September 2012

Reinventing Montezuma's apple economy

By Art Goodtimes

JUDE SCHUENEMEYER … Luckily, I got to attend Jude’s Four Corners Lecture last month on his Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project at the BLM”s Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores. It was an entire education in an hour or so … We reviewed America’s westward expansion from Jefferson on, touching on the Johnny Appleseed legend. Having a planted orchard was a sign of permanence, and it provided hard cider as well as apple pies and fruit juice (especially important in areas where the water might be suspect). “One of the most portable, compact, nutritious of foods,” was how Jude described the apple. He explained that there are thousands of varieties. Often homesteaders after the Civil War planted apple trees on their allotments as part of “proving up” their claims … Then he traced the development of the Montezuma apple industry from 1890 on, featuring such local pioneers as the Hall brothers, the Galloway brothers (who went on to develop land and water in my region, their pioneer home still standing in Norwood), Bill Giles, A.J. Dunning, and others. It’s a fascinating story. A.W. Dillon had 200 varieties on his place near Arriola before 1900 … But what was truly amazing was learning that at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Colorado won four gold medals for its fruit, and Montezuma County won three of those! And in the 1906 Colorado State Fair, Montezuma County took 101 out of 104 ribbons for its fruit. Jude attributed the higher altitude of Montezuma fruit with its warm dry days and cool nights as setting the sugars and increasing the quality and taste of the apples. Into the 1950s, Montezuma apples were still being shipped to California. But Montezuma orchardists were a unique lot. “In Montezuma County everybody did something different,” said Jude. “The peach trees in Palisade all look alike.” But standard uniform fruit-growing won out in Colorado, and Montezuma orchards declined and were mostly abandoned in the 1960s … Jude is intent on turning that trend around. He sees economic opportunity in the 2,000 to 3,000 abandoned orchard stands still extant in the region. He wants to market heirloom Montezuma County apple varieties to resort towns like Telluride and on the Internet – serving the Slow Food and Locovore movements sweeping the country. He and his wife Addie run the Let It Grow Nursery and Garden Store across from the Visitor Center in Cortez, where I found local fruit and a wealth of garden supplies, books, toys and hot&cold drinks … Of course, while our high altitude is a blessing in sweetening apples, our weather also means our fruit trees don’t produce consistently – some years are better than others. It just happens that this is a great year for fruit. My 30-year-old MacIntosh trees at Cloud Acre on Wrights Mesa are loaded with ripe apples. And it’s hard not to wonder if apple orchards in Coventry, Redvale and Shenandoah couldn’t be resuscitated to create a small but viable heirloom apple economy in the San Miguel River watershed. Maybe even some heirloom hard cider and local fruit juices.



Apple Pie

American exceptionalism
bakes in the oven
of our own disbelief

that we have to die
Brought up well fed
Taught & tempered

Who doesn’t want
more than enough
for one’s children?

