Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Apple of My Eye

When Linda and I first bought this old homestead three years ago, the old apple orchard immediately caught my attention. So covered was it with multiflora rose, bittersweet and poison ivy that we couldn't even count how many trees there were. They had grown to nearly 40 feet - far too high to harvest - and were filled with dead wood and broken branches. We called  Linda's childhood friends in western NY state for advice - people who run one of the largest orchards and cold storage facilities in the state - and they firmly advised us to cut everything down and start over. But when we unearthed the first air photos of Connecticut from 1934 and could clearly see the orchard in the image, we vowed to bring it back to life.

At first we simply removed the weeds, established a meadow understory where we grazed the sheep, and planted a handful of cherries to fill in the grid. Today we took next next major revitalization effort with the first hard pruning the orchard's had in perhaps 25 years. The trees look a bit like a scene from a horror movie but over the next several years we'll shape and sculpt them into a productive organic fruit orchard. For now, we're content to see that birds are already building nests in them and eating bugs, aiding in our pest control strategy. Our souls are also at peace with the realization that our children, and very likely their children, will walk into the back yard someday and pick fruit growing on trees planted by someone eighty years ago.

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