I just finished the spring spraying program today in the orchard, a stinky concoction of liquid fish, powdered seawood, iron supplements and neem oil, all mixed up as suggested by Michael Phillips in The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way. The idea is, rather than combat pests later, to encourage optimal tree health and let the tree’s immune system do the heavy fighting against the animal kingdom. So far so good. Some of the trees have nearly a foot of new growth on them. Over the next few weeks, apple trees will develop the cells that become next year’s flowers, so it’s doubly important to give them an extra dose of tree nutrition right now.
Only one tree has set fruit, but that’s not too surprising when I think of the damage done by the deer last year. They basically stripped the trees bare, which means they ate this year’s flowers too. The one second year tree that did manage to flower has set fruit, which are the size of peas right now. I expect the first year trees that bloomed will drop their flowers; even if they don’t I probably won’t let them carry the burden of fruit when we want them to be making roots this year.
The garden is mostly planted; we are eating spinach, beet greens and radishes already. I am waiting for the garlic to send up scapes, enough to do something with. Garlic scape pesto? Or wrapped with bacon? It’s a once a year windfall that I finally have enough garden space to grow.
Speaking of annual delicacies, I filled out the entire western margin of the orchard with another crop: asparagus. Folks around here defend their asparagus-foraging territorial rights along the irrigation canal the way raptors do their nests. I couldn’t count how many people would have to die before we could get any, so we just planted some. Ok, a lot. Yes, 75 asparagus crowns is ridiculous for 2 people. But I ask you, have you ever had too much asparagus and do we not have friends? These asparagus are NOT along our canal, leaving an open invitation for our non-friends to help themselves. These green shoots of goodness are behind the fence for a reason.
Good news and bad news on the critter front. Raccoons got into the coop this week and killed half our flock, poor things. We are left with four layers and four pullets, not where I hoped to be in June. The remaining animals were unscathed, although upset for a day or two. I’m not sure why the killing frenzy stopped at all, and am double checking my gates and hatches at every turn. We really need a dog, but that’s not happening just yet.
The happier news is that our baby-goats-on-deposit are being born this week. I get to go visit the does and kids next weekend with my camera. We have two Nigerian Dwarf doelings on reserve, pick of the litter. The breeder told me they think one of the does might have quadruplets! We will bring them home when they are about 8 weeks old and our fencing is in order.
Fencing, a recurring theme around here. R put a new gate in the orchard fence, closer to the house. Slate, or Himself as we often call him, will go straight to gate and paw at it to be let into the vole killing field. We are gathering funds and our wits to fence the next piece of ground, where we will plant 500 more trees next year. Besides a substantial outlay of cash, when you fence, it’s a commitment to the entire layout of the operation. Where to put the gates and how many? Property line or set back? What equipment will we need to get in there in the future? How are we going to irrigate it anyway? Who do we know with a backhoe? Down the rabbit hole, never to emerge, except the trees are on their way and the fence must be up before they arrive, which really means this fall because there’s no guarantee that we can get the work done in time in the spring.
I can get lost in the endless to do list. Can we really pull this off? And then a swallowtail will float by. I’ll see a bat chasing moths at sunset. Slate will throw himself into an alfalfa bush at my feet and start purring with delight.
I had the earbuds on this morning while I was lugging 35 pounds of backpack sprayer and holistic juice around the orchard. Willie Nelson’s version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” shuffled on. I first heard it in this video, “Back to the Start,” and it reminded me why I am doing all this. Like the song lyrics say, nobody said it would be easy.
Nobody said anything about orioles, butterflies or the glorious hopeful smell of rain either. There’s not a moment to lose. Be the change you want to see.