Then, how comes it
we multiply the
upper crust’s greed

when dessert’s
the grief of humankind
Our species’ deep need

SHROOMFEST … In spite of the drought in most of the region, this year’s Telluride Mushroom Festival, sponsored by the Telluride Institute, saw plentiful fungi of all kinds last month, as the heavily loaded identification tables in Elks Park demonstrated … One of my favorite edibles is looked on askance by many – Hawk’s Wing (Sarcodon imbricatus, formerly Hydnum imbricatum). As Wikipedia notes: “It is reported as edible but of poor quality in the United States by some sources, but as deliciously edible by others.” Being in the latter camp, I felt wonderfully vindicated when a dish made of its toothy flesh won the Chefs Cook-off this year at the Wilkinson Library … Some highlights … We learned from flamboyant University of Wisconsin mycologist Tom Volk (both arms covered in rainbow-hued mycelial tattoos) that unbaked bread dough, taken in quantity, could make one drunk, thanks to its yeast content – yeast being a eukaryotic microorganism classified in the Kindom [sic] Fungi, with 1500 currently described species. We also got a hands-on lesson in manipulating yeast to make kombucha and mead from Ken Litchfield of Merritt College in Oakland, Calif. … Ethnobotanist Kat Harrison traced the introduction of entheogenic shrooms into Western culture and then compared techniques of use from traditional Mazatec shamans in southern Mexico where she’s conducted years of enthnobotanic research to our own initiatory attempts to incorporate sacred visions into a post-industrial American society unscientifically fearful of anything psychedelic. A panel discussion of hallucinogenic mushrooms as medicine emphasized the growing body of scientific knowledge proving their value, from relieving cluster headaches to providing lifechanging experiences of balanced wholeness with the universe … Professional jazz singer Ruthie Ristich of Boston showed a film and gave a talk that acquainted us with the legendary East Coast mushroom guru Sam Ristich, her father, who charmed and tutored legions of mushroom seekers, including our own resident mycologist Gary Lincoff. And Lincoff led a special Ophir foray up the Waterfall Canyon trail that culminated in a gourmet mushroom feast, prepared by amazing chef Lisa Dahl of Sedona’s Cucina Rustica, at Bob Kingsley’s spectacular OPUS Hut on the San Juan County side of Ophir Pass. It was my first time ever over Ophir Pass, made all the more thrilling by our driver’s announcement that he was running out of gas on the long climb up the San Miguel side. A friendly jeeper saved the day and gave us enough petrol to make it down safely … Maya scholar John Major Jenkins explained to us the origins of the Mayan Calendar long count in Izapa, Mexico – how it was tied to startling astronomic observations of the Sun’s conjunction with the center of the Milky Way galaxy and how it was clearly perceived by the Mayans as a time of transformation, not a Christian apocalypse. Myco-historian David Rose expounded on Mushrooms in Science Fiction, Daniel Winkler on Mushrooms in Tibet, and Fungi magazine editor/publisher Britt Bunyard on “Mycorrhizatopia – Fungi as the Puppet Masters of the Universe” … Lecturers including a couple of teenagers – Devon Enke of La Veta on “Oil-eating Mushrooms” and Norwood’s Sklyer Hollinbeck sharing his paper on Myco-Remediation at the Missionary Ridge Fire near Durango. Maya Elson and her cohorts alerted us oldster fungophiles to a new developing group of Radical Mycologists who are marrying social activism to mycology and holding “convergences” around the country … Attorney Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado sought support for Amendment 64, the Regulate- Cannabis-Like-Alcohol Constitutional Amendment that will be up for consideration in Colorado’s November election. It’s a measure that makes good scientific and social sense, and I’m publicly a supporter along with Rep. Jared Polis and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (now there’s an unusual conjunction) … Jo Norris of Arizona’s Rim Institute gave a special workshop on Connecting to the Feminine in Shamanism, and the festival ended with a panel discussion by Norris, Marie Luna, Teresa Frank and Annie Enke on the relationship of plant and fungal allies to world consciousness … There were dozens of other lectures and workshops that I missed, as simultaneous events took place around town, even in Smuggler Joe’s brewpub – where several tasty myco-medicinal brews were concocted especially for the festival.

AWARDS … One special feature of the Shroomfest has been the growing number of awards given. Begun last year, the Founders Award was given to Dr. Emanuel and Joanne Salzman for their creation and nurturing of the Telluride Mushroom Festival. This year the Salzman Award was given to Linnea Gillman of Denver, a longtime member of the Colorado Mycological Society, the North American Mycological Society and Fungophile, Inc. – the nonprofit umbrella under which the festival operated for its first 25 years … For the last three years Fungi magazine of Wisconsin has sponsored an annual Mushroom Parade costume contest and has made awards in several categories. I didn’t get names for all the winners, but Mason and Piper Cornwell of Grand Junction won the Kiddie Division with their Alice & the White Rabbit costume … This year we added a new award in honor of Dr. Andrew Weil, the medical doctor, ethnobotanist and psychonaut who was a regular faculty member of the event for many years. The Andy went to Kat Harrison for advancing our knowledge and understanding, forwards and backwards, of entheogens in all their goddess guises.

Art Goodtimes is a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.