Ten Reasons Why You Need To Plant An Orchard

Few years ago, I got an e-mail from a college professor.  Seems some of his students at the time had stumbled across the following blog post on another blog of mine.  He wanted me to know  he’d heard them talking about my blog outside of class around the campfire on a class trip.  Talk about honored. Anyway, Spring is in the air.  If I want to do any pruning it needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.  So, to kick off the 2019 apple growing season, I  would like to repost the following musing.

Ten Reasons Why You May Want To Plant An Orchard.

(and if not a whole orchard, at least a couple of trees) 😉

 

Hanging scale in our sales area

1.  Photo opportunities.   Our apple orchard constantly changes with the seasons.   There is always something catching my eye and bringing me joy.

Apple blossoms

2.  It provides the perfect blend of solitude and social interaction.  I love my peace and quiet.  There is nothing more nurturing for me than spending a Saturday morning alone, picking apples.  At the same time, I do love meeting and bantering with the public on occasion, and when the mood strikes, I will load up the pick up and head to our local farmers market.

Hawking apples at the farmers market last season

3.  Supplemental income.   Sure there is some work involved in tending an orchard, but not nearly as much as you might suspect.  One Semi dwarf tree  will cost you  $20 to $25.00 and once it’s mature, it can produce between 2 to 4 bushel of apples a year. = 80 to 160 pounds of fruit @ $1.50 a pound that’s $120 to $240 gross, from one tree…per year..not bad for some additional pocket change if you ask me ;-)

4.  mental stimulation.    While the basics of tending an apple orchard are pretty easy to grasp, there is always something new to learn.   Did you know there are over 750 different varieties of apples in the United States alone, and over 2000 varieties world-wide?

5.  Keeps you physically active. Keep those muscles moving”  my grandpa used to say.  Between the pruning in the early spring, to the picking in the fall,  having an orchard provides me with lots of  opportunities  to be physically active outside, all the while,I’m getting paid  and enjoying some fresh air.  As I  get older  I will probably do more of that “you pick” marketing, but for now, I can still climb and honestly, I love picking apples.  Last Saturday, I picked about 1200 pounds of apples in about 6 hours.

6.  Provides me with lots of opportunities to bless others.  I’m not going to brag and tell you how this works itself out except to say, I try to sell mostly our #1 apples, which means, what to do with the seconds?    The opportunities  to give are all around.

7.  Get to enjoy some varieties of fruit that are hard to come by normally – plus if you can find them, you’ll pay through the nose.  Sure we have Honey crisp, was told last year they were charging up to $5.00 a pound for those little rascals.   So far this year, I’ve picked 11 crates of them and probably have at least another 8.  My personal favorite is called the Ginger Gold:

Ginger Gold.

It is every bit as crispy as the Honey crisp and sweet.   Last year we had 32 crates of these little jewels.

8.  Fresh apple cider.    You haven’t lived until you’ve had fresh apple cider pressed from your own apples.   It’s got a texture and taste you’ll never , ever find in a store -ever.  If you come to visit, and the apples are in season, you can help me press out a batch. ;-)

9.  You’ll  give the bees something to talk about.  Ever hear of the “waggle dance”?

10. Provides me with lots  of spiritual insight.

Life is full of mystery.    I believe God has hidden the answers to some of our questions about life in the apple orchard.

Pruning and suffering.  I hate it when people try to slap pat answers onto my life when I’m in the middle of something hard.  It makes me angry.  So I will not disrespect you and do that now.  Sometimes it feels like I’m getting “pruned”  and when it does, I barely have enough energy to survive, let alone  do more.

Fruitfulness (ever see an apple tree grunt?  :-)   Me neither.

Seasons.   Apple trees don’t produce fruit 12 months out of the year.  In fact, they need large blocks of “down time”  in the winter..to get ready for the next season.  They literally need that time, which is why apple trees don’t do well in warmer climates.

Variety.  Already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating.    Apple trees vary widely and differently in the type of fruit they produce.  I think people are created much more varied than culture tries to tell us.   I found an apple tree on an abandoned farmstead a few years ago like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Some heirloom variety I’m sure.  It looked and tasted just like it was designed to taste.  Definitely not some domesticated boring apple.  So why do you and I sometimes think we have to look like everybody else?   Nothing more beautiful than someone being 100% alive just the way they were designed:

As always, thanks for reading my stuff ;-) DM

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Of Grit and Bone 11/13/18

About the title…

Read this first

Much to be thankful for.

The Honeybees

Where do I start?

I took the lid off the hive yesterday to finish insulating the top and return two frames of honey I’d thought about keeping for myself until I remembered they were in the hive when I treated for mites back in September.  The temperature  yesterday was in the mid 20’s so I assumed the bees would be huddled down in the bowels of the hive trying to stay warm.

Nope.

