Editorial: Blossom time

April 13, 2011

Ah, Blossom.

This is the time of year when we anticipate the coming bounty.

Blossom Festival returns this weekend

(details on page A1 and in the special section Panorama).

The pear, apple and cherry orchards provide the floral display, and the people provide the activities and events for this weekend's festival. Go out and enjoy what this fertile part of America has to offer.

The festival is about farms and businesses celebrating the gradual emergence of blossoms that signify growth of the fruit that is the foundation of the Hood River farm economy.

Are the orchards bursting with blossoms right now? It may not look that way.

But have patience; they will return, those expanses of petals looking like popcorn on branches.

It depends on where you go; some areas have more flowers than others.

Blossom Festival is not just about the blossoms that are here now; it is also about what is to come.

The valley is a diverse place, with varied sub-climates with differing pockets of wind, moisture and temperature levels that affect soil and trees in different ways.

Most orchardists face the challenge of managing one part of their farm, or block, in a distinctly different way than another part. Indeed, farmer Jack's Anjous might look and taste different than farmer Jill's just 5 miles away.

Add to that the diversity of the crop, and you get a sense of the dynamism in Hood River agriculture. It's true that pears are king, at 91 percent of the Hood River County tree fruit output. As Ben McCarty reports in Panorama (Reflections, page 3), Anjous rule, with Bartletts a strong second, and Bosc, Red Anjou, Comice and Stark Crimson forming far smaller portions of the Hood River County crop. Apples are 5 percent of the total, with cherries at 4 percent.

But taken as a whole, orchards produce a long list of pear and apple types; available this summer and fall are Winter Banana, Cameo, Gravenstein, Ortley and Braeburn apples, and Concorde, Taylor Gold, and Honsu pears - all lesser-known, but exquisite and, in some cases, unique to this valley.

Farmers will often raise certain varieties because of personal preference, historical significance or their market niche. (Ask Scott Webster of The Fruit Company in Pine Grove about how important is the rare, but gem-like, Forelle pear to his company's artfully presented gift baskets.)

Yes, the blossoms are returning. If you don't see many on the trees, take a closer look and see the vigor in those flower buds that are now the size and color of a baby's finger. There's energy, hope and, yes, profit, in those delicate branch tips.

The result each summer and fall is a remarkable array of fruit whose beauty, flavor and marketability help define this scenic and productive corner of the world.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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