Sunday, October 6, 2013

Being an Accidental Orchardist

When we moved to this house (four years ago?) I had no idea how involved I would get with the property. Sure, I saw there was potential for farming. I saw the run-down barn and the creepy gnarled apple tree silhouettes "way out" in the old orchard.

Now I feel as though I am not only living in this beautiful little stone cottage; I am living on the land as well. From the sheep, ducks and chickens ranging, to the haphazard rotational grazing of the horses... from the miserably crowded melons in the glasshouse, to the rare strawberry breeds fighting for existence in their beds... I am part of the little bit of land that surrounds this place. I've set down some serious roots. (and doing so in a rented home is kind of nervewracking if you let yourself think about it too much!)

This home has come with lots of responsibilities and lots of work to keep up on, and it wasn't until last year that I really realized the potential for the land surrounding our cottage. Of course, last year was a miserable year for apples, and we didn't get a single one (though I did manage to get one single lonely pear, which might have cried while eating.) This year has been intensely bountiful for the apple trees and I am finally able to see just how stressed a beautiful orchard can get.

On windy days you can hear cracks coming from the orchards where branches are breaking free, tumbling dramatically to the ground and scattering apples in their wake. In this area of Michigan, apple trees are experiencing a bumper crop this year. Even the orchards with trees that have been well tended and have had fruit thinned have had to be drastically pruned to be saved.

The trees in our antique orchard are old and diseased, though not so horribly as to make their fruit inedible. This fall has really showed me that I need to step it up with these trees to keep them healthy. In fact, I need to step it up with the entire orchard. It's no coincidence that the trees where the sheep have grazed for the past few years are the healthiest in the orchard.

So I have spent the past few weeks reading and researching antique orchard restoration. This winter our trees will get severely pruned and I hope to attend a grafting class (or two) so that in the spring I can start replacing some of the dead trees. I know my new, young trees will have to grow up in an orchard with established disease and pests, but this is where I live and I intend to nurse them carefully into adolescence.

I didn't intend to become an orchardist when I moved in here, but now I think that I can't go back to seeing trees in need, seeing trees heavy with unharvested bounty... and not doing anything about it.

This is where my Accidental Orchardist idea started to emerge from my imagination (I think of my imagination as being a sort of disorganized, overstuffed filing cabinet... this idea definitely came from the "harebrained" folder).

Want to read more about my adventures as an Accidental Orchardist? Check this out here!


Post a Comment