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“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. 
Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.” 
-Goethe

Cape Cod is bracing for another brutal winter or so it seems to me, a misplaced Californian, who still hasn't gotten completely comfortable with the absence of palm trees in my adopted New England home.  It's bleak out there today, a raw wind skates off the waters of Buzzards Bay and the pale yellow rays from a wounded sun seemed to be scolding me during a brief foray out into my backyard orchard. There isn't much for an orchardist to do this time of year, all the fruit has been harvested, all the leaves have fallen and the trees are tucked in beneath their neatly placed blankets of mulch.  Most of the outdoor work of the season is done now and my Carhartt snowsuit is reserved for the occasional wood splitting session.  

I thought that sharing some of what I've learned about raising fruit trees with you might be both a good way to pass the time.  What you'll find below is a year in the life of an orchard, delivered in the form a my orchardist's journal complemented with parenthetical notes to round out the commentary and provide the benefit of hindsight.  I'm also taking advantage of our unique medium to link up some ancillary writeups on specific subjects of interest.  

This is sort of an experiment, like one of those weird Reality Shows only for nerds.  So we'll see how it works.  Managing my little orchard has been an interesting journey and if I can impart some of the pleasure and excitement I've experienced to you I'll call this a success. 

Oh yeah, it's kinda long so you might want to read it in bite sized bits.

Background

 I've always believed that everyone should grow a little food.  Maybe it's a throwback to my formative years as a junior member of a hippie commune where everyone was expected to find something that they were good at and pursue it with a vengeance.  My two most readily applicable life skills at that point were Volkswagen repair and vegetable farming. I was fortunate in that the places I lived and worked had need of both these aptitudes so, despite being young and broke and socially awkward, I was accepted into the bosom of a community outside my family for the first time. Looking back now, I can see that this was a major life lesson:  'Be Useful!'

In any event, though I wish I could say that I learned from masters, in fact, most of my new farmer friends were neophytes like me and we sort of figured it out as we went.  We weren't alone in this as it turns out.  Across the country young people were being drawn into the notion of going back to the land and getting their hands dirty, playing a role in sustaining their own lives.  It turns out that living off the land is a pretty tough assignment when you get right down to it.  Human nature being what it is, we had lots of volunteers for the medicinal herb garden but relatively few who wanted to spend their days weeding the tomato patch, or *gasp* executing the thieving raccoons in our corn rows.  We ended up with plenty of smoke but, at least for me, a permanent visceral distaste for Lima Beans, our most prodigious crop.  More than a few of us were busted sneaking down to Mountain View for a cheeseburger and a cold beer.

In the end, time and restlessness took their toll and we all drifted back onto our true life's path.  For me that led to a career combining computers and oceanography which took me around the world many times over.  Whenever and wherever I settled I always ended up creating a garden and growing some food, in fact it's a standing joke in my family that once I got my garden all setup and working, something always seemed to come up that resulted in a relocation.  I've left gardens behind in three or four states now, come to think of it, I left one of my finest efforts behind in California when we moved to Cape Cod.  

Perhaps it was in the hope of cheating the curse of abandoned gardens, that I decided to try a different tack this time around.  We were fortunate enough to buy a fairly large property this time and I thought I'd try something new: a fruit tree orchard. So it was that back in the Spring of 2002 that a friend and I scraped the bull briar and poison ivy from a sloped corner of my property and planted a dozen or so dwarf fruit trees: apples, cherries, apricot, peach, plum and pear.  Since that time I've learned that much of what I thought I knew was wrong and at least some of the rest was irrelevant.  

My life as an orchardist has had many hard lessons, some embarrassing goofs and a few precious successes and insights.  I've put countless hours into the project, but it has rarely felt like work.  The orchard is where I go when I can't stand to look at a keyboard any longer, and there's no surf, and the fish aren't biting.  My trees are like the best kind of pet, always happy to see you, but unaffected by being ignored when you're busy.  It always makes me happy to be out among them.

