This morning I was hosing off my shoes after completing a nasty rear hall renovation project on this old house and decided to water the apple trees while I had the water going. One of the trees we presumed had not made it looked like it had a plump terminal bud. I bent down and realized not only did it have a swollen terminal bud, but there was a tiny leaf sprouted off the trunk, well ABOVE the graft. Excitedly, I checked the other tree that we had presumed dead and it was LEAFED OUT! This means EVERY graft we made, apart from the one our dear, sweet son plucked out, is ALIVE!
[[[ For those who know me, the use of all caps is strictly forbidden under nearly every and all circumstances, so this is obviously an extremely momentous occasion… 😉 ]]]
Thirty-nine Shiawassee Beauties brought back from the verge of extinction!
Last year, we bagged ram’s wool and hung from our remaining apple trees. The thought was that prey animals (namely the ones who love to nibble our tree buds) will avoid areas in which prey scent is strong, and likely attracting predators. We didn’t know whether it would be successful, and it’s still a bit anecdotal with only one year under our belt, but… the apple trees show zero sign of bud damage and are thriving! And no need to milk a coyote for its urine…
Sunshine on our little Beauties this morning. Warm weather this week means a lot of outdoor time for these sweet apple trees.
Ten years ago, I was living in the rural outskirts of Traverse City, building garden beds as a leisurely summer activity with my three toddlers. I could never have imagined how much my life would change in the coming decade. By the end of that summer, I began feeling ill with trouble breathing and nightmares about dying. In September of that year I was diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma and began immediate treatments, lasting into the following year.
Little did I realize that a single event, a phone call that I picked up while standing at the kitchen counter, in which a surgeon very plainly announced the diagnosis with little emotion in his voice, that my life as a farmer would truly begin. Not out of a desire to farm, specifically (although I have always wanted this life), but out of a need to find answers; alternatives to biocides used in fruit production.
This morning, I looked out at the calm waters of Lake Michigan and the sunlight spilling
over the hilltop through the windows, and felt my heart swell for the little apple whips beginning their first full season as individual trees. These trees represent so much more than the salvation of a single apple variety. They are also the culmination of a decade’s long effort toward restorative agriculture. Progressing toward a desire to save not only rare apples, but also to satisfy my own desire to see my children play among the orchard trees the way I once did as a child, but free from the worry of toxins.
Farmers, generally, whether they spray or use alternative growing methods, are some of the best people I’ve ever known. And this little travelling orchard is representative of not only my hope for the future, but of my admiration for my fellow farmers. I know the struggles we each endure regularly, the set-backs and failures that make this business challenging, and the pioneering spirit that keeps it all moving forward. Because this business of growing is as much about growing food as it is growing from within.
It’s winter, though the breath of spring has touched our cheeks the past few days. It’s close. Hang in there.
I have been a worried mama over the apple trees we stored overwinter in a friend’s basement. We felt this was a safer option than risking exposure to voles or deer or bitter temperatures outdoors, after last year’s disastrous orchard failure. The temps in the basement were just warm enough that the trees have begun exiting their dormancy, so today we moved them home for some extra attention in the coming months.
They are looking good and eager to bud out, which is both a
huge relief and exciting. Despite being trees, these little beauties have traversed many miles already and are slated to be planted in New York in the coming years.
What stories we’ll all have to tell tasting these apples some day.
[These 40 trees are Shiawassee Beauties, saved off of a single remaining tree in an orchard in Southern Michigan. As far as we know, only handful of trees exist outside of the “travelling orchard” we currently tend. Our plan is to reintroduce this Michigan-born variety back into the state at a later date to preserve this sweet bit of history and a tasty variety, part of Michigan’s rich cultural landscape.]
The wax tape is now falling away from the 40 grafts we made this spring. The graft unions look great. It’s exciting to see these little trees grow!
All 40 grafts took, though one was damaged by our toddler, so that tree, while still growing, is root stock only. These trees will be overwintered somewhere in town and transplanted outdoors next spring.
Remember the segments of root stock that were going to be thrown out by the NPS last year, but that we managed to save and root using willow water? They’re also doing well. In fact, they’re thriving in our yard and will make wonderful shade trees to some future home-owner. Cuttings from apple trees will root easily – using a natural growth hormone, like that found in willow water, helps.
Levi at RealEyes Homestead, which is a permaculture farm adjacent to our farm at DeYoung has just started doing podcasts. They’re great! And we’re particularly fond of the second ever, the story of our farm. Please take a listen and then sign up to receive additional podcasts from RealEyes.