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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Why I’m optimistic about 2019

I just ordered  2000 Red Burgundy  Organic Onion seeds this morning.

When they arrive, I’m going to fill a flat with them and watch them grow.

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CS Lewis wrote a little fictional book called The Screwtape Letters.  It is my personal favorite of all his writings.  He was a master story-teller.   He talks in there about worry, fear of the future, fears of the unknown.   If you struggle with fear, and love a good allegory, I can’t recommend it enough.

I think it has shaped my thoughts on this topic as much as anything I have ever read.

Well, I feel a nap coming on.

Later! DM

 

 

 

 

Better is….

Got together yesterday with a few friends to catch up and talk about life.

Lots of coffee….lots of laughs…

Wife made a no-bake, blueberry cream cheese pie.

Wish you were here.  🙂

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Here are a couple of things that I shared…

A week ago, I stumbled across some  words written by an old fool at the end of his life:

“Better is a handful with quietness than two fists full and trouble with it.”

I’ve said something similar myself, probably started saying it about the time we started having children. 🙂

I would say:  “Peace and quiet is entirely under-rated.” 

Second quote (by the same guy) I have been chewing on:

Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work…”

We heated with wood growing up. On those rare times when I picked up an ax instead of a chainsaw, I quickly realized a dull ax was worthless….

I was watching a class online  recently on how to build a timber-framed structure.  The first  thing  covered  was tool care, and keeping your chisel sharp, both literally and  figuratively.

Wow.  That was deep.  I’ve been thinking about what that means ever since.

(ie. how to keep my life “sharp”.)

I am a carpenter and nobody has ever taught me how to sharpen a chisel.   Ever.

In all fairness to me,  with the kind of work I do, (framing, siding, roofing, concrete)  I don’t use chisels all that often, but on those rare occasions when I need one, i usually end up buying a new one.

So I’ve  been on a mission the past week to learn how to sharpen my chisels.

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A friend of ours  recently updated us about  her son. Son  lives on the east coast.   Both he and his wife have great paying stress filled jobs.  Just had a new baby, (that makes 3)  Son recently decided to go back to school to finish his degree, (while still working full-time.)   Made me stressed just hearing about their lives..  I know her son just a little.  Good guy.  I like him.

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Dad is 86.  Didn’t stop farming until just 2 years ago.  Worked full-time as a general contractor into his late 70’s. One of his few regrets was working too much while the kids (myself included) were growing up.  We never saw him except on weekends. Then my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in her mid 40’s.  I had moved out of the house and gotten married by this time. There was definitely a shift in  dad’s priorities after that.  He started taking each of us kids out on our birthday’s for breakfast.

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It’s all about balance.  Finding the balance between work, money, bills, wants, desires, relationships, life…

In my late 20’s as I was chasing my own mechanical rabbits around the track, I came across two quotes that stopped me dead in my tracks…“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool.”  and , “If you are a hero to others, yet strangers to your own children, you are a fool.” 

I’ve written about that season elsewhere on the blog so I won‘t repeat it right now.

 

The fifteen or so of you that regularly interact with me here are in a very real sense my on-line family.  I appreciate each and every one of you!  If you’re a somewhat regular reader that has never made a peep, I would love to hear from you..even if you just say, “I’m here.” 🙂

Anyway, this is what has been on my mind the past week.

How about you?

Take care. DM

Of Grit and Bone September 13, 2018

About the title, read this if you’re curious.

6:39 AM. Sun is just coming up.

Normally, about this time, our resident tomcat Barron  comes to the front door and starts scratching.  He wants two things.  First, a snuggle.  He’s the only cat on the property, and since he and Libby (our Labrador) do not like each other, we are Barron’s only family.    I found him a couple of years ago , in the median strip of a 4 lane highway about 2 miles from here.   He was a half-grown kitten at the time.  If I’d not stopped to rescue him, he would have been run over.

Which means he owes me his very life blood.  🙂

(Remember that scene from the Star Wars series? That creature with the big floppy ears)

Second thing he wants is to get fed.  If I leave his food dish out over night, sure as heck, a raccoon or opossum will find it.