Team Roster

It may seem obvious but one of the most important tasks in the orchard is to periodically make the time to take a good long look at each and every tree.  It's sort of a cross between David Packard's "MBWA" philosophy and a Marcus Welby house call. Let's wrap this up with an introduction to the orchard by making the rounds and considering the stars of the show, the trees as they stood in February of 2007.

#1 Sweet Cherry: Planted in 2002 in the Southeast corner of the orchard next to the stairway, grievously wounded by the dreaded and mysterious Cherry Sap Vampires in the Summer of 2007. Time will tell if this old friend will life to see another harvest.  The harvest time for cherries is late June.

#2 Sweet Cherry: Planted 2006 as a replacement for the anemic Apricot that succumbed to a late frost and never came back. This tree apparently liked its new home and is almost the same size as #1.

#3 Keiffer Pear: Planted 2002 along the Southern edge of the orchard, this tree has grown prodigiously but up until 2007 only offered up a single pear which was tragically stolen the night before harvest by a morally bankruptcy raccoon. Pears are one of the last fruits to be harvested, generally maturing in mid October.

#4 Blue Ribbon Plum: Planted 2002 along the Southern edge of the orchard.  Another healthy specimen that has yet to offer up much in the way of a harvest.  In 2007 we got one large, perfect and very tasty plum, hopefully a foreshadowing of great things to come.  Plums are harvested in early September.

#5 Peach: Planted 2002, this has been one of the happiest trees in the orchard.  It's tucked down low along the Southern border surrounded by some gnarly Cape Cod jungle briar, so it doesn't get much sun.  For some reason this little tree seems to thrive on that setup.  Peaches are one of the treats of mid summer with a July harvest.

#6 Jonathan Apple: A great little tree that produces an abundant harvest year after year.  I got carried away one year when it was still small and used netting to keep the birds at bay.  As a result, the young branches were permanently bent horizonal like a wind blown Japanese woodcut.  It actually makes the tree much easier to manage for pruning, and picking and Jonathan doesn't seem to mind. Planted 2002.

#7 & 8 Royal Gala Apples:  Both of these trees were planted in 2002 and appeared to thrive in their new home.  They occupied some prime turf in the orchard, mid slope in an area of full sun exposure.  They both produced good crops of tasty pear-like apples beginning in their fourth season, then #8 started to weaken and finally gave up the ghost in the summer of 2007. Gala Apples are among the first to harvest in late August or early September.

#9 Red Delicious Apple: A stout little tree that hasn't missed a beat since being planted in 2002. Red Delicious isn't my favorite snacking apple, but they make great pies.  Planted 2002. Harvest is late September. 

#10 & 11 Arkansas Black Apple: Planted 2002. An heirloom apple that I grew to love on Palomar Mountain.  The Arkansas Black trees on Palomar were brought to California from Kentucky by the Theo Bailey family in 1865. The twins, as I think of them, seem to like Cape Cod as well occupying some prime full sun orchard real estate.  They are the largest and most robust trees in the orchard, but thus far have only produced a handful of fruit.  Hope springs eternal.

#12 Earli Red Delicious Apple: Planted 2002. This is a variety of red delicious from Stark Brothers Nursery that has been specially bred for an early harvest, early August.  As a bonus, they also seem, to me at least, to be better tasting than the classic version.  This tree has always been small and slightly anemic but every year it has produced a prodigious crop of yummy fruit.

#13 Golden Delicious Apple: Planted 2002. One of the orchard stars! This medium sized tree has produced giant wonderfully succulent fruit every year.  Last year it showed signs of attack by the apple death bug, as you'll read below, so we're on watch for symptoms of weakness.

#14 Red Rome Apple:  Deceased.  This stout little tree produced a single huge and perfect apple in 2002, the same year it was planted, then a few more in the next two years.  By the summer of 2005 it had visibly weakened, and after delivering one last crop it gave up the ghost.  The first of several to succumb to an unknown tree killer. RIP.  

# 15, 16 & 17: Almond and Chestnut trees:  Nut trees are a whole different ballgame than fruit.  They can take many years to produce their first crop and in the meantime, there isn't really much to talk about.  These were all planted in 2002 and appear to be growing happily. The nut harvest is late September.

