Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rains Arrive on Schedule

It is late October, and the rains have come. In our area it starting drizzling on Thursday night, and only increased into a downpour Saturday night and much of Sunday. The land was pretty parched, so, the water is much appreciated. This first big rain always is the prelude to winter time changes. Next week daylight savings time arrives and then the short days and cool dark nights follow. The orchard goes to sleep and the farmers go to rest. On Thursday, just hours ahead of the rain, I spent the day shooting the elevations on the spot where the tractor barn will be built. I was a bit surprised to find there was almost a three foot difference from side to side. My eye would not have predicted that. Of course it is difficult to judge these things on a mountain side. But, I fired up the Kubota and began the task of moving earth and leveling the site. After maybe four hours of persistence, I finally agreed with myself to let it be until another time. Once the rains pack the loose dirt down I can re shoot and see what else needs to happen. Funny thing happened on the way to my barn. By the end of the day, the entrance had moved 90 degrees to the north. The east side, where I thought the entrance would be, now has a two foot drop. That won't make for a pleasant entrance, so it makes sense to turn the building one rotation and go with the flow. Sometimes things like this surprise us, but generally I find there is a reason, if I am just open to the experience. Now we wait, but still, I have visions of forms and a cement truck and trowels finishing the concrete, so that the next phase of building can be addressed. For any physical manifestation, there is much mental activity in the form of planning that must happen first. When that is complete, the physical shape can take form.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Apple Time Again!

It is so perfect that as the summer fades away, and I begin thinking about fall and the change of the season, nature begins to give her gifts of so many delicious apples. She starts with the Gravensteins and goes on to the Liberties and the Golden Delicious. I am so lucky because the apples generally don't have worms. I don't know if the mouths haven't found this spot because it is so isolated, or maybe it is just an inhabitable spot, but for some miraculous reason the apples are yummy and have no infestation. The water seems to have held out this year, and everything is still pretty perky. We've had a couple of light rains, but the ground is still hard as a rock. Last week I took the tractor and dug a test hole in an area where I have wondered for years if there was a spring just below the surface of the ground. No such luck. I found the clay that the water flows through in the winter and spring, but it was as dry as a bone. OK, now we know the truth! I have been doing some repair on the ferro cement tank, as it has multiple leaks in it. I won't know until winter if the repairs are effective or not. I also would like to spend a day leveling the ground where we want to put the tractor barn. Now that I have a transit, I should be able to get the area fairly level. That will be fun, and it may happen as soon as this coming Thursday.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Infrastructure Work

In the past month I had a couple of dump truck loads of road base gravel brought up and spread on the road. This should make it easier to traverse during the winter months. The only way to know for sure how the road is handling the water is to get out there with a shovel while it is raining and watch where the water naturally wants to go. Once the ditches are set, the running water will take care of the rest, as long as there are no slides. The other project that got accomplished was in preparation for the new tractor barn. There was a small road put in last summer for water tanks that I wrote about earlier in the blog. The water wanted to rush down the hill and spill onto the the proposed building site. By installing an eight inch culvert across the road and doing some ditching with the tractor, the problem should be solved. But, as mentioned above, we'll see what happens when it rains! Generally speaking, the Kubota has come in handy, and as time goes on, I am becoming more familiar with the safe operation.

Oh Yeah; Harvest Time Again!

It's now been a month at least since the last entry to my blog. You know, you can either write about the apple farm or you can go work on the farm.......right? Like any other passion in life, it has to be squeezed into the limited discretionary time we have available. So, recently, I have been more inclined to be at the farm doing the projects on my list rather than sitting on my behind writing at the computer. Fair enough? But, what brings me here today is that a couple of weeks ago I picked the first batch of Gravenstein Apples and using the Excalibur Dehydrator that my daughters gave me for my birthday, I have been drying these apples with some rather amazing results. I tried them both peeled and non peeled, after the core was removed. First, I might say, these are wonderfully organically grown apples with no worms. There is an occasional bird peck, which can be easily removed. But, got to say, I like them peeled a bit better. The non peeled tastes a bit like fruit jerky, which could have some appeal in the right circumstances. But just for munching, the soft taste of the apple meat, dried @ 105 degrees for 10 to 12 hours, just is so delicious, that it is hard to believe it is actually good for you. Nothing has been added; no preservative, honey, lemon juice or cinnemon. It is a bit labor intensive to prepare the apples, but, I found the task relaxing and fulfilling. I'll keep you posted about how the other varieties fair in this process.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer in August

Well, the summer is wearing on as I write. Friday, August 6th, Sylus and I may be up at the orchard to focus on activating the electric fence. It has not been working for the past two years because of all of the changes in the orchard. Once that little task is complete, all the upgrades to the system will be finished........thank God! My hope is that the backup water tank will carry us over during the really dry time and that all the trees will have the ample water supply that they need. Pictured here is the bride across the creek that separates our cabin from the west section of the parcel where Matt and Charlie have their dwelling. Keep ya posted!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Orchard House

We visited the home where Louisa May Alcott wrote "Little Women". It was purchased by her father Bronsen Alcott and was about ten acres with an orchard of apples. Though the four main family sisters who were characters in this book never actually all lived in the home, the story is based upon this particular home. The apples did serve as one source of income until the successful publishing of the book, which generated an abundance of income for the extended family. As we toured the home it was easy to put myself in the place of this family, all of whom were quite creative. In the parlor, there were frequent visits from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Thoreau who both lived in nearby Concord. Waldon Pond is about a mile from Orchard House. While visiting I also had the assurance that my apples were being daily watered on the west coast, and that upon my return, I would see the development of the crop to the next stages of growth. It is amazing to be able to have such a variety of experiences.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July Heat!

