new-normal summer, with a new-normal of not much of anything to do, could go by so quickly?

It was just a joke a couple of weeks ago in this corner that the start of the local winter wheat harvest meant summer was over. Hah, hah. Big laugh.

But, sadly, it *is* ending at the dollar store, where Thanksgiving and Halloween are full on, already.

And with the new normal, maybe that’s the only place we’ll get to celebrate the two like the way we used to. What a thought.

Have a safe Civic Holiday weekend.

Stay well.

ericbunnellspeople@gmail.com

 

 

 

Author: ” — www.stthomastimesjournal.com