#18 Lodi Apple:  Planted in the Fall of 2007, this little fellow was added to the team to round out the harvest schedule.  Lodi is one of the first apples to ripen in late July.  If you look at the harvest dates as a whole, you may notice that the trees have been selected so that something is ready to pick from late June through the end of October.  This is by design and it keep fresh fruit on our table all summer long. So far the newcomer seems happy here and we're expecting the first crop in 2008.

#19 & 20: Thornless Blackberries, Chester and Triple Crown respectively.  Planted in the Fall of 2007, more as an experiment than anything.  The indigenous Blackberries of Cape Cod are monster plants that grow like bamboo and have deadly thorns.  More of a predator than a fruit.  I thought I'd try a couple of more domesticated varieties to see how they did.

The Journal: A year in the life of fruit

24 November 2007: Supplies order for next season:

- Japanese Fruit Bags, Nylon Footies, Tanglefoot, Permethrin, Start Tree Pep, new pruning shears, 5 cu/yd woodchips, 1/3 cu/yd compost, 

14 February 2008: While splitting some oak firewood today, noticed a fat white grub just under the bark.  They look like the worms in that cheezy monster flick, Tremors, with a wide head, bulbous Michelin Man body that narrows to a small rounded tail.  About 20 - 25 cm long.  They appear to be pervasive in the downed wood around the orchard.  A possible cause of last summers loss of the Gala? A first look at the Virginia Tech indicated Prionus Borer, but this needs more investigation!

18 February 2008: Bummer. They aren't Prionus Borer, too small.  Most likely Round Headed Appletree Borer, a nasty little beetle that deposits its eggs in the bark of fruit trees.  The larva develop into the grubs, which eat their way around girdling the tree.  They make a pencil-sized hole in the outer bark on exit...just like the ones I saw on the Rome Apple and the Gala!  Damnit, this bug must die!!! 

- Taped in the Journal is a grisly artifact, the black and moldy corpus of a long dead borer grub, mummified for eternity in a vacuum-sealed postage stamp bag. 

TFFG: "This pest can become a serious problem in neglected or backyard apple trees..." Duh@! Not much guidance on management, "An insecticide can be applied..."

Experimenting with the batch of grubs I've collected to see what works:

- Full strength Permethrin 2.5% as a liquid = definite kill.  Whew! At least I know something will kill them.

- .32% Perm as a heavy fogging, killed small larva immediately, killed adults after 24 hours.  

Inspected all trees: Golden Del Apple has an obvious borer hole at the graft line. Pencil sized, punky wood inside Ack!  Explored inside the hole with a wire and found several tunnels, apparently up to 5" in length. Poked aggressively to try and skewer the little fiends.  Used a straw to force 2.5% Perm into all tunnels.

Same treatment to a smaller hole in #11 Black, couldn't tell if it were really a borer hole or not.

Wish I'd caught this in time to save the Rome and Gala.  I bet this was also the Cherry Sap Vampire too.  Apparently the beetles "Sting" the bark when they're injecting their eggs and Cherry trees are total bleeders.

Damn.  

23 March 2008: Time for the first dormant oil spray.  They're predicting a very heavy Winter Moth and Tent Caterpillar infestation again this year.  

Air temp: 45 degrees, lite SSW wind, 5oz / 2 gallon batches.  Five gallons total for a heavy dripping spray.

- About sprays:  I'm not a purist by any means, but I try to make careful selections of useful chemistry for the orchard and keep it all to a bare minimum.  The general philosophy is called Integrated Pest Management and it implies highly targeted applications of the least harmful product at exactly the right time.  This is considered a major change from the rigid annual schedules of broad based pesticides used in many commercial orchards.  When the health of my trees is endangered however all bets are off. See the individual writeups for details about the chemical arsenal I use.

9 April 2008: Dormant Oil Spray second application

Air temp: 62 degrees, no wind, 5oz / 2 gallon batches.  Four gallons total for a heavy dripping spray.

18 April 2008: First Permethrin fogging, heavy dose full strength.

Air temp: 68 degrees, NNE 3 wind, 16oz 2.5% by fogger on all trees and surrounds.  Special attention to every lower trunk and bud graft.