Here are some of the issues currently in the mix:

My Dad,  New remodel at work, the Rat Invasion, The apple crop.

I’ll start with my dad.  Dad is 86.  Until a week ago, he was still driving.  Mom and him would go out daily for lunch. They moved to town in May, after 50 plus years on the farm.  Last Tuesday I got a call from my sister in the morning.  Dad had fallen and was en route to the hospital.   Pretty sure he’d broken his leg. (He did)  Quite a bad break.  Doctor told my dad and sister (who is a  nurse) before going into surgery, there was a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.  Surgery went better than expected.  He will be able to walk, (will probably have a limp) but considering the alternative, that was very good news.  My mom, was already scheduled for hip surgery before all of this happened.  Looks like the two of them will both be using walkers in the near future.  They are so thankful to be surrounded by a large network of extended family. That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, healthy, and living La-Vita Loca. (Living the crazy life.)

It has been so touching, humbling, encouraging, energizing, and inspiring to watch how different ones have stepped  forward to use their individual talents to help out.  One sister is a nurse. She spent the first several nights with dad @ the hospital.  Another sister, has the gift of administration.  Between the two of them, they have coordinated  all of the communication between the various health care entities, rehab,  scheduling who is available to drive when and where.

Wife and I have been  staying overnight with mom, helping drive her to her various appointments, etc.

You may have already seen this action photo of the crew who helped move them in May:

Several of you  have come to mind recently.  (Marilyn, Val, and Di to be specific)  All of you have had to say good-by to your mom within the past couple of years, and that thought has  energized me to make the most of the time with both of my parents.

    Work. I am in the middle of a large remodel.  It has been a mixed bag.  House is situated out in the middle of 40 acres of timber.  Yesterday we could hear the walnuts falling.  It continues to keep me physically fit, and it pays the bills. I get to work with my son on the project. He scheduled his work load to be available to help. Considering, I started taking him to work with me about the time he was 5…he is a gift to have on the crew. On the negative side of the ledger, we’ve just finished  enduring almost 2 weeks of nonstop rain.  Financially that cost me in rental equipment, and lost productivity.  I saw some yellow fungus  starting to grow on the side of house Monday.   One of my new co-workers decided to not show up the day we set roof trusses (between rain showers, over the existing house)  That ticked me off.  His phone has been surgically  attached to his hand so I know he could see me calling to find out where he was.   He didn’t answer.  That proverb about a faithful man…who can find?  Yep, they are getting harder and harder to find.

The rat invasion

Normally I equate rats with an active farmstead with grain and fresh feed supplies..(we don’t have either)  Well, when I got on my lawnmower 3 weeks ago,  4 large healthy rats came tumbling out of the mower deck.  We have a lawnmower with a 6 foot deck.(the mower is in  front rather than underneath.)

Creep-ed  me out.

Two of them were as large as squirrels.  I  had noticed half a dozen holes around the perimeter of our red barn (rat activity) but never gave it any thought until that day.  As I looked around the basement of the barn, I could see multiple spots where the rats had dug tunnels right up through the concrete floor.  The thing is, the barn is less than 100 feet from our 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation.  Come winter, the last thing I want is for that horde to send some scouts over to our house.   So, I bought a 9 pound pail of rat bait.  It was gone in 3 days. Bought a second. Same thing.  Talked to Dave @ the store, he recommended the more expensive stuff. I am on my 3rd 9 pound pail of super-duper, heavy-duty rat bait.  At $50 plus dollars a pail, the novelty has worn off. (and one feeding is supposed to kill them)

There is definitely a life lesson in all of this for me.

And finally the Apple crop.

Another Japanese Beetle invasion decimated 80% of our Gingergold and Honey Crisp apple crop this season.  Each female beetle can lay up to 60 eggs in the fall.  Last season, I thought..it couldn’t get any worse.

Well, it did.

Japanese Beetles on a Ginger gold apple

(I think they look like Christmas tree ornaments.)

