September – Fruits of our Labor (Part I)

When we bought this farm it was an overgrown mess.  Parts of it still are, but we’ve made tremendous progress – especially clearing out the land around the house.  As we clear away vines, dead trees and brambles, the last thing we want to do is plant more stuff – only to start the cycle again.  So we’ve decided to only plant things that have a purpose and produce something for us to use.

I’ve wanted to get an orchard started, but even with five acres, our space is limited.  The first problem is that the front meadow which has sunlight, is too wet and boggy from the stream that runs through it.  The second problem is that the side yard has several large black walnut trees, and black walnut trees produce a chemical that isn’t compatible with trees with seeds (like apples and pears).  The third problem is that the horses now occupy the sunny, black walnut-free hillside behind the house.  Figuring out where to plant an orchard has been challenging.

Getting the trees has also been a challenge.  In the spring we went on the website for the Adams County nursery and every tree we wanted was already sold out.  The website said check back in July.  I guess they meant it, because by the time I remembered to check back in August – many of the varieties we wanted were sold out again and the ones we did try to order went into some website abyss and the order was never received.

So, at a Mud Sale in Bareville we happened upon some apple trees up for auction.  I’m not very confident with auctions yet.  I’m never sure whether it’s my turn to bid again or even what the price is up to – but I gave it a shot and got three dwarf apple trees (a Gala, a Granny Smith and a Jonagold) – for $28 each – a good price since the ones we tried to order on-line were $30 each.

I must admit, the pick-up truck came in handy.  Bringing home three trees was no problem – but planting them – that WAS a problem.  There is a sunny stretch of land behind the house and adjacent to our patio.  I envision sitting on the patio, in the shade of an apple tree and reaching out to pick a beautiful ripe and juicy apple – in a couple of years.  But the dirt was impenetrable.  My daughter offered to bring over her post-hole auger and her friend Luis.  It took Chris and Luis an hour per hole – manhandling the auger through cement-hard dirt studded with rocks.

Once the trees were in, Chris wrestled with a roll of wire fencing and made nice cages for the trees — after all that work getting them planted, we didn’t want to find them chewed to the quick by the deer.

Finally, our apple trees are in place and I can’t wait to make an apple pie.

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The truck came in handy at the mud sale — the trees are loaded.
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The ground was so hard, we thought maybe turning it to mud would help with the digging, but it didn’t.
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The auger and Luis are what helped Chris to dig the holes.
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It was an all day project by the time we wrapped the trees in wire fencing to keep the deer away.
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And now our three apple trees just need to grow — and give us apples!

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