Hundreds of robust looking honeybees milling around the top frames on the hive. I find it fascinating and  exhilarating to be able to approach a bee colony with tens of thousands of bees and work with them.   I freely admit being a “new bee” when it comes to raising bees.  The learning curve is crazy steep.  I still feel like I really don’t have a clue.  Fortunately for me,  there are two new local bee keepers who have been willing to share with me their experiences, and the Internet.

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Remodel

I have been on this current  project for 3 months. Should finish up tomorrow unless the home owner wants our help on insulating or trimming. Other than some help issues and a very rainy  fall, it has been a treat to work on this project. 90% of the time it doesn’t feel like “work.”  I love what I do and I don’t take that for granted.  We took a 1120 square foot ranch, and turned it into a 2000 plus square foot home.  Added a 3 stall garage, and new 4 seasons room.

Want to say something about work and attitude.

We stopped by my aunt’s this past Saturday for lunch.  She mentioned in passing her son (my cousin) is planning on retiring after the first of the year. He is 4 years younger than I.  He’s worked in a factory setting for 30 + years.  Great union benefits.    I heard that and found myself battling feelings of failure.   That is not the first time this has happened.  Rather than just be stuck in those negative, energy sucking thoughts, I decided to tell some friends that we get together with on a regular basis about it.  Just as I’d suspected. Every last one of them (5) confessed to battling similar thoughts at one time or another.

“So what do I do about it?” I asked????

Be thankful.  (And they proceeded to list off a plethora of things in my life I do have to be thankful for.)   Just admitting those feelings of comparison and inferiority out loud to another human being, (and in this case to 5 people) then being thankful for a host of things removed the sting.

It really did.

Here are a few before and after pics of my current project…

Original house:

Back of house:

 

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Finances

In 2014 I wrote a series of posts on the financial stress I was feeling.

I sometimes think it word pictures in case you haven’t noticed. 🙂

The word picture I had at the time in my mind was this….

I felt like I was flying a loaded 747 and we 15 to 20 feet off the surface of the ocean.  Yes I was still in the air, but the waves were licking @ the wings, the weight of financial stress was nonstop and I was getting tired. Credit card debt, car loan, medical bills..etc.

Then we  stumbled across a book on personal finances that was a God-send.

Here’s a portion of the chart I put on the wall in front of my desk:

 

The chart showed where we were currently,as well as where I wanted to head.

Flash forward to today.

Our financial situation has  changed.  Same job, same basic income….

Credit card is paid off.  Car loan is paid off.  Medical bills are currently all paid off and there is a surplus in the medical checkbook.  (Although that could  change in a heartbeat).

Today there are two  different word pictures in my head.

First, the one with the airplane… We have created distance between those waves  and our plane.  Today we are at 10,000 feet and climbing.

The second word picture in my head is that of a beehive.

Imagine that 🙂

I feel like a bee going into winter with multiple frames of honey stored up.

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Well, I guess I need to wrap it up.  If you’re reading this post, I would love to hear from you as well.   If nothing else, tell me three things you have to be thankful for.

Later!  DM

 

Reflections

I (DM) got a phone call two weeks ago from our local nursing home.  Halley (director of activities) wanted to know if they could stop by in a bus, then I could tell them a little bit about our setup.  It wasn’t going to work with my schedule, but I did offer to come to town to the nursing home and do a little program.

That was yesterday morning.

It was a hoot.  I made up a version of Jeopardy.

Guys against the girls or as  we put it. drones against the worker bees.

Some of categories included: Apple Trees, The Birds and the bees, Enemies of the Orchard, and Johnny Appleseed.  Rather than me just talk, it was an interactive presentation.  Even with my helping  (just a little) the drones lost.  I started out asking if any of them could remember the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940?  (Several could)  Reason I asked that was because before that storm, Iowa  was number 2 in the nation in terms of the apple producing states, second only to Michigan.  The blizzard and ice storm  decimated the apple trees and since farmers could not afford to wait 5 to  7 years for a paycheck, the orchards were plowed under and turned into corn fields.  How sad. 😦

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

The following ditty I found on line, was in the back of my mind as I looked out over the men and women sitting before me:

“What do you see nurse?
What do you see, nurse… what do you see?
Are you thinking – when you look at me:
“A crabbed old woman, not very wise;
Uncertain of habit with far-away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice ‘I do wish you’d try.'”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe;
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse. You’re not looking at
me!
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still.
As I move at your bidding, eat at your will:
– I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another;
– A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon a love she’ll meet;
– A bride at twenty, my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep;
– At twenty-five now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
– A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast.
Bound together with ties that should last.
– At forty, my young sons have grown up and gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn;
– At fifty once more babies play ’round my knee
Again we know children, my loved ones and me…
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead.
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years
and the love that I’ve known.
I’m an old woman now, and nature is cruel.
‘Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart.
There is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now again my bittered heart swells;
I remember the joys, I remember the pain
and I’m loving and living life over again;
I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last;

So open your eyes, nurse, open and see…
not a crabbed old woman.
Look closer… see me!”