- The aerosol fogger is a wonderful orchard tool that lets you quickly and efficiently apply a spray to the orchard.  By atomizing the spray into a microscopic fog, you can use a fraction of the amount of chemical normally required while achieving an effective coverage.  Permethrin in a synthetic form of the naturally occurring Pyrethrin found in the Chrysanthemums and Dasies.   Permethrin is  fast acting, has a fairly short persistence, and low toxicity.

First buds appearing on most trees.

Some thin grey beetles sighted and captured, poss. Apple Borers.  

- Insert another vacusealed mummy bug taped to the page.

- "Round Headed Apple Borer: Saperda Candida Fabr. The Adults are active from ~ April to petal fall in June"

Perm appears to kill them.  The beetles I've found look more like Prionus Borers than RAB...

24 April 2008: Set out red sticky traps today for early Apple Maggot Flies.  After last year's success, I've substituted store-bought apples for most of the plastic globes.  They seem to work as well or better, are much less expensive and compost well. Also sealed all large pruning cuts with Tanglefoot glop.

- Sticky traps are used both to monitor for the presence of a particular pest, like the Apple Maggot, and as a quick and dirty, very dirty, fly trap that helps to control them.  The original "patent pending" red ball traps are these clunky and expensive plastic Christmastree ornaments that you smear with a gloopity glop muck and hang in your orchard.  Woe to the sorry man or beast, or even pest, who chances to touch one though because the secret sauce, Tanglefoot, is pretty much the most tenaciously sticky, greasy, nasty and persistent stuff on the planet.  I've gotten some on a favorite hoodie and after seven times through the laundry it's still sticky!  Awesome.  So, my innovation was simply to replace the silly balls with cheap grocery store apples and a simple wire hanger.  Takes ten seconds to make, costs a buck a trap to make and even composts fine when you're done with it.  Classic.

13 May 2008: Good blossom set on all trees.  Petal drop is finished on Peach and almost done on the Pear, Plum.  Sweet Cherry # 1 doesn't look like it's going to make it.  Some small buds, but no leaves yet and withering branches from the tips in.  Very sad.  A victim of the Cherry Sap Vampires, AKA  Round Headed Appletree Borer.

Lots of bugs in the sticky traps already but no sign of the Apple Maggot Fly yet.  Past years efforts paying off?

Rough pruning of all trees for sucker sprouts, crossed branches, vertical wood and broken or damaged branches.  Both Blacks need Vase shaping next Fall.

Spring feeding 17 TBS Start Tree Pep into the drip system, 3 runs @1.5 hours

- Drip system irrigation was invented by the Israelis to make the most of limited water resources in a dry climate.  It makes sense everywhere, and it's not that hard to set up.  My drip system has an inexpensive liquid fertilizer injector that allows you to feed all the trees at once.  For $50 bucks worth of parts you get perfect delivery of an organic fertilizer right to the root system of all your trees.  No brainer.

26 May 2008: Caterpillars spotted on some Apple branches & young leaves.  Apply BT to all trees.

Air temp: 67 degrees, no wind, 5oz / 2 gallon batches.  Four gallons total for a heavy dripping spray.

- Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that has the ability to control many insects including most caterpillars. It's one of the 'wonder drugs' available to the organic orchardist. Plus it's fun to think of giving these nasty bugs the flu. Mwahahahah!

27 May 2008: Some signs of aphids & powdery mildew.  Perm Fog application.

Air temp: 65 degrees, NNE 12 wind, 0.16% by fogger.  Too windy, used sparingly on Plum and Black apple only.

- Per the Integrated Pest Management best practices, Permethrin is applied every 7-10 days from late May to the end of July for ongoing control of the dreaded Apple Maggot Fly.  In Washington state, this is mandated by law because untreated orchards have caused infestations to spread over large areas.  I've battled the Apple Maggot since day one and am finally (fingers crossed) winning the war.

9 June 2008: Beautiful apple blossoms this year, as though the trees were as happy as I am to see the return of Summer!

Very heavy fruit set on all the apple trees this year.  Hundreds of gumball-sized green fruit are already weighing down the branches.  Major fruit pruning in progress.

