Go big or go home: this year we planted over 300 cider apple trees. I say “we” loosely; mostly it was 20 very kind friends who took time out on a Saturday two weeks ago, on a day threatening snow, thunder and other weatherly misdeeds. I can plan for just about everything, except the weather. But as I said more than once that morning, as the forecast looked pretty dodgey, “this train has already left the station.” Luckily for us, no one was much deterred by the weatherman. We live in Wayne County, we don’t listen to no stinkin’ weatherman, who is usually wrong anyway.
Wrong he was. The sun broke out for a microsecond, and while the wind blew, no precipitation in any form fell. The crew gathered up; I forgot to even offer coffee as I started the speechifying. There was a plan…
First we sorted some of the most beautiful trees yet. I could hardly believe they were only a year old, custom grafts done for us by Cummins Nursery in Ithaca. We counted them out by row according to the master spreadsheet. Out in the field, some holes (all augured ahead of time) would be left empty for trees that were on order but had not yet arrived from other nurseries. I had marked these holes with pieces of lath to signify “pretend this hole is occupied by a pear tree.” We are alternating crops in some rows as part of our permaculture program with things like Shipova, quince and elderberry. If it can possibly grow here and it ferments into a country wine or hard cider, I’ll try it.
As we have done in years past, the trees all got a mycorrhizal inoculation root dip. We also added Azomite and rock phosphate into the planting hole this year. Incredibly helpful were the folks like Sarah, Bryan, Scott, Lisa, and Lee, who knew the drill and could help others help us while R and I were running around looking after details like extra buckets, coffee breaks and hauling out more trees. Folks who arrived a bit later just jumped right in, and we could have gone even faster except for the early shortage of red Solo cups we used to measure out the minerals.
Wow, they were fast! As predicted, I didn’t plant a single tree that morning, but my friends got 300 of them into the ground in less than three hours. What next? Lunch!
Local caterers Clark and Teri Taylor of Two Cents Catering put on a spread. We popped open some celebratory hard cider. The current house cider is Querry, a blend of quince, apple and pear juices from Bonny Doon Winery. When I heard Randall Graham, one of my favorite winemakers of all time, had blended quince juice into his cider, I immediately placed an order for quince trees.
I am never very good at photo-documenting my own events. I didn’t even blog last year’s (much smaller) planting party. There’s something in my brain that does not switch well between active participant and active observer. Thanks to John McCarthy for not only planting trees but letting me use his photos of the day. He even got one of me.
After the party it warmed up like it was actually spring. I was spending a good part of each day watering in the trees by hand to my satisfaction. Then the weather turned crazy cold and snowy for May, but everything is starting to bud out. I was a bit worried about the cherries, which had already put out some leaves that froze back, but they are coming back around.
The cliche would be to say “we couldn’t have done it without you.” The truth is, we could have, but it would have been a week-long voyage to hell for the two of us to do it alone. This way was much more fun! Having our friends plant trees that someday will put food on all our tables and cider in our glasses is a blessing that will last for years. I hope you all come back, when the trees are big enough to string colored lights down each row, and we can have a real party, no shovels in the dress code. Until then, thank you all!