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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Chicken Run

I have been wanting to get laying hens for a while.

Sent the last ones packing about a year ago because we were not getting any eggs.  It’s not that they were not laying, (they were).  But because I was letting them free range, they were hiding the eggs all over the property. Then, one of the little stinkers acquired a taste for farm fresh eggs.  It finally came to a head when they started venturing over to the neighbors every morning  and stealing the neighbor lady’s cat food.

Free ranging chicken sounds good in theory, but  a chicken has no concept of property lines, and when they can fly over a 6 ft fence, good luck telling them they have to stay home.

But in the back of my mind, Robert Fulguhm’s  essay “Not Even Chickens” continued to cast a long shadow over my life.

I really do feel like a rich man when  I have a few chickens.

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So, while the desire was there,  that didn’t mean I was just going to act on it.

Financially, I wanted having chickens fit into the big picture of our life and not be a slow bleed on our finances.

And then last week, I had enough discretionary  money saved up between my monthly stipend, some cash I got for Christmas, and then more cash for my birthday to buy some chickens.

I figured 6 or 7 chickens would be perfect.

Decided to put out some feelers on a local garage sale site on Face book.

30 minutes later I had a lead.  Lady had 13 pullets born in August, that had just started to lay.  She was looking to get a different breed.

The only catch, I had to take all 13.

Then we started to talk money.  I asked her what she wanted per bird?  She wasn’t sure.  How much would I pay her?

I hate dickering.  Told her that right up front.  Didn’t want to insult her, by being too low.  She would just need to set a price and I could say yes or no.

Having bought chickens before, a fair price for a young laying hen starts around $10 a bird, and could be as much as $12 to $15, especially if you’re only getting a few.

She said, “Well I raised them from babies …I would like maybe $3.00 a bird but if that is too much we can talk.”

Sold!

Told her I could pick them up  Saturday morning.

As we finished loading the birds,  She teared up as we put them in the back of my pick up.  I could tell the chickens were her pets….her babies as she called them.

“They need to ride in the cab if it will fit” (the cage). 

Temps that morning were single digit.  I had brought a tarp,  my intention was put them all in one cage together, throw a tarp over the cage for the ride home.  (They would have been fine).

Well, the cage fit into the cab, (barely).

The ride home was interesting.

13 chickens taking up 2/3’s of the front seat.  I managed to get the drop cloth under part of the cage.  Wasn’t long before they were crapping past the tarp.  I noticed my coffee mug was directly below an untarped portion of the cage.  ;-(

I was glad to get home.

I really didn’t want to keep all 13 of the birds, so I put an ad on Craigslist Sunday morning.

Pullets for sale – $10

6 pullets for sale. Born in August 2018, just starting to lay. (Brown eggs) $10 firm. I had to buy the whole lot when I picked up these birds…few more than I really need.

Had an offer in 2 hours.  Delivered those 6 hens  Monday morning.

Paid $40 for 13 hens.  Sold 6 for $60.

So there are now 7 happy healthy laying hens on the property and I’m $20 ahead.

Just got home after an hour cooped up with 13 nervous birds

Early morning view of the chicken house.

Life lesson in this for me again is this…

God knows the desires of my heart.  He is not some cosmic Genie, nor is he a killjoy. He is unpredictable.  And sometimes, in the most unexpected ways, he shows himself in my life.  DM

 

Winter Sketches

I have two stories that rumble around in my head  each winter, when the weather gets testy, this year I added a third.

First story

(And you may have heard this one before).

Growing up, my Grandpa would talk about a train  that derailed south of his farm in the dead of winter, January of 1929.   The train derailed and “turned turtle”  (went over on it’s back)  when it hit a hard snow drift.  One of the engineers (Roscoe Stevens) was trapped in the wreckage for over 3 hours.   Grandpa said, (and I have this on tape) ” I can still see that man…had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. then the doctor hollered,” Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on, get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” they poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering….It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things…”

Here are a couple of pictures of that train wreck:

 

Second story

You may have heard this one before too,  that can happen around here.  😉

Back in 2011 I  stumbled across the poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong on-line. She was a pioneer mother who lived from 1789 to 1891.  She wrote a series  poems called “Sketches Of My Life.”  One of the most powerful accounts happened in 1831.  They lose their provision of salt, which in that time apparently was a life and death situation. ( I know it had to do with food preservation for the coming year, but not sure how that all works…)

“Our salt was in a gum,

And was standing on the loft,

But met with a bad accident,

when the cover got shoved off.

I had some in a box,

That was standing down below,

Not enough to last till spring,

And we knew not where to go…

Elsie asks  a man who had been selling salt if he had more to sell?  He didn’t, and didn’t know when more would be in.  He said...”If I go for salt, I’ll freeze to death, and perish in the snow.” 

She goes home,  and tells her children the situation.

When I got home, I told my children

What the man had said,

Then William said, I’ll go myself,

And take that big old sled.

“Mother do not be uneasy,

None but lazy people freeze,

Because they will not exercise,

They are so fond of ease.

There is no fear for me Mother,

I will jump and kick the sled,

I will keep myself in exercise

Run, and kick the wagon bed….

Their team was good and active,

All four year olds and strong….

The account goes on…

Fifteen year old Will and his little brother take off on a 90 mile trek in the dead of winter with their team. They have to cross a frozen river, deal with winter storms, not get lost, be on guard for  roving Indians, (all while mom is at home second guessing herself, with the rest of her brood).

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This week, just to make sure I was on my game  because the weather man said we were in for it, we were going to get a “Polar vortex”,what ever the heck that was, I decided to add a third story to my winter attitude folder.