- It seems counterproductive, but the best way to assure a good fruit harvest is to cut most of it off!  A properly pruned apple tree should have one apple every 4 - 6 inches along the branch.  Any more than that and none of them will reach full size or flavor.  Worse yet, if you don't prune the fruit one year, you won't get much of a harvest the next year.  It's as though the tree only has so much energy and it wears itself out if you don't help.  

Fruit pruning of course is relatively easy of course compared to the architectural pruning that shapes each tree and helps keep it healthy and vigorous.  A well pruned tree is a happy tree! Efficient, and elegant fruit tree pruning is almost an art form, and people spend a lifetime getting the hang of it.  Think Bonsai writ large.

Perm fog application as inoculation against the Maggot fly.  Several more beetles spotted in the sticky traps. No sign of caterpillar damage on the fruit trees even though the surrounding oaks are getting mauled.  Yea for BT!  

Big Whoop in the local news about the return of the 17 Year Cicadas.  Brood XIV, as it has been named has begun to emerge to the south of us and in nearby Mashpee.  You can wrap very small trees in a fine mesh, but the big ones just have to stand there and take it.  Elwood says the woods around his house are full of the little screechy critters but so far I haven't seen a single one here.  I tried to net the Cherry tree but it just looks silly and I can't believe that it will help if / when the locusts descend.

Air temp: 72 degrees, SW 3 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and surrounds.  Special attention to every lower trunk and bud graft.

14 June 2008: The cicadas are at their peak on the Cape, but so far we haven't seen any here in Falmouth.  Apparently they don't tend to travel much once they emerge, so perhaps we'll escape.  

- One of the strangest life cycles of all, Cicadas lay dormant underground for 16 years at a time.  They wake up in the early Spring, while the ground is still soggy and soft, and dig a tunnel up to the surface, then crawl back down and sleep for another month.  When the ground warms up in June, they emerge in mass, have a good satisfying screw with every other cicada they meet, bite holes in all the defenseless trees around them while laying their eggs, then roll over and die.  The babies grow up a bit, dig their little bombshelter tunnels and settle in for the Big Sleep.  They don't have any natural predators because by the time they emerge everyone has pretty much forgotten they even exist.  A wonder of nature.

Smallish black flies with an iridescent body spotted on the Black Apple leaves. They appeared to be in groups and seemed lethargic, maybe adolescents?  What new horror is this?

Air temp: 72 degrees, SW 3 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and surrounds.  Special attention to the areas where the black flies were seen.  Didn't see any more of them after that...

Bagging as much fruit as possible this year with a controlled test of Japanese Fruit Bags versus Nylon Footies.  After reading several interesting reviews of this new technique I decided to give it a head to head test.  I have about 400 of the Japanese bags on hand, half of them used but usable, and I bought 250 of the footies.  Seems like enough.

So far we've done about half the trees, each one having about a third each of Bag, Footie and uncovered.  Should be an interesting science fair project.

- This is way too big a subject to do justice to here....suffice it to say that I'm a devotee of a Japanese orchard technique that uses a specially designed bag to cover each individual fruit.  The bags are folded onto the tiny fruit with a little origami twist and the little apple or pear or whatever, grows inside the bag, protected from, well, most everything.  At harvest the apples are little Snow White albino apples, so you unbag them for a few days until they take on a sweet little rose blush, like a sunburn on a virgin's buttock!  

The Blackberries are in flower & the new canes are about 3 feet tall already.

- Blackberries, like other brambles bear fruit on the previous year's canes.  So every year, you harvest from the old canes then cut them off.  The new canes go dormant over the winter then flower and bloom in late summer.  My thornless blackberries seem just as happy here as their free-range siblings. 

