Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Weeding Turned Into Pruning

I had just barely gotten started on my weeding of the raised beds yesterday when hubby announced it would be a good time to prune the fruit trees. True, it is a good time since the buds are just starting to show and it's still super-easy to see each and every little branch that needs to be nipped off or cut back.

We usually do this job together because 1) it goes faster that way, 2) we can chat and talk over things while doing the job, and 3) he's tall and I'm short.

We attack each tree by working around the circumference of it, me taking care of the lower branches and he doing the higher ones. However, we've discovered this year that our semi-dwarf trees have now become so tall that even using the three foot long nippers, he still can't reach the topmost branches that need to be pruned. We ended up dragging out the old, sturdy, two-step stool from the garage and that got him up high enough.

Here's Papa Pea (and granddog Maisy seeing what she can do to help) next to one of our smaller trees after we finished pruning it.

We piled the trimmed branches in the garden cart and hauled them to the burn pile. A couple of times.

I came to the conclusion today (and not for the first time) that I would much rather raise and sell vegetables than own and maintain a fruit orchard and sell that produce. (Maybe it's because I'm short and vegetables are more my size; fruit trees are much bigger than I am and require too much stretching, reaching and working with hands above your head. Ugh.)

When he was in high school, hubby worked after school, weekends and summers for his biology teacher who owned an apple orchard. I asked him if they pruned all of the hundred-and-some trees by hand. He looked at me as if that was the dumb question of the century and said, "Of course. Do you think we rode on a machine that pruned the trees for us?"

He remembers they always pruned the orchard in March (this was in Illinois) and it took him and one other guy weeks of working every night after school and weekends to complete the task. The brush pile they created with the pruned branches was huge . . . about 6-8 feet high, 40 feet long by about 20 feet wide. They let it sit all summer and then burned it in the fall as soon as a few inches of snow covered the ground.

I remember getting apples and fresh pressed cider from that same orchard for a few years after we were first married, and the apples were delicious and products made from them first class.

But I still don't like pruning fruit trees and would never contemplate having an orchard of that size.

We didn't finish all of our trees yesterday. But today's another day and we hope to wrap up the project by this afternoon.

Now then, when am I gonna get my raised beds weeded?


Tombstone Livestock said...

I will have to start carrying my camera when they prune the orange trees, big machine with big round blades like saw blades that can be operated across tops of the trees and also turned vertically to trim sides. Orange trees then look like Boxwood hedges only bigger.

Right now the orange trees are blooming this whole small valley smells of orange blossoms.

Anonymous said...

You two are AMAZING and so admirable! We all have so much to learn from you.-"M"

Mama Pea said...

Tombstone Livestock - Wa-hoo! Do you think there's any chance of getting one of those rigs to take a little scenic trip up here to the northland to finish up our trees for us??

"M" - Balderdash. Horsefeathers. And barndust. We just keep pluggin' along doing what we like (or sometimes don't like!) to do. I feel so lacking in knowledge and like such a sluggard when I read the blogs of what other people are accomplishing in the same amount of hours each day. (But I'm honored by your kind words. Thank you.)

Tami said...

I went and looked at both my young apple trees and my neighbors 15 yr old tree yesterday. No apples on either one :(

Which makes me wonder how an orchard farmer makes sure he has apples every year. There must be some trick...Do you know?

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

I have a confession. I do not prune. Anything. Very bad I know, but I just hate to have to decide what limb or vine to cut. What if I chose the wrong one? What if I kill the decades old tree or grapevine? So my fruit suffers, but I try to tell myself that trees can survive without man. And I would appreciate it if you took your weather back! They are calling for 2-8 inches of wet snow tomorrow. What is that!

Lisa B said...

We have a major orchard near us with hundreds of acres, mainly apples and peaches with a few cherries thrown in. Each year the migrant workers prune with the owners and create story high piles to burn. I had a cockatoo some time ago and used to pull some apple branches out for him to destroy before they burn them. Amazing how much hand work it takes to maintain their orchards.

Mama Pea said...

Tami - I'm sure no expert in the field, but I do know apple trees seem to go in a two-year cycle; one year abundance, and the next year not so much. (Maybe they need to rest?) I suppose orchard owners plant different varieties for that reason. Not all varieties have down years at the same time or are affected by the same weather conditions in the same way.

