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Caspar, CA

Michael Potts

Michael Potts
Tell us about your growing philosophy

My sense of a healthy place to live includes growing at least some of my own sustenance, and perennials that live roughly as long as humans (and that will likely outlive me) lend a sense of “established-ness” that I find affirming. Here in California, the seasons aren't as sharply delineated as elsewhere, and I love the way fruit trees keep reminding me of the season, and put me in touch with nature. Aside from that, I like fruit.

Tell us about your place on Earth.

Within sight of the Pacific Ocean, a huge thermal battery. Almost never freezes, and seldom hot. Hard Spring rains sometimes rip the blossoms off the trees, and late cold discourages pollinators, so we have years of small yield and then a bumper crop, especially in early-blooming plums. Spring weather determines the number, and water affects the size of the fruit; aggressive thinning is sometimes required, and we send all our greywater to our favorite trees.

What draws you to growing fruit?

We love the seasonalty of the trees: shade when the sun is high, bare poetic branches in winter. And of course, the fruit. We aim to be self sufficient six months of the year in apples (as well as lettuce year 'round, tomatoes, and artichokes.) Nothing tastes better than produce fresh from the land!

What holistic innovation most rocks your boat?

Change 10. I'm inserting a link: Murphy's Laws and another link. This should now be protected? My cat is inspecting my entry. I keep adding to this answer to test. Everything is working seamlessly for me.

How has an ecosystem approach changed your tree reality for the better?

Ours is a two-season climate, a wet (November-April) and a dry. By accommodating these realities, and their obvious changes (it's drier overall, yet storms are harsher) we give our crops, including our fruit trees, a better chance. See the Aha! below.

Share an “aha moment” that made you a better grower.

Our marine environment, especially salt in the air, has a dramatic effect on our trees, and placement is everything. The apple tree closest to the ocean, and least protected from the sou'wester storms and prevailing nor'westerlies, produces few small, intensely flavored fruit, while those in the more clement locations yield larger fruit abundantly.

What might you change if you could do one thing over again in your orchard?

Had we been aware of the importance of placement, we would have been more careful in setting out our trees. There is a notable difference between the western (ocean) side of our small (2 acre) parcel and the eastern, in terms of the salt borne in from the ocean during storms.

How do you go about marketing the good fruit?

Sharing with family is wonderful, but we don't produce enough to sell. For me, the excitement is in helping this band of conscious growers connect via the internet. 

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