Arborist John Huddleston demonstrates how to prune an apple tree on Saturday.  Photo by Halie Johnson
Arborist John Huddleston demonstrates how to prune an apple tree on Saturday.
Photo by Halie Johnson

Idyllwild’s fruit trees will be better cultivated starting this year with the help of a group of residents concerned with improving local food security.

The project sprung from weekly “This is This” conversations, which have focused lately on moving Idyllwild toward becoming a Transition Town.

Transition Towns are part of a network of communities that are self-organized “around the Transition model, creating initiatives that rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions,” according to the founders.

The Idyllwild group has been meeting since August 2011. Its vision is to cultivate “a well informed, engaged community; an irresistible spirit of collaboration; energy independence; real wealth”; a “water-wise” community, “an abundance of alternative transportation; and overflowing generosity.”

Mark Yardas and Mara Schoner explained that the conversations have focused lately on improving food security through horticulture. The fact that many fruit trees grow well on the Hill was discussed and an “Orchard Project” was born.

Tricia Pilkington has taken on organizing the project, but realized along the way that Idyllwild already has many fruit trees growing. She and the group decided that instead of planting more trees, they should identify those already growing and better care for them to make them more productive.

Last Tuesday, Jan. 21, landscape artist David Reid-Marr and arborist Deborah Geisinger spoke to the group about winter pruning at the Idyllwild Library.

The community was then invited to a pruning demonstration on Saturday, Jan. 25, at Pilkington’s home.

Santa Barbara arborist John Huddleston, an Idyllwild native, showed his method for pruning an apple tree for about 12 people in attendance. Huddleston offered a second demonstration at Rick Barker’s house the same day.

Huddleston has been working for Bartlett Tree Experts for several years but got his start in tree care 14 years ago in Idyllwild. He said he plans to return to the Hill full time in the near future to help tackle what he believes to be the biggest threat to Southern California’s forests: the Goldspotted oak borer.

The next Idyllwild Conversations meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Idyllwild Library, and will focus on the Idyllwild Orchard Project.

Topics will include the ongoing fruit-tree pruning demonstrations and strategies for creating a map of every fruit tree in Idyllwild to delineate the town’s micro-ecosystems. The public is welcome.

Time-lapse video of Huddleston's demonstration