21 June 2008: Orchard Survey

#1 Cherry:  RIP. Never produced a single leaf.  Victim of the Cherry Sap Vampires.
#2 Cherry: Healthy leaves and branches, good flowering and a handful of tasty fruit that never even made it into the house. 5" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#3 Pear: Healthy leaves and branches, good flowering and a dozen or so small fruit. 9" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#4 Plum: Healthy L&B, good flowering and fruit set but they all fell off in the last 2 weeks. 8" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#5 Peach: Healthy L&B, good flowering and enormous fruit set. About 100 peaches  left after heavy pruning.  6" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#6 Jon Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and huge fruit set. About 125 apples left after heavy pruning.  7" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#7 Gala Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and huge fruit set. About 150 apples left after heavy pruning.  9" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#9 Delicious Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and modest fruit set. About 30 apples left after heavy pruning.  10" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#10 & 11 Black Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and moderate fruit set. About 50 apples left after pruning.  14" & 11" diam trunks @ 12" above ground. Some powdery mildew.
#12 Earli Red Apple: Moderate leaves & branching. Lacks vigor overall. Leaves are olive green. Amazing fruit set,  115 apples left after heavy pruning.  7" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#13 Golden Apple: Healthy L&B, good flowering and huge fruit set. About 220 apples left after heavy pruning. Borer hole poked and packed with poison. 11" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
#18 Lodi Apple: Healthy despite bark damage by some animal, coon? Good leaves & branches, 6 apples total.   3" diam trunk @ 12" above ground.
19 & 20 Blackberries: Wow!  Last year's canes are loaded with fruit.  Unless the birds or bugs get them we're going to have blackberries coming our of our ears!

All fruit bagging is done.  I didn't have bags enough by half, so all trees are approximately 33% each Bagged, Footie and Uncovered.  They say you can just toss the footies into the wash at the end of the season and use them again next year.  I'll believe that when I see it, the force of constant all day sunshine is incredibly powerful.  

2 July 2008: Perm fog application as inoculation against the Maggot fly.  None found in the tanglefoot traps.

Air temp: 78 degrees, SW 3 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and surrounds.   

Like most growing things, fruit trees live on a timescale that is simultaneously too slow to watch and yet surprisingly rapid taken in the aggregate.  The orchard can get away from you pretty easily if you let it, accumulating modest tasks like weeding or pruning relentlessly until they become unmanageable Sisyphean mountains.  

10 July 2008: First signs of Sooty Blotch on the uncovered Royal Gala Apples.  Apparently it's a fungus that is fairly common in orchards, and is exacerbated by...." close proximity to Blackberries!" Classic, I've brought this new blight down on myself.  I've been pruning out the really badly infected fruit.  It looks like only the skin is affected, the meat inside looks and tastes normal.

11 July 2008:  Perm fog application.

Air temp: 85 degrees, no wind, 0.48% by fogger on all trees and surrounds.  

24 July 2008: Perm fog application.

Air temp: 78 degrees, SW 2 wind, 0.32% by fogger on all trees and surrounds.  

Squirrels or raccoons raided the Peach tree and took every single peach!  I'm too astonished to even be pissed off!  In fact I'm a little in awe of their persistence and....appetite.  Those pinche chingada pendejos must have have gotten over a hundred huge, perfect, and juicy peaches.  They even struck at the absolute pinnacle of ripeness too.  The fricken Great Peach Heist of 2008! Bastardos! 

Harvested two smallish sour apples from the Lodi who looks just plain exhausted from the effort.  That bark wound practically girdled the tree and I can't see how it has survived this long.  Live from Death Row.

8 August 2008: Big fruit losses on many trees from the tree squirrels.  They've been grabbing all the low hanging fruit, snarfing down a couple of ugly bites and then leaving the rest to rot.  They seem to favor the Gala tree because it's almost harvest time.  

This year I've got my Homeland Security-approved undocumented rodent management plan in place.  I've been catching them two or so a day and forcibly deporting the little monsters down to Little Island in West Falmouth.  Just for fun, I paint their toenails with a blast of dayglo paint, so I can tell if anybody every finds their way back here.  Illegal Aliens!

Brix Measurements: Blackberries: 7.0%, Gala 8.5%, Early Red 8.5%

- Brix is a historically interesting technique for establishing the sugar content in fruit juice & wine.  Most people now measure it using a handheld refractometer.  You basically put a drop of juice on the surface of a little glass prism and measure it against a calibrated index.  The brix number is useful for several orchard tasks, but it's most handy for monitoring the proper harvest time for each tree.  