I decided to reread a portion of  novel The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

It was perfect!

It was just what the Dr ordered!

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Pause.

I am torn.

Torn because I love winter.

I love winter storms.

I love being snowed in.

I love busting through drifts with my 4 wheel drive pick up.

Last thing I want to do is mock someone to whom the winter storms are a heartache.  (My parents are in their 80’s and I know it can be hard on both of them).   The thing is, from my vantage point, all of the negative, naysayers are the only voices I hear.  Fellow lovers of winter weather  seem to be either a dying breed or keeping their thoughts to themselves.

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I grew up on a farm.

On the farm, when you have livestock, you don’t get to stay in the house when it gets cold.  Sometimes just the opposite.  Those are the times when stuff starts to break. Water lines to the cattle get frozen or the pilot light to the tank heater won’t stay lit, etc. etc. Christmas morning if you have milk cows (like we did)  the cows still need milking, haying,  might even have more manure to pitch than normal if you keep the cows in the barn overnight so they don’t freeze their utters off. 🙂

So here I am now in the year 2019.

All of our children are grown.  No longer have cows to milk, tank heaters to keep lit. none of it.

Predictions of winter storms stir up within me feelings of thankfulness.   I feel like some little creature tucked away deep in my burrow,  Cozy.  My larder is full.  The house is staying warm. Smell of freshly baking bread is in the air. Garden seeds have started coming in the mail.  The new little heating pad that goes under the seed starting tray is working like a charm.

I  feel better.   Now you know.

I got into a conversation yesterday with a young mom  about this past weeks weather.  She asked me what I thought about it.  I paused, looked her in the eyes and told her the same things I’ve just told you here.

She smiled and said, “I feel the same way.”

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Here’s a picture I took earlier in the week in front of our house:

Got to run.  Need  to go to the bank before they close.   Take care. DM

 

Mom’s Birthday Gift

My mom turns 85 this month.

I wasn’t sure what to get her.

What do you get for someone who doesn’t want or need more stuff?

Decided to take her out on a date.

A coffee date.

I am scheduled to pick her up tomorrow morning at 9.

Just the two of us.

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I’m her first-born.

If you were to ask me to summarize my relationship with my mom in a word, I would say Confidant. (And it goes both ways.)

Confidant:  One to whom secret or private matters are disclosed.  A person with whom you confide things.

Mom lost her father when she was three.  Raised by a single mother.  Grew up during the Depression.  Told me once, “She never realized she was poor, because everybody was poor in those days.  Her grandmother helped to raise her while her mom worked. There was no social security in those days. Your family was your safety net. They ate pigeon pie.  Fish her grandpa would catch.  Her grandma has a big garden.  Took turns sharing the bath water with half a dozen other kids on the back porch every Friday night. ”

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Here’s where you (my blog readers)  come in… 🙂

Mom and I will have no trouble carrying on a conversation when we are together. It never is.

BUT, I wouldn’t mind taking the opportunity to ask her a question or two about something of substance.

Any suggestions?

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Early picture of my mom and three of us.

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24 hours later….

Coffee date with her eldest

As it turned out, it was the perfect outing.  We did talk family history, but it wasn’t forced.  Found out mom initially went to college to become a teacher. (I never knew that.)   Two different local businessmen offered to help her out with her tuition. (Never knew that either) 🙂

 

Stats

Blogger I follow just passed 40,000 followers.

On a given post, he will get between  100 to 150 comments.

Just for fun, I took the number of followers I have had (223) divided that by the number of comments I typically get, and found you my readers are 10 times more likely to comment than the other blogger, whom I enjoy reading.

Yesterday I was in the office and decided to look at the people on that list of 223 followers….75% of them I’ve never ever heard from, several blogs no longer exist, some were linked to business sites.  Lots of smoke / no fire.

So I went through the list and started deleting.

Now I’m down to 53 followers.

Did the same thing on my farm blog.   Went from 160 down to 70.

It felt good.

It feels good.

I would rather my words go out to 3 or 4 people I know who  read my posts and interact on some level, than have my thoughts go to thousands of places where nobody reads or cares.

I find it hard (sometimes) to write, because of this.  I’m not 100%  sure I can even  tell you why, although that proverb/ word picture of “being careful not to cast your pearls before swine” came to mind…    (Translation:  Don’t place what is precious and valuable before someone who  will  just discard and trample it into the mud)

People write for lots of different reasons.

I write for a couple of reasons….

Any guesses? 😉

By the way, please don’t feel any pressure to comment, (or like this post)…I mean it.

Just the fact you are reading this means you made the cut.   I know you are out there and I value your interactions in my life.

Thank you! 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

Jumble of words

Saw the following picture on our screensaver this morning.

(Our screensaver scrolls through the photos I’ve uploaded on the computer)

Grandson helping dad and grandpa cut wood with his chainsaw

Kasen was born with an extra  Chromosome 21

(Down Syndrome)

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My mind is a jumble of  words when I see that picture.

95% positive

I am so thankful my daughter and her husband did not choose to end his life while he was still in the womb.  6 out of 10 babies diagnosed with down syndrome never make it out of the womb alive here in America.   The odds are even worse in Europe (9 out of 10)

Kasen is as much a part of  our family as any of us.

The Thanksgiving holiday here in America  is day after tomorrow.  Wishing all of you that stay in touch with me on a regular basis here via my blog(s) a great day…and if you lived locally I would invite you to join us for lunch.

I really would…

Then you could meet Kasen  🙂  and the rest of clan.

Take care. DM