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Pictures compliments of Google images:

The keeping of bees….continued

Honeybee nuc.

I noticed a lot of bee activity the past couple of days on the outside of the new nuc, so I texted my bee mentor Mike last night.  (This nuc is a small box with 5 bee frames in it.  It was split off the main hive a month ago.)  Mike suspected they had probably outgrown their new home and it was time to move the bees into a regular bee hive box.

He wished me luck. 🙂

Up until now, the only thing I have personally done with the bees is open the hives and peek in….

Bees go to bed relatively early, so once most of the bees were back in the hive, I taped their front entrance shut then carried it down to the new hive.  The thing was a lot heavier than I anticipated.  It had to weigh at least 50 pounds.

Inside of this little box was  20 pounds of honey and thousands and thousands of honeybees…

Opening the lid on the nuc box felt just like opening a Christmas present.

Mike had been correct.

The bees had outgrown their space. The frames were thick with crawling bees, and once I started prying the  frames out of the box, the pitch of the hum changed. It doubled, then tripled in volume.

They were TICKED OFF.

(My first thought was, I sure hope this bee outfit is all it is cracked up to be.)

To give you an idea of how many bees there were, you can buy them by the pound (live)…a 3 pound container holds about 10,000 bees.  I’m guessing there were between 20,00 to 30,000 in that box.  The new queen has been busy the last month.  We learned in class last winter she can lay between 1000 and 2000 eggs per day…

Just wow

Here is a picture some of you may not have seen that I took back in June of a frame full of bees in the main hive:

Frame of honeybees and honey

Doing all of the switching around of the bee frames last night without anyone else present was a rush.  I feel like I hardly know anything, and yet, just like anything else, I have to start somewhere.

Few years ago, I had a woman stumble across my farm blog who makes her living raising vegetables.    You could sense the contempt she had for my lack of knowledge in her one and only comment.  The only experience I had gardening growing up was one year, dad decided to cover the potatoes with a pile of old hay, rather than bury them in the dirt.  I remember pulling back the hay, later in the summer, and seeing all of the new potatoes on the top of the ground. That is it.  The rest of my gardening knowledge has been acquired through reading, and a few conversations with more experienced gardeners…and I still feel like a newbie.

 

I am a teacher.  I love to mentor, especially in the construction field.  SO, when I am on the receiving end of someone teaching me, something new (like bee keeping, or gardening)  I can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher in 2 minutes.

It’s 95% attitude.

 

 

Log Jam

If you enjoy writing, have you ever felt like you have a mental  log jam?   Words, ideas, half  baked developed thoughts   jammed in there so tight, nothing wants to flow….

That is a picture of my brain. 😉

So, since the words refuse to flow,  I  thought I would share with you some photos I’ve taken since January.

I am one of those people that love the four seasons, including winter.  Not trying to diss anyone, but give me in a pair of Carharts , warm pair of boots, a good stocking hat,  my 4 wheel drive (if I have to go somewhere)  then bring it on.

I am not alone.

Have you ever read the account of John Muir  going outside as a thunderstorm rolled in on the west coast?  How he climbed a big pine tree so he could experience nature in all of her fury?

Well, you won’t catch me climbing any pine trees, but I have been known to go outside more than once in a blizzard just for the experience…

_____________________________________

We had a beautiful ice storm late February:

Ice on the fence

 

Ice on a corner post

Then, before you know it, it  was March.

Sunrise in the orchard

Then April:

Our first hive in the distance

I uploaded this picture from my phone a week ago. Google photo took the liberty to send me that edited version.

Our version of cherry blossoms  is when our apple trees are in bloom… They usually last at least a couple of weeks.

Apple blossoms

You know Spring has arrived when the morels start popping.

Last week , found my first batch:

Finally, we have 4 laying hens.   When they are stressed or not getting enough  sunlight, they  stop laying…well you can see by this last picture we have turned the corner on winter….

 

Another (4) egg day! 🙂

I always think of Robert Fulghum’s story Not Even Chickens, when I go out to look for eggs.

I am a rich man.

I have 4 chickens. 🙂

Apiary Update

When I suggested to my wife in December, I was “starting to feel a stirring” to get into  honeybees…I prefaced my newfound interest by promising  I would not spend money we did not have. 😉

(I’m learning)

There is definitely a knack  to dreaming dreams and not letting money (or the lack thereof) from stifling ones ability to plan.

I got a little cash for Christmas, so I used that to pay for the six week beginning beekeeping class offered through a local community college ($35)

Out in my wood shop, I had some 1 by 12 pine boards just sitting around, got on-line and found some Do It Yourself plans for building the hive boxes.

