Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Riley's Handy Store

Riley’s Handy Store

In the 1950s brother Chuck and I would frequently ride bikes to "Riley’s Handy Store". Down Adkin hill turn west, and go past Grampa Bill and Gramma Edna’s farm on the dusty gravel roads. The trip was always very rewarding. Topps baseball cards, candy bars, “Arctic” Ice Cream cones for a nickel and pop from the open water cooler with a block of ice. Riley's was a 1950s Wal-Mart in our eyes.

Riley's was at the NE corner of Leisure. On the SW corner was the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church, Church Parsonage and the Township Fire Station. A Community Hall was across the street to the north. Relationships were built and business deals negotiated at these Leisure gathering placed. The Casco Band practiced in the hall. Fire fighters met and the Ladies Aid dinners were served. The Casco Softball Team played games behind Riley’s Store and on special occasions a free outdoor movie was shown on the backside of the store. FYI, "Casco" is the name of the Township in the SW corner of Allegan County. The church services and activities provided a strong spiritual foundation for this self-contained rural community. The buildings are gone but fond memories remain.

"The store" was our connection to the outside world. During the 1920s and 1930s my distant cousin Riley (everyone was related) dramatically changed the way people lived their lives. The home making of bread, cakes and cookies declined. Eggs, milk and meats could all be found at the store. Why raise your own? He served the shopping needs of us kids, the farmers and the household. During the subsistence days of farming most everything you needed was raised on your farm or you bartered with your neighbors. In a future blog I will take us back to 1880 and explain why Henry Overhiser and Sam Leisure built the store.

At the Farm (April 15) - Planting New Trees
Tree trimming continues and new dormant fruit trees are being planted. Peach and sour cherry trees have the shortest productive life and are planted most every year. This year Allan will be planting 500 early cling stone peach trees, about 300 other peach trees and 200 sweet cherry trees. It will be five years or more before these become productive producers. The trees are trimmed to have a single, upright trunk with well spaced, spreading side branches. This will result in a cone shaped tree so the upper branches don't shade out the lower branches.

New peach varieties are being developed every year. The old favorite "Red Haven" was developed at the South Haven MSU Experiment Station led by Stanley Johnston. Many of us mature peach lovers prefer the Red Haven. That may be because it brings back childhood memories. I must admit, some of the newer peach varieties are better than good old "Red".

The red buds are thickening at the end of the branches signaling the coming of a whole new world -SPRING! Watch the parade from bud to blossom to fruit to harvest. The cherry blossoms have come and gone in DC, what about the farm? Most years blossoms start opening the last week of April or the first week of May and last for 1 to 2 weeks. This is the order: first sweet cherries, then peaches, tart cherries, plums, pears and finally apples. If you are in the South Haven area check the farm at 109th ave and 64th street. Below is a photo of Allan examining peach buds. They look OK so far. Enjoy your spring blooms.
Eat fruit today!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why 'My Brother's Fruit" Blog

Why “My Brother’s Fruit” Blog
I have fruit blood in my veins. Cut me open and you will see cherry, peach, plum, pear and apple blood. If you have lived in the country as a child, it permeates your soul and becomes a part of who you are. I suspect city grown kids have souls conditioned by the environment they explored.

This kid’s upbringing was in SW Michigan on a fruit farm. After high school, I left the farm and took my fruit blood to MSU in East Lansing. After several majors I finally landed on a pile of maps as a city planner. Lucy became the apple of my eye and the peach of my life. We started our life together in Battle Creek. Four children, several different planning jobs and five grand children later I find myself retired but darn busy.

One summer activity I look forward to is eating and peddling my brother’s fruit. Now do you get it? My brother Allan grows the fruit that we eat and peddle. My Brother’s Fruit is the name of my little "business" and this blog. My goal is to share history, memories and thoughts about present and past fruit farm and farm families. ‘Goal’ is a very over used city planning term. You set ‘goals’ and strive to reach them, but very seldom do. Sticking to my ‘goal’ will be my ‘goal’. How’s that for over use? If I drift to far a field or orchard, please let me know. You are my blog target if you like fruit, fruit info, farm family history and fun stories. E-mail me questions and I will try to answer them in future blogs.

Below are my leading characters who have worked the same soil in Casco
Township, Allegan County, Michigan since 1863:

Henry Overhiser My Great Great Grand Father (1-2-1835/9-4-1917) and Sarah McKee (6-23-1837/3-4-1884) and second wife Henrietta (Fisher) Warfield
William Albert My Great Grand Father (1-11-1857/5-14-15) and Alta May Usher (1863-1891) and Daisy Galbreath (11-28-1874/1959)

William McKinley My Grand Father (12-25-1896/12-27-1969) and Edna Mildred Trowbridge (9-20-1895/12-7-1991)
Albert Wayne My Father (12-17-1916/12-2-2008) and June Pearl Evans (6-13-1917/3-3-1997)
Allan Wade My Brother (1-4-1960) and Kim Ann Myers (3-24-1960)

At the Farm April 1
Allan and Kim now operate the fruit farm. Aaron is the oldest of their five farm kids. On May 13, 1998 (Mother’s Day), Aaron was joined by Kortny, Kelsy, Adam and Alex. Yes, they are quadruplets. You now have an introduction to the people and the land that will be the focus of my ramblings. Like the lost traveler, we do not know where the next turn (blog) will take us. Thanks for hitching a ride, stay as long as you can.

Trimming apple, peach, plum, pear and sweet cherry trees is ongoing winter and spring. Sour (pie) cherries are not trimmed. The farm is now over 400 acres of owned or leased land. Allan (above lower left) guesses he has some 40,000 fruit trees growing on 250 acres. Most orchards are located on the higher ground to avoid frost. These trees must endure cold winters and possible attack by deer and mice. As the growing season progresses the buds, blossoms and fruit must ward off frost, freeze, wind and hail. God willing, this summer we will again be enjoying my brother's fresh ripe fruit.

Eat fruit today!