Youngs’ urban orchard an abundant home
Dr. Earl and Floy Young’s two-acre backyard looks out of place right in the heart of Grand Junction. And this season it’s overflowing in fruit in vegetables — a bounty that the retired dentist and his wife spread around the community partly through sales, partly by trade, or by outright gift.
For the past 41 years, Earl has been carefully tending his orchard and garden, which has reached the height of its fruition this year.
The Young’s purchased their home on North First Street in 1969 for the much haggled price of $12,000.
“We wanted an old house with some property so my daughter could have a horse,” Young said.
The house, a Victoria-era painted lady built in 1888, was badly in need of repair and updating, but that didn’t stop the Youngs from beginning to turn their house into an urban sanctuary.
He and Floy bought the parcels of land adjacent to them until they had nearly two acres of property in what would be the heart of the city.
Young began planting grass and fruit trees, hoping to grow an orchard to provide food for his family during the winter months. He planted cherries, peaches, plums, apricots and pears — 120 trees in total.
It took years for the seedlings to produce, but now after more than four decades, the trees are heavy with ripening fruit.
In the middle of the property, Young reserves a large plot of land for an annual garden.
“I always get excited and plant too much garden,” Young said laughing, while looking at the rows of corn, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, squash and potatoes, all producing in prolific abundance this summer.
The soil is rich in nutrients after years of working the soil. This year’s bumper crop of cabbage produced heads as big as basketballs.
After their children had grown and gone from the home, the Youngs began sharing vegetables and fruit with their neighbors. They sell some and often are willing to trade for canned items such as jelly or pickled beets.
“It’s just an exchange thing,” he said.
“I just like to garden,” Earl said. “I was raised on a garden farm down by the river and I learned everything about it from my dad.”
Earl donates some of his fall bounty to the Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen. “I plant over 100 tomato plants just so I’ll have enough,” he said.
The property also houses chickens and rabbits. On occasion, fresh eggs are available when the hens are doing steady business.
Young, a retired dentist who continues to donate his services to those in Third World countries, spends countless hours working on the farm. The vegetables are watered at least three times a day during July’s searing heat, plus the fruit needs to be harvested from the trees. In addition, Young plants a variety of annual flowers in beds and hanging baskets scattered on the porch and deck for Floy to enjoy.
“He’s installed a light over the garden and sometimes he’s out there until 10 o’clock at night,” Floy laughed.
“When I think of all the people he feeds with just this stretch of land, it just warms my heart,” Floy said proudly of her husband.
In all the years together though, there’s one thing that Earl and Floy haven’t gotten around to yet — giving their urban orchard a name. “I guess some people still know it as the old McFarland place,” Young said while looking at an old picture of the original farm house, which was built by the McFarland family.
“Well, it’s just been a haven of the rest for us,” Floy added. “This is just our home.”