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Apple Fest Highlights Trees That Feed Us

  • Finley Thauvin,4, of White River Junction, Vt., helps Duncan Pogue from Upper Valley Apple Corps make cider in White River Junction on Oct. 8, 2016, for Apple Fest. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Cat Buxton, left, Elisabeth Cadle, and Karen Ganey, all of Upper Valley Apple Corps, plant a peach tree at the Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction, Vt., on Oct. 8, 2016 for Apple Fest. The Upper Valley Apple Corps and the Upper Valley Haven sponsored the day which included a fruit tree and guild planting demonstration, cider and applesauce processing, and children's activities. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Bob Marshall, a part-time resident of Wilder, Vt., cores an apple to make applesauce. Marshall is a volunteer for Upper Valley Apple Corps. The Upper Valley Haven and Upper Valley Apple Corps sponsored Apple Fest at the Haven on Oct. 8, 2016, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, October 08, 2016

Wilder — An old-fashioned wooden cider press. Hardwood mulch and fuzzy comfrey leaves. Thick slices of apple and cheese. There were plenty of things to get your hands on at Upper Valley Apple Corps’ free festival at the Upper Valley Haven yesterday, where about 50 volunteers and visitors made applesauce and cider from donated fruit, planted a peach tree and shared a potluck lunch.

Apple Fest was designed to get people excited about using the fruit and trees, and about “caring for the land that feeds us,” said Cat Buxton, the corps’ project coordinator.

Yesterday morning, stationed behind a folding table stocked with cutting boards and kitchen knives, Stan Rinehart made applesauce for the first time. One after another, one he cored the apples and placed them into a stainless steel pot to cook down. The fruit was unpeeled.

“I’m told it gives it a nice roseate hue,” said the Haven volunteer, who moved with his wife from New York state to West Lebanon three years ago. As he worked, people stopped to chat with him and compare recipes.

Barbara Smith, of South Strafford, described her slow-cooker method, which also calls for leaving on the skin, a timesaver. “I don’t much care for spending time inside.”

The Apple Corps plants nut and fruit trees and berry bushes in the Upper Valley, with the bounty free for the picking. Pear trees at Kilton Public Library, apple trees in Lyman Point Park and raspberries near Cover in White River Junction are among its more visible plantings. Buxton, who recently took on the coordinator role, plans to ensure an online map of the tree and bushes’ locations is accurate and user-friendly. Apple Corps will also add signs near the plantings inviting people to pick the fruit and nuts, in addition to the small plaques already in place, she said.

Anyone is welcome to join the group, which also harvests and processes unclaimed “wild” fruit and cares for the plantings, on private and public land. In addition to providing food, its goals include promoting a connection to the land and cultivating community, through events such as public plantings and yesterday’s festival.

Unlike last year’s bumper apple crop, volume is down somewhat this fall, due to an April frost and unusually dry conditions.

Getting the fruit for the festival was a little harder this year, but several landowners generously stepped up, Buxton said. “Our volunteers went and shook down their trees.”

Throughout the day, volunteers wheeled tall crates of the small red fruits to the cider station, where West Hartford farmer and Apple Corps volunteer Duncan Pogue took a break from cranking to talk cider.

The bumpy, speckled and sometimes bruised apples wouldn’t have been sellable on supermarket shelves. A lot of people have “very rigid ideas” about what is good to eat, he said. But they made for a sweet drink.

“It’s great to be involved with Apple Corps,” said Pogue, whose press yesterday generated gallons of apple cider, along with big buckets of mash, the byproduct often used for pig food or composting. “It’s such a resource to have, all these apples in the area that never get used.”

With the help of volunteers and others, Apple Corps member Karen Ganey planted the peach tree, explaining each step in the process. Ganey, a permaculture designer, stressed strategies for ensuring the tree would be securely rooted, especially important in the face of more extreme weather patterns related to global warming, such as high winds. Under her guidance, the group surrounded the tree with layers of cardboard, soil-enriching comfrey leaves and mulch, and planted “guild” plants, mostly herbs, chosen for their ability to attract pollinators, suppress grass and rodents, and build up the soil.

In the spirit of the day, Ganey compared the guild to a human community, in which each member fulfils a unique and valuable function.

Last year, the corps planted two hazelbert trees and two honeyberry bushes on the grounds of the Haven, which includes a food shelf and family, adult and seasonal shelters. The trees take three to five years to start producing nuts, Ganey said, but the bushes are already bearing fruit.

Over the course of a decade, a dedicated group of Haven volunteers has been working steadily to fill the property with trees and flowers, vegetables and bushes. The White River Junction-based nonprofit is known for its edible landscaping, and situated just behind a bus shelter on Route 5, the new peach tree is part of a growing “passersby garden” that is also home to blueberry bushes. But, like the Apple Corps’ plantings, the gardens are about more than just food.

Research shows that people’s behavior is strongly influenced by their environment, said Sara Kobylenski, the Haven’s executive director. The landscaping, including 19 or 20 fruit trees, set the tone.

“It’s not a ‘do not touch’ place,” Kobylenski said. “It’s touch, be involved, take what you need.”

Sarah Allain, who has been living in the family shelter since July, said she and her 5-year-old son, Eli, enjoy the gardens. Yesterday, Eli was among the people, young and old, who took turns powering the cider press.

After eagerly turning the handle for a spell, he raced over to Allain, who stood nearby, visiting with a friend.

“You know what, Momma? I cranked that thing,” he said.

“Was it fun?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“That’s wonderful,” she said.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.