The Meaning of Sound To Earth
Owning and living in an orchard might seem like a stretch to those who know us as Weber Fine Acoustic Instruments, or now, Montana Lutherie. Weber Instruments were built under an umbrella called Sound To Earth, LTD. The original plan involved mandolins, but also pottery, incorporating natural things- for instance Strawberry planting pots. Well, for many years mandolins were our main thing and we enjoyed every minute of it. However recently we had the opportunity to move back to the Flathead Valley, where Bruce and I first met, and start incorporating the ‘Earth’ part back into our lives. Pottery was dropped but we took on more than strawberries!
This little orchard has an interesting history. The first 27 mile stretch of the road in front of our orchard (the East Lake Shore) wasn’t completed until 1914, and it took 32 more years to finish. This orchard was one of original Flathead commercial cherry orchards and was owned by Mitchell Ratty who settled here by 1907. The barn, on the property, is thought to have been built around 1910 by Mr. Ratty. Quite a feat with no real road! We are now renovating the old barn as our mandolin work shop and we found, along with sawdust, it was insulated with many old Saturday Evening Post magazines with the oldest dated 1917. The orchard house was built in the 1920’s. Our mando family will recognize we love this having renovated, lived, and worked at the old Montana Logan School House, built in 1923. Eventually I will write a blog post going into the history of the area a bit more for those who are interested.
The wonderful previous owners, The Kuntz Family Farm, besides great advice left us their orchard sign to add to the collection of signs posted by most of the historical owners showing the stewardship they felt toward this beautiful area. The original orchard was replanted in 1990, by Trudy Malone, after a hard freeze that killed most of the trees in the Flathead Valley.
Replanted were Lambert trees (the original Flathead black cherry), along with Rainiers. More recently, many are being replaced by the more marketable Lapin sweet cherry tree.
There is also a small apple orchard with Transparent Yellows, Gala, McIntosh and several pie cherry and Sweet Heart cherry trees, with a few peach and plum trees to round it out.
We have lots of help in managing the orchard. First, we belong at this time to the Flathead Cherry Growers Association who support its members in many common-sense, practical ways with combined years of experience. They are also a fun group of people. RKZ Enterprises, who are our neighbors, manage other processes and follow the FDA/EPA best agricultural practices including the careful use of specific pesticides, especially for the cherry fruit fly. RKZ owner, Roberto, planted this orchard after the 1990 freeze, so he knows it well. There is plenty of work left over for us, but we are very happy to have this crucial support.
As we settle in we hope to be good stewards of this small orchard. Also, we hope to contribute to the sustainability of local, Montana agriculture. Ask your local grocery stores to stock Flathead cherries every year (most are very supportive!). If you’re in the area during harvest, stop by the roadside stands and Farmers Markets, too.
Bruce and I hope to meet many of you at Sound To Earth’s Cherry Barn where we will have our cherries for sale during the harvest and eventually other orchard products for you to sample and purchase. It’s not every day you can see exactly where your food came from! Sign up below to receive updates especially as harvest begins- with a little special perk thrown in.
There are really two orchard pay offs: delicious cherries, and meeting the people who eat the cherries.