Friday, November 10, 2023

Autumn Update Part I – Where Did the Summer Go?

Hello friends. On this gray November day I find myself thinking about where this year has gone. It seems like only yesterday that the orchard trees were in full bloom and Spring’s promise of a great year lay just around the corner. This has been an interesting year. Every year in the orchard is a little different, but they all are interesting in their own way.

Bear and apples
If last year was the year of the bear, this year has been the year of the bear fence. You may remember that the orchard suffered significant damage last year from bears breaking limbs out of the trees to get to the fruit. Bears have been visiting the orchard for decades, but last year was the worst in memory for bear damage due to the failure of the berry crop and other natural foods out in the forest. We certainly don’t begrudge the bears a good meal, but destruction of our fruit trees is something we can’t abide. So, our Board of Directors voted to erect an electric bear fence, and the great fence building adventure of 2023 began. The start of the project was delayed until early June due to our inability to obtain 8-foot wooden treated fence posts. Who knew supply chain issues could affect even made-in-Montana fence posts? Once all supplies were acquired though, the work began. We contracted with Vance Russell of Flying Arrow Enterprises to pound the wooden and steel posts in. Then we strung the wire during one of our monthly volunteer work days. There are a lot of parts and pieces to a 5-strand high-tension electric fence, and putting them all together took a lot of hours. In the end, though, we had a good looking and strong functioning fence by the second week of August. It’s a fence we can all be proud of.

Volunteers work on fence
Building our fence took a lot of help, and it’s only fitting we acknowledge and thank those who provided that help. First and foremost, many private individuals donated money to help us build the fence. This is especially gratifying because it lets us know that people truly value the work we’re doing at the orchard. Gallagher USA donated a TON of electric fencing parts and supplies. Money-wise, this was the largest donation we received, and we couldn’t have built the fence without it. Gallagher products are the best quality money can buy, and if you’re looking to build an electric fence, I highly recommend them. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks donated three high quality gates. Tractor Supply gave us a price break on steel fence posts and wire. Missoula for Bears made a large cash donation, as did Blackfoot Communications and First Security Bank. Volunteers from People and Carnivores and USDA Wildlife Services came all the way from Kalispell to assist. Last but not least, our volunteer Board of Directors and local volunteers from the community worked many long hours putting the fence all together. This fence project has been a community project in the truest sense of the word, and that seems entirely fitting for a community orchard. Thanks everyone for your help!

Gate and electric fence warning sign

Now that the fruit harvesting season is over and bears are or soon will be in their dens, I can say with complete confidence that our bear fence was 100 percent effective in keeping bears out of the orchard this year. We know they were in the neighborhood, but the orchard was definitely off limits. Part of our objective in building the fence was to set an example for the Alberton community, which has experienced bears rummaging through garbage and other types of bear-human conflicts for many decades. With completion of our fence at Brovold Community Orchard, Alberton is one step closer to becoming a Bear Smart Community. We encourage everyone in Alberton to join us in securing your bear attractants.

I want to tell you about how the fruit harvest went this year, but this article has already become too long. Look for Part 2 of the Autumn Update to come soon.

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