Japanese beetles on peaches 2018

We did manage to save 2 bushel of peaches. Bartered for some peach wine, and peach pies from the neighbors.

In spite of the rats, the beetles, the no-shows at work, and the rain,  I have a remarkably flippant, detached attitude most of the time.  I can trace it right back to a book my dad gave me when I was 14.  He said to me, “Junior, you need to read this book.”   

I did.

Norman Vincent Peal’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

It changed the trajectory of my life.

Not saying I’m on my game 100% of the time…but can’t imagine what life would feel like to just focus on the nasty.

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Well, time for me to wrap it up.

Bus leaves in 45 minutes. DM

 

Honest Work

When my husband Matt was about ten years old, his grandfather started taking him to the family cherry orchards on Saturday afternoons.  Matt would work alongside the farm hands, whistling as he went, to let his grandfather know he wasn’t eating any of the cherries intended for the bushel. a full day’s work netted Matt 50 cents.  If his grandfather bought him a hot dog and soda, they called it even.

As a teenager,  his dad would call up from the breakfast table, “Two minutes!”  Matt knew better than to challenge – he was dressed, fed and out raking leaves or tilling soil before the sun had risen over the ridge.

I was horrified by these stories during our first years together.  I mourned for his lost childhood, thinking gratefully of my  Saturday mornings in front of the cartoons, slurping cereal.  After we were married, though, I noticed quickly he’d be done with his chores while I was still cursing over the dishes.  His focus was intense but cheerful.  He got the job done well and quickly because he put himself completely into the task – because he’d learned to enjoy honest work.

No matter if he’s cleaning the gutters or finishing a report, Matt embraces each project as an opportunity for expression.  His lovingly stirred spaghetti sauce says, “I feed and nourish our family.”  His well- weeded garden says, “I savor my connection to the earth.”  Through example after example, he demonstrates the key to happiness in whatever we do.  Matt’s lesson: All work – on the field, in the factory, or on the computer – can be honest and fulfilling, if we approach it from a place of devotion.

As Matt has shown me, honest work is our contribution to the community and to the world, the outward manifestation of our soul’s purpose.   Just as the trees keep the air clean, give us shade, and shower us with fruits and nuts, so too we are we each charged with our task, creating the future, one brick – or compost pile or database or cherry pie – at a time.

By Mariska Van Aalst from the book 50 Things that really matter

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My wife read this to me  this week, said it reminded her of me.

I’m sure our kids have stories to tell.

 

Daughter  pouring concrete with the Papa.

 

Never too young to start. (Grandson and I at his first pour)

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I was thinking about this essay on work again this morning.  We had an early Saturday morning cement pour at my daughters house.  It was a small pour, as far as pours go…just 12 yards of concrete. (See photo @ beginning of this post.)

12 yards = 2 truck loads

Lots of friends and family showed up to get-er-done as they say. Cement truck got there at 7:15 and I was back on the road heading home by 8:30.     I love that my 60-year-old body  enables me to still do this sort of thing.    I did break a sweat, but the rush of endorphins kicked in 3 minutes after I started moving concrete.  I know there will come a day, if I live long enough, that I will leave the concrete work to younger men..but until then…

I’ll round this out with a couple of crew pictures…one taken when I was 19 and the second, this past week.

I love my job.

That’s me holding a can of Old Milwaukee back in the day

Crew photo from earlier this week, just after we finished hand setting (20)  30 ft long by 8 ft high garage trusses.

Later! DM

 

 

 

Moving off the farm

Picture of dad milking by hand/ early 1970’s

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Tomorrow is a BIG day.

We are moving my parents off the family farm.

I was nine years old when we moved to the farm.  Had never been around farm life before that, except for a few early memories of my grandparents farm (I was 4 when they moved to town.)

Growing up on a  120 acre working family farm shaped me in ways I will probably never fully appreciate.  Dad bought 20 Holstein milk cows when I turned 12.  Expressed purpose was to give us some spending money. (And keep us out of mischief.)  Milking is a two times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year activity.  Up close and personal with the whole cycle of life.   Learned about delivering babies, afterbirth, still birth, cesarean births,  the art of milking a first time heifer whose utters are on fire with mastitis.  Learned how to deflect the back hoof of an animal ten times my body weight, that wanted to kick the crap out of me, because she didn’t  like what I was doing to her.

