Kate loves being outside, and volunteering at the Hidden Springs Community Farm allows her to work toward a common goal with her neighbors. She loves “beautification” and improvement projects, and weeding is one of her favorite tasks at the farm. Kate especially enjoys taking advantage of the raspberry and blackberry harvests, loading up on the onion surplus from Peaceful Belly Farm, and having an abundance of fresh herbs for cooking, decorating, or cocktail-making. Kate plans to make wine from the farm’s 2021 rhubarb crop.
Kate appreciates being able to teach her children about being a steward of living things, which is why she initiated annual pruning parties at the Hidden Springs’ orchard. The apple, pear, and plum trees near the entrance of Hidden Springs face several hardships. At one point, the trees were adopted by families within the community and eventually suffered neglect, never fully rebounding. The trees drink reclaimed water and the orchard is subject to over-watering conditions.* Voles love fruit trees and den underneath them, eating the roots all winter long. Lastly, in an effort to practice organic methods, grass has been allowed to grow around the trees trunks, subjecting the bark and branches to abuse from lawnmowers.
In 2020, Kate sent out a series of emails to a number of University of Idaho horticultural programs explaining the poor condition of the orchard and asking for help. Eventually she got in contact with Dr. Susan Bell. Kate arranged to meet with Dr. Bell and the Hidden Springs Town Manager, Lisa Ahrens, where they walked the orchard, inspected the trees, and discussed both short- and long-term goals.
Kate is neighbors and friends with Ms. Ahrens and the two have been working to plan a feasible way to get the orchard back on track. Short-term goals that will be implemented in 2021: treat the diseased trees, ramp up the vole extermination, and remove the grass around the healthiest trees to keep them from being battered by the lawnmowers. This will involve chemicals at the base of the tree, but should not be taken up by the tree itself. Other issues, such as managing the codling moth and the over-watering conditions, will be addressed in the future.
In the meantime, Kate organizes pruning parties in February/March, and residents have certainly seen a difference in fruit production since the orchard has received this little bit of care. If you would like to volunteer with the orchard or have questions about the fruit trees, Kate is informed and loves to talk about Hidden Springs!
*The reclaimed water used in Hidden Springs contains a fair amount of salt. Salt-based water softeners are banned in Hidden Springs, Idaho, but the ban is not enforced and many systems have been grandfathered in. The Hidden Springs Town Association has a DEQ permit on file for the reclaimed water; the permit states that a certain amount of water must be used.