Mid February,  I met with a woman who wanted to learn how to prune apple trees.  She spent the morning with me pruning, and over the course of our time together, shared, she herself had a small apiary, and if I did get honeybees, I was more than welcome to use her honey extracting equipment come August…

In addition to the cash from Christmas, I had a small reserve of petty cash from people who have tipped me  over  the  past year….normally, that is my coffee fund (Starbucks/ french roast/ beans/ not ground) but feeling as strongly as I do about getting a bee hive (or two), I decided to dip into that.

I did some work last Fall for a local electrician who offered to sell me one of his nucs this spring  (A Nuc is a new bee colony with 3 to 5 frames of bee larva, eggs, etc).  It is a great way to get a jump-start on raising a new colony.

So after totaling up what  two complete hive boxes, frames, smoker, gloves, bee hat, hive tools, bees would cost, the total came to $900.00.  I created a go-fund-me site a few weeks ago with a $1000 target goal.  (Go-fund-me and all of their related fees costs just under 10% of what you raise, so I figured, by the time I paid the fees, if $1000 came in, I would be set, and still live within my budget.

So yesterday, I sold some free range eggs to  someone locally. Our four free range hens have found their egg laying groove again.  They are laying more than we can eat, so I have started to sell them on a limited basis.

The four hens have  not cost us a cent since before Christmas.  100% of their daily food intake has been coming in from  foraging.  I do not have an electric water heater for them this winter either (normally that runs $30 a month in electricity), and when you’re watching pennies, $30 is not chump change….Instead, I use two plastic coffee cans and make sure they have access to fresh water a couple of times a day…birds in the wild, if there is no water, will eat snow, and I’ve noticed the hens are doing that as well.

I am selling the free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen….so when I went out into the shop yesterday to get the $5.00 for the two dozen eggs…this is what I saw:

To date,  counting yesterday’s gift, $370 has come in..which will pay for all of my initial gear, and the forty  frames for one hive…enough to get started.

I have kept my promise.

I have not spent $ we do not have.

Lest you think I am a mooch, I/ we, have also been on the giving end of the equation, multiple times over the years.

I have a very detached attitude about money.  I can give it away and receive it with equal grace.

A Nun, A Machinist, and a Dairy Maid

What do a nun, a machinist and a dairy maid all have in common?

Any guesses?

They are all in my  Beekeeping class.

Last night was week five.

One more week to go.

The atmosphere in the classroom  last night was  electric.  Thirty five people from all walks of life, ranging in age from twelve to seventy-five.  At least 50% of the class are women.

We talked about motivation for going into bee keeping again. Discovered motives were as varied as the people there.

Our instructor told us, this will be his 26th year managing bees… just about everything you can do wrong, he’s done.

When he started out, he didn’t have anyone to mentor him. He did know of one other guy, but that person refused to return his phone calls.

To sit under a master, who is willing to share his wisdom, now that is a gift.

I mentioned on Facebook last week, we were moving in the direction of getting honeybees, and  I had eight different people tell me they wanted to buy honey  when it was ready….

Eight sales, and I don’t even have any bees yet. 🙂

I think I’ve discovered an itch.

Did you know, that large-scale honey producers can cut their honey by as much as 30% and still call it “Pure”?

Something is wrong with that picture.

We also touched briefly on the topic of “organic honey.”   Well, that is also a murky topic.   A beekeeper has no control of where his honeybees will forage, (lawns sprayed with insecticides,  etc.  are all fair game.  A honey bee will travel three miles (or more) in search of pollen and nectar, so according to our instructor, there is just one honey producer in the Dakota’s who is legitimately  certified “organic” because of the several square miles of ground they own…everybody else is pulling your leg…no matter what they say. (Next time you’re in the store, study the labels on the honey jar and get back to me with what you find out)

I crave integrity.  It is such a precious commodity.  While I am far from perfect, I work really hard at being a man of my word.  Two weeks ago, I sold one of my harvest tables to a lady on the East coast.  After a few e-mails back and forth, we talked on the phone. She was amazed I didn’t want a deposit up front, said it was a delight to deal with someone she felt she could trust.  I told her I had not been burnt yet, and that’s how I prefer to run my business.

Yes, on the larger projects I do have written contracts, it’s better for both parties to get as much as possible clearly spelled out and in writing.

Pause.

Now how in the world, did I get from talking about beekeeping to cultivating trust in relationships?

The common thread is trust, and integrity. 😉

(Which is still alive and well, here in the Hinterlands.)

Check out that post on the Hinterlands if you have a second…I wrote it a couple three years ago,  for my farm blog.

So, tell me, how about you,….are there still pockets of trust and integrity where you live?  Give me an example.  Tell me a story. I love stories.

Thanks in advance! DM