Friday, May 9, 2014

Rejuvenating Orchards

I went out to my Dad's place today.  He has an orchard, mostly apples.  Most of the trees are between thirty and forty years old. 

Some collective consciousness is bringing all of my siblings into a heightened awareness of the desirability of being able to grow much of our own food.

Last fall we had a "cider pressing party."  The pressmaster rejected our apples because they were undersized.  My dad asked me to manage the orchard to improve apple size.

I started today.

It looks like I have at least thirty hours of work ahead of me.

Rejuvenating Orchards

All of the apple varieties were state-of-the-art forty years ago.  They are all capable of sizing up to two-and-a-half inches if properly thinned.  The four most common cultivars are Liberty, Empire, Jonafree and Golden Delicious.

The plan is to thin out the trees.  The most labor efficient method of thinning fruit (to bump up fruit size) is remove the wood that would carry that excess fruit and/or will shade fruit bearing branches.  Based on the first twelve trees I messed with I will need to remove about half the wood on the trees to get where we need to be.  Apple trees grow a lot of wood in thirty years.

The second part of the plan is to identify the trees that "have not been paying their rent" and to graft them over to varieties that do "pay their rent."  This year's variety of choice is Spigold.  The apples are BIG.  The tree is vigorous.  The tree is naturally open so it produces little fruit that is substandard.  And the apple tastes great.  It did not make the cut as a commercial apple because it did not produce enough tonnage.

Poison Ivy

One of the complicating factors is that I have to work through poison ivy and multiflora rose.  The temperatures are high so I am wearing shorts and a tee shirt and have not protection.  I got torn up.  I was chainsawing away, sawdust cascading down my forearms and neck.  And then I noticed the vine clinging to the trunk.  It was about the thickness of the garden hose.  It was green and juicy.  It was poison ivy.  And I was taking a shower in the sawdust. 


I laid in a supply of Benadryl and Cortizone cream on the way home.  I have another 30 hours of work in that orchard and I need to be healthy,.

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