Did you have a frost this year that nipped the blossoms on your trees?

Jane - Well, ya know, we all develop the system that feels the best and works the best for us. I have read that it's better to prune too much than not at all, but if you're comfortable with the harvests you get, you're doin' fine! I'm always sure (every year) we're killing our trees but my dear husband did have all that experience pruning in his youth so I trust he knows what he's doing.

Terrible news that you're forecasted to get that much snow tomorrow. Yuck. So sorry. Yesterday areas 100+ miles south of us got that bad stuff but we had nice days (if somewhat cool) yesterday and today.

Lisa - Those wonderful migrant workers sure have enabled lots of farms, orchards and ranches to operate over the years, haven't they? There are some jobs each year that are just too big for family-run places to handle themselves.

Judy T said...

Our spring was so early this year that we didn't get our trees pruned. We had planned to prune them in March but the sap had already started running by then because it was so warm. Oh well. There is always next year.
I took a pruning class at the orchard not far from us two years ago, before we planted out little trees. They have so many trees they start pruning in February so they can get done before the trees break dormancy. We were out there for the class in 10 inches of snow. NOT my idea of fun! But they did at least treat us to warm apple cider afterwards.

judy said...


dr momi said...

Good job done! I was laughing at the "did you do it all by hand" comment to Papa Pea and then Tombstone Livestock tells me there is such a machine....well, who'd a thunk!

Susan said...

Ooooh. Thank you for reminding me to prune my two tiny plum trees. Which are short, like me. Nice thing about weeds, though, is that they are ALWAYS there for you...

Lap Dog Knits said...

I cook, he prunes...we've struck a deal
very nice piece of Earth you two have together, I'm sure it will be a wonderful harvest soon - happy weedin'

Cat Eye Cottage said...

I agree with you on the pruning part, but the benefit of having your own fruit sure is nice!

Lisa said...

I'm sort of with Jane here in that I stress BIG time when pruning anything I love to eat. Like my muscadines. Book in hand I set to work and stressed out so much after one vine, I left all the other ones to their natural growth this year. I call it 'The Great Experiment'... you know, to compare their production results... but in reality it was because I was so STRESSED! Then there's the blackberries... oh that's another story! Just curious, as you eat the delicious fruit you grow, do you forget about the Spring pruning adventures?! Hope ya'll got done and you're on to another project today.

Erin said...

I can barely keep up with my 2 plain old Crepe Myrtles, even though I KNOW how important pruning is... must be my height, I'm overwhelmed. I better get with the program before I head to apple country! Papa Pea is right, it's the best time to do it right now, and I also think YOU are right, I'd rather grow and sell vegetables any day!

Mama Pea said...

Judy - Even though I think (technically) pruning should be done while trees are still dormant, the orchard guy hubby worked for used to joke, "There are only 52 days a year when you shouldn't prune trees. Sundays." Ha-ha!

judy - I guess you can win things, save money and come out ahead by entering certain contests, using coupons, etc. but it all takes time, too, doesn't it?

dr moni - Guess it goes to prove that these days, there's a machine to do almost anything! Hmmm. Scary.

Susan - Yep, and my weeds are very busy right now waiting for me! It's 10:30 a.m. right now and I can only laugh at the schedule I had in mind for this morning that I've not even gotten CLOSE to!

Lap Dog Knits - Hi, and thanks for commenting. I like your and your hubby's division of labor! You're right in that harvest time in the garden will be here before we know it. Arrrrgh, please slow down, Time!

Mama Pea said...

The Weekend Homesteader - Isn't that the way with most everything? We have to take (or do) the good with the bad. I think the solution is to learn to like the "bad" (pruning) because we know what the benefits are in the end! It's all in the way we look at it.

Lisa - Hubby and I were talking today when we were pruning our raspberries together. I asked if he remembered (years ago) when we were first faced with pruning the raspberries, and we poured over books, we researched it as much as we could and then were sure we were doing it all wrong and were killing the raspberries. Now it is so easy and there's no question as to which canes should be cut out, or how many canes we should leave to bear this coming year. We don't even hardly have to think while doing it. I wonder if we all don't worry and take so many situations too seriously. It's so easy-peasy when we gain a little confidence!

Erin - We just now today finally finished the last of the fruit trees. Whadda job! But so worth it.