Manure.  Could write a book on the topic.  Sometimes you just have to block out the fact, you are getting splattered with e-coli.

Doing chores… Climbing into a dimly lit haymow in the dead of winter, afraid one of the banshees from Darby O’Gill would appear at any second.

Winter mornings so stink’n cold my fingers felt like they were on fire.

I learned it was not a good idea to engage the power-take-off on the manure spreader with a 20 mile wind to my back.

I remember side raking hay,  singing along to the radio, in the middle of August listening to Band on the run.

Last month, I worked alongside a young man vacuuming hallways.  He  lasted three days. Told my son that his wrist was bothering him.  Said he had pulled an all nighter playing video games, and wondered if he could knock off an hour early. I felt sorry for him.  He doesn’t know any different.

Baling hay in the summer is still one of my favorite memories.  My job of choice was  in the hay-mow.  Our barn could hold 300 tons of hay if we packed it to the top.   (10,000 bales X 60# = 60,000# divided by 2000# = 300 tons) Over the course of a season, I would have handled every one of those bales at least once.    In mid July, in Iowa, the temperature gets into the upper 90’s, so it had to be 100/ 110 degrees in the mow.   We never gave it a second thought.   It was just a part of getting the crops in.  Working in those conditions shaped my attitude about the weather.

When our kids were still home, out of financial need, we started a small commercial cleaning business on the side. The older ones went with us in the evening and weekends as we emptied trash cans, scrubbed toilets, vacuumed and mopped the floors.  I wished we could do more to incorporate the chores of my youth, but we were living in town and a dairy cow was not an option….

Final story.  Look at that picture of my dad milking again.  See that fuzzy cat on the left getting  milk straight from the cow?    Come to find out, she (Fuzzy)  was a prize winning show cat. Had blue ribbons to prove it.   She used to hang around the lumberyard where my dad worked.  He thought she was a stray, so he took pity on her and brought her home. Year later, lady who lived close to the lumberyard happened to be visiting our farm, noticed the cat and mentioned she used to have a cat like that.  We never let on.

If you were a cat, would you rather spend your days  eating dry cat food or having a front row seat by the family cow?

You can take the boy (or girl) off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy (or girl)… thinking too about my fellow farm kid, MJ as I wrote this post.

You get extra credit if you can tell me the breed of the milk cow in that photo.

Later! DM

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Update 12 hours later…just got home.  Lots of great help. Went without a hitch.  Here are a couple of action photos:

Dad loading up the family picture 

The moving crew

 

Ticking

I saw my dad this morning for two seconds.

I wished there would have been some way to capture that image of him in a picture..but since that was impossible, I wanted to do the next best thing and write about it.

I had an early  trip out-of-town this morning,  and my route took me right past the farm.

And there he was…

I suppose he was outside feeding the  cats.

It was just after sunrise.

The artist in me noticed the  shadows.  (I notice shadows all the time)

I noticed he was wearing his bibs.

Keep in mind all of this happened in a moment.  When you’re going 60 miles per hour,  things fly by pretty quick.

Several things stirred in my gut, in that moment.

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12 hours later….

I just got off the phone with mom.  We talked for 15 minutes.

I asked her if Dad had seen me this morning? 😉

Yep, He figured I was going out for breakfast with a neighbor.  I told her no. Son John  and I were taking off on a 6 hour road trip and I had to stop by their neighbors to pick up a stock trailer.

My dad is in the evening season of his life.  Not sure how many more years he and mom will be able to live on the farm.  Hopefully, several more…

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Tell me about an older person in your life that has a special place in your heart…It doesn’t have to be a relative.    Maybe they are still alive, and maybe they have passed on.  What do (or did)  you appreciate  about that person, what do you miss ?  Would you mind sharing a memory or a story?  (The longer/ more detailed the better) 😉  DM