2017-12-07 / Columns

Big winds, now and then, and 40-year-old cherry orchard

By LESLIE DISCH
Phone/fax 386-5686


THE 113-FOOT long tug Bradshaw McKee took refuge last Thursday in Suttons Bay. THE 113-FOOT long tug Bradshaw McKee took refuge last Thursday in Suttons Bay. Some of you may have been hearing large equipment noises emanating from the top of Omena Heights this past week. KAL is up there pulling out the oldest block of tart cherry trees.

The “Jenny” block was planted in 1977 by Rink Smith, Bob Mosher, Tom and Mary Smith, with a little help on a few days from Les and Debby Disch who were here from Cincinnati for Easter. The block was named after Rink’s daughter Jenny, who was born just two months later. It was a real Michigan spring that year, with snow on the ground the first day and everyone down to short sleeves and sunburned two days later.

Forty is old for cherry trees under any circumstances, and this block was badly damaged by the huge snowstorm in March 2012. That year, as many readers will remember, 22 inches of wet, heavy snow fell in a matter of hours. Because it was so wet, it piled up on tree branches, often well over a foot deep on every branch. The weight brought down limbs and whole trees around the area. Rink Smith was out in the wee hours of that morning clearing trees off Point Road and from neighbors’ driveways until falling trees made it too dangerous to be out in the dark. At daybreak, he and several others, including Bruce Balas, were at it again. Later that day when the Leelanau Township Fire Dept came to clear the road, there were still over 50 trees or large limbs blocking the way.


WITH THE breathtaking snow-capped Andes Mountains as a backdrop, Roberta and Allan Cohen enjoy a day visiting wineries in Mendoza, Argentina on her birthday trip. WITH THE breathtaking snow-capped Andes Mountains as a backdrop, Roberta and Allan Cohen enjoy a day visiting wineries in Mendoza, Argentina on her birthday trip. The trees on Omena Heights broke power lines in three places across the road in that March storm and we were trapped on top of the hill for five days with no power, ergo no heat or running water.

But back to the cherry trees. Many, many of the older trees around the county also broke from the weight of the snow. It was a huge job cleaning up downed and broken trees. Jim Miller, Dennis Armbruster, Cory Kesler, and Terry Sadler helped Bob Mosher over a period of several weeks.

In the years since 2012, many trees that were damaged have died. The block will likely be replanted with something other than tart cherries. The recent introduction of the invasive fruit fly, the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), has made cherries more challenging, especially in a wooded area like the Omena Heights Smith Orchards. As the MSUExtension and others learn more about SWD, it appears that woods may harbor the pest.

So what used to be one of the prime locations for cherries is now questionable, at least until the industry develops effective ways of dealing with it.

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Roberta and Allan Cohen are back in the States from their amazing two week birthday celebration trip to South America. Roberta had a major birthday in November and Allan planned the trip to celebrate it, down to the smallest detail. They visited Buenos Aires, Argentina; Colonia and Montevideo, Uruguay; the Malbec wineries in Mendoza, Argentina; Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile; and capping off the trip at Astrid and Gaston’s world famous restaurant in Lima, Peru for a 17-course tasting menu on her actual birthday!

According to Roberta, “It was the most marvelous birthday I ever had and having it south of the equator made it incredibly special for me!” Allan explains that you enjoy a trip three times: “when you plan it; when you go on it; and when you remember it.”

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The wind blew mercilessly on Omena Heights, as it did all around the area, this past Monday night and Tuesday. All of the structures on the hill are open to the winds. It didn’t howl as much as continuously pound the structures and trees, and everything else. It seemed to find every crevice in the house to enter, and I don’t think I’ve heard the house creak and groan that much before. It was impossible to sleep, if not from the noise, then from the worry that it produced. And sure enough, by morning a tree had knocked a power line down on the Omena Heights Road and the power was out. If weather forecasts are right, the wind will continue to be brutal, bringing in our first real taste of winter. Old Man Winter seems to be arriving like the proverbial March lion.

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Debby made it 70 years without breaking a bone, but the dangerous pursuit of getting Christmas decorations out of the basement ended her clean record. She slipped and landed on her right hand, fracturing and dislocating the pinky finger. She is left-handed, so it could be worse (so says I). Jim Browning wonderfully sacrificed that last beautiful day on Saturday to spend the afternoon taking her to the ER. She has a visit to a hand specialist coming up.

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I guess this week could almost have been called “The News from Omena Heights.” I don’t know what’s going on with the minions from the lowlands, but they clearly didn’t send in much news this week!

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This Tuesday is the Holiday Omena Potluck at 6 p.m. at the Omena Community Room in the fire hall. Bring a dish to pass and enjoy some holiday cheer with friends and neighbors. Ralph and Nancy Kalchik are the hosts this month.

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The Leelanau Holiday Needs program would welcome donations of new items for tweens, teens and adults. Warm shirts, socks, coats, etc., would be greatly appreciated. Items can be dropped off at Leelanau Computer Repair inside Radio Shack. The Distribution of items will occur on Wednesday, Dec. 20, and set up is set for the afternoon before at the VFW Hall.

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The annual NCAC Christmas Concert is set for Sunday at 2 p.m. at the NCAC Auditorium. It’s a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit.

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Wednesday, Dec. 20, is the date of the Northport Public School Holiday Concert at 7 p.m. in the Northport auditorium.

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And Thursday, Dec. 21, will bring a Winter Solstice Party at the Village Arts Building.

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Happy Birthday to Alice Littlefield, Tess Edgley, and Denise Sica. Happy Fifth anniversary to Benjamin and Suzanne Cherry.

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