Sunday, April 01, 2007

The beginning of the orchard

I guess you know the tune.Part of the plan for what will eventually become a nine-acre hobby farm/dome showcase is a small orchard of fruit trees: six or eight, or maybe ten, trees of various kinds to produce fruit for eating, baking, and canning. Apples, pears, cherries, peaches... This, in combination with a summer vegetable garden, could provide enough plant food to supply a pretty big chunk of our diet. (The chicken coop and animal pasture, to provide the protein portion of our diet, will be a different post.) Besides, who can resist a fresh peach still warm from the sun, or spiced apples that went into the jar an hour after they were picked? My pear mincemeat from last year is legendary. (Sadly, only two jars remain... but I digress.)

There was only one problem: a tree big enough to bear fruit within a year or two of planting costs a freaking fortune, both to buy it and to pay a crew to come out and plant it. Conversely, a tree small enough to be affordable (and still pretty easy to handle) won't bear for several years. Being the patient people we are, we opted for the latter choice. We'll put in a couple of small trees a year until the orchard seems complete; the first trees will probably start bearing about the time that the last ones go in.

Year One: Apples. We put in a couple of apple trees from Stark Bros., a Missouri-based nursery. (We wanted to buy from someone in our general region, to get the best-adapted trees for this area.) With apples, you have to be careful to choose varieties that will cross-pollinate, since they aren't self-pollinators. After consulting the cross-reference table, we chose a Lodi (hum obligatory CCR tune here) and a Braeburn. One tart green, one red sweet. Right now, they resemble nothing so much as a couple of four-foot twigs stuck in the ground, but that'll change. In five years or so, I'll be baking apple pies.

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