Labor is typically in short supply around here so we have to be as efficient as we can. Years ago, on a trip to visit the cider/calvados region of France I saw a tractor mounted apricot harvester being used on apple trees. It was attached to the front-end loader. The driver drove up, hydraulically unfurled an inverted umbrella and then used hydraulic clamp to shake the trunk and drop into the funnel. I scoured the internet to find something similar that would work on a smaller scale. I found this thing (an olive harvester) for sale in Australia. 8 months later, it arrived. No hydraulics and we still use an old fashioned "panking pole" to shake the limbs but this thing sure does speed things up.
Hey, I just added a new feature to the website. On the home page to the website (www.wildingorchards.com) you'll find a link to a google map of the orchard. I'm adding photos with each year as a separate layer. I've only got a handful of photos (and one short video) up so far but I think this will be kind of a fun way to track how things are going. If you've got photos, email them to me--especially you Weeding Party folk!!
Here's a link to the map.
This should be a big season for the orchard. We're hoping for lots of growth so that the trees start to fill in their space. The Hewes Crab (pictured in full bloom) are raring to go but we're suppressing the crop for another year so that the trees put their energy into growing branch structure. Soon we'll be adding more mulch and training the branches. Drop by and say hi.
Gus and I headed out to get a preliminary view of what pruning is going to be like in the orchard this season. This will be the second season of dormant pruning. Timing is a bit tricky as pruning during a warm spell (and we've had a few) runs the risk of awakening a tree out of dormancy.
A couple of our varieties may not ripen until late October, so I'm keeping an eye on the orchard to see when heavy frost makes it up into the lowest branches. This frost didn't make it above the clover.
These are fruitlets that were developing on the Hewes Virginia Crab--moments before I removed them. Sometimes apple trees will develop fruit in their first season in the orchard, though I was surprised to see the HVC produce so much. Still, when this happens it's generally a good idea to remove it so that the tree will put more energy into growing. When will the first real crop develop? Hard to say. We planted on Bud. 118 rootstock, which is supposed to come into bearing sooner than many other rootstocks that produce a larger tree--often 4-5 years if you're growing standard dessert fruit. The scion wood that we have grafted onto the rootstock is harder to predict simply because these trees have not been grown in the U.S. in quite some time, if ever. We're hoping for 4-6 years for our first decent crop.
If you send me pictures of the planting I'll post them up here.
We did it! The trees are in the ground, well watered, growing and blooming! I can’t believe it. Sorry it took me so long to deliver this message but things are just starting to slow down…thank goodness.
It was a really tough 4 days of planting, but we actually got it done a day ahead of schedule. No one lost a digit but Dante did lose his wedding ring. There may be a new tree root growing through it as we speak.
We’ll throw a party in the orchard later this summer, but until then a huge, huge thank you to all those who helped: George; Molly; Patty and Howie; John and Sharon; Liam and Matt; Susan and Steve; Anne, Patty and Danny Casella; Sue and Bill; Denny; Bob and Tom; Dante and Christina; the Binghamton High Football Team; and, most importantly, Kate, Pete and my partner in crime, Katherine. I can't thank you all enough.
Pictures to come!