17 August 2008: Harvested the first Blackberries today.  About a gallon of large perfect fruit, mostly from the the Triple Crown bush, #20. Brix 9.0 - 10.0%.  The largest berries were about 25cm in diameter.  I didn't even make a dent in the total yield, think I'll let them ripen a bit more before the next pick.  Blackberry pie!

23 August 2008: Harvest Earli Red Delicious, #12. 30 apples, avg. 9.5" in circumference, 10 lbs total. Estimated 30-40% harvest loss to the tree squirrels, way worse than last year.

All of the uncovered apples and all of the Footie covered apples were covered completely in Sooty Blotch & Flyspeck.  All of the bagged apples were uninfected.  Just one datapoint, but it don't look good for Footies.

27 August 2008: Brix measurements  Gala: 10.5%,  Jonathan: 11%

28 August 2008: Brix measurements  Red Del: 10.5%,  Jonathan: 12.25%, Golden Del: 10%, Gala: 10

Another two gallons of Blackberries harvested.  I gave a big bowl to Augie, my barber and he acted like I handed him a bag of gold!  

11 September 2008: Take a minute to sit quietly in the orchard and remember 9/11.  Never Forget!

15 September 2008: Gala Apple #7 Harvest. 14 pounds, about 40 apples, 10" circ. Brix final 11.5%  Est. 10% loss to undocumented rodents. All of the uncovered apples and all of the Footie covered apples were covered completely in Sooty Blotch & Flyspeck.  All of the bagged apples were uninfected.  Two datapoints, and it still don't look good for Footies.  I found that even a light scrub with the rough side of a scotch dish sponge and all the the blotch and flyspeck discoloration comes right off.  Too much work to do them all, especially when most are being peeled for Apple Chips, but nice if you just want to snack on one.

Brix Meas.  Jonathan: 12%, Black: 11%, Red Del: 12%, Golden: 10.5%

19 September 2008: Last of the Blackberries and all veggies harvested.  Warm in the day, cool at night.  I love Indian Summer.  Jonathan 12% 

21 September 2008: Harvest Jonathan Apple#6 . 25 pounds, 100+ apples, 9.25" circ. 12% Brix.  Speck and Blotch on unbagged apples.

25 September 2008: Brix measurements. Golden 10.5%, Black: 10%, Pears: 14% Brix !!!

1 October 2008: Harvest Red Delicious #9. 15 pounds, 25 apples, 10.25" circ. Blotch & soot on unbagged apples. 

11 October 2008: Harvest Pears#3: 12 huge pears. 10 pounds, 12" circ. 14% brix.  Sublime!

Harvest Golden Delicious #13: 75 apples, 20 pounds, 10.25" circ, 10% Brix, Soot & Blotch on unbagged fruit.

Fall feeding 17 TBS Start Tree Pep into the drip system, 3 runs @1.5 hours

12 October 2008: Unbagged all the Black Arkansas apples and the contrast between bagged and unbagged is shocking.  There's a reason they call them Black Arkansas!  The skin of these apples is the most beautiful deep dark red, like hundred year old Cabernet Wine, or blood on a day old battlefield.  Something ancient and deep.  The bagged apples remind me of veal calfs, innocent of the world's evil and ripe for the plucking by some ravenous fruit eater...

20 October 2008: Harvest the Black Arkansas apples, #10 & #11. 22 pounds, 80 apples, 9.25" circ., 12% Brix. Speck and Blotch on unbagged apples.

 

Whew, that's my story and I'm stickin to it. I hope I've entertained you at least a little.  The drama of the orchard is lost on some and overwhelms others with a deep longing.  If you fall into the second category and need a little encouragement to get your hands dirty, drop me a line.  I'm not nearly as grouchy and they say.... at least to fellow orchardists.

 

===================&===================

1  Stark Brothers Nursery: A reliable and friendly source for healthy trees and some orchard products. www.starkbros.com
2  Tree Fruit Field Guide: The compact Bible for New England orchardists. Published by NRAES 2006, ISBN 13:978-1-933395-02-9 (www.nraes.org) 
    

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