February, Time to prune the fruit treesby Linda & Rob Cordtz on 02/01/11
February is here and time to really get rolling with the pruning. We've been pruning for a week or two now and have the Apricots done and now we're in the apples. We brought on some help this last week, Karl, he's one of our regular guys. He has helped with the thinning and with the picking for a few years now, he's even worked our fruit stand here at the orchard. We hope to finish pruning the apples this next week then move on to the pears, Bartlett and Asian both. Then into the peach block, which we like to finish by March 1. To make this pruning job less work we use both hand held shears and a long reach , 5 foot, shear all are pneumatic. Using these tools is part of out plan to "work smarter not harder", also saves on the ware and tare on us pruners.
All of the cuttings are raked into windrows then ground up into small pieces with the brush hog mower, this allows the cuttings to return to the soil quickly thus putting back nutriments and organic mater the trees had used. Some of the cuttings remain as small sticks on the surface of the orchard floor and decompose more slowly, which is like a forest environment. All of this material is consumed by microbes and fungus which in turn makes the nutriments available to the trees again.
It is great fun to be outside again, although my body is out of shape after these two months off. To be so physical at our age is a challenge, that's why I'm doing yoga again. I use the Veria TV channel to help with this, I tape the show and do the class when I get time. I've gotten great results with this plan.
This year I'm not using the ladder, I'm pruning from the ground with hand shears. I find I get more done and don't wear myself out as much. Robert and Karl come behind me and reach the high branches.
We've been reading allot this winter. Our local book group is reading Jimmy Carter book, "An Hour Before Daylight". I read it the first time in 2001, and found it just as good now, Carter is the same age as my father, and it gave me an insight into what my fathers rural southern life was like. We have lost so much knowledge about living with the land in just one generation. The other things we are reading, Howard Zinn's history of the U.S. and my latest issue of the Sun magazine. My friend gave me "Radical Homemaker" last spring and Robert just finished it and loved it. He's now reading Wendall Berry's book the "Unsettling of America".
I will be for ever grateful for taking the chance on coming to live and work on the orchard. As we begin our year I remember how much there is to do, and as I work in the clean air, with Eagle Creek in the back ground. I see birds of prey, deer and elk in the valley, with the cold wind from the north. I realize how wonderful the simple things are in life, warm clothes, good simple food and a hot drink after coming in from the cold.