So now the rays of the Sun have just about fried everything that is not connected to a water source. It is an amazing feeling to walk out on the hillsides and see all the various trees flourishing amidst this heat. I carefully check the emitters to ensure that every system is faithfully discharging water on the daily schedule. Next week Olga and I will be on the East Coast for a few days, and it is amazing to think that while we are gone, religiously, the water will flow in such a manner that all the plants will be happy in their quest for life and balance. And, so it goes!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Kubota is here.....At last!

With a BX25 Kubota as part of the farm equipment @ Bell Springs, the new season begins. The work that I have been doing by hand over the past 35 years has been a pleasure, however, the time has come to ratchet things up a bit. My new friend, Mr BX 25, will help me to accomplish things and avoid tendinitis in my arms, which incidentally, didn't used to happen to me! I am ready to become an apple producer, and in order to make this goal come true, I need some serious help. So, here we are. And, I'll add, I love driving this thing. I can move a quarter of a yard of compost right up to the orchard gate, and make quick work of an activity that might have taken a couple of hours, pushing the wheel barrel up hill. Ultimately, my hope is to be able to have more apples available for harvest and eating. Yummy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring is around the Corner!

Spring will officially arrive in just a couple of weeks, and things are beginning to shift in dramatic ways. The grass is green and the buds on the tress are swelling and getting impatient to burst. I see honey bees out looking for wildflower blooms. The water in the seasonal creeks is flowing and things seem to be "abuzz" and as vibrant as ever. I have done quite a bit of pruning, getting the trees in shape for the new apple bearing season. We've got a little fence planned for around some raised beds that will exclusively be a "kitchen garden" for those living in the cabin. We are heading into the new growing season with lots of enthusiasm and hopes for a productive and abundant harvest. Hopefully we will be using the new fruit dehydrator for the drying of organic apples. Blessings!

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Life guarantees change! What once was so important and real is now gone. And, so it goes. I am embracing the movement of the wheel of fortune as it whirls past me and sets the stage for the next transmogrify. The chicken coop that stood in the center of the orchard for oh so many years could not with stand this tidal wave of movement. There is now a bench or ledge that runs the hillside traversing the rolling hills. The grape arbor is being dismantled after more than 25 years of saluting to the sun each morning in favor of open space and a new gazebo below it. No, I didn't sit down with a neat and tidy plan and lay it all out on graph paper. The magic of the universe simply has allowed it to unfold, each step a unique leaning in a new direction, not necessarily planned. The intuition of the land is working to cast its spell and who is to say just what will result in the end? All I know is that I am happily part of this project, and I am glad to be swept along with the this foolish current to whatever it is that the elementals have determined that this garden shall be. The spirit of earth and all the beings are bonding together to make the wonder of nature and its fruit. In this case apples!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Time for New Trees!

January is bare root season, and, we are taking full advantage of that opportunity. This year, on Sunday January 10th, I planted two Arkansas Black and two "Crippen" Pink Lady apple trees. It is always a creative effort to find new space in the existing orchard. This season I felt inspired to go with the old adage, "Out with the old and in with the new!" I dug out two very old Apricot Trees that have never actually produced any fruit, to allow their space to be given to these new members of the orchard. Although it pulled at my heart strings some to see these two trees go away, as the blossoms are utterly beautiful, I need to remember that the current mission of the orchard is to produce apples. With that in mind, things are moving in the direction they are.
I also dug up a volunteer apple tree under the Gravenstein that is getting too big to remain where it is. Assuming it survives the transplant, this tree will be on the list of trees to be grafted this spring. When the weather warms, I will be bringing the camera to capture more pictures.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

First Post of the New Year!

As will happen, the days turn into weeks, and the weeks months, and here we are at the start of a New Year, ready or not! The realization that the light will begin to overcome the darkness and a new spring will dawn is powerful at this time of year. The symbolism of new beginnings and the innocence of all of nature just floods the sky ways and envelopes all of the hidden voids surrounding this place we call space. It is righteous to be out on the land, and partake in this discovery that the raw energy of the planet allows this miracle of rebirth to happen year after year. The promise of all the things to come in the coming year and the willingness of nature to surrender to the caretakers of the land and become the farm that is imagined and willed from within is magical. Everywhere there is unity and purpose. I see the apple trees pruned, composted and blooming. I see the bees flying about and pollinating the blossoms. I see the branches giving way to leaves and growth. I feel the warm sun on my skin the same way the trunks of the trees feel the heat. I smell the wildflowers and grasses as they blow in the wind. Finally, I taste the first ripe Gravenstein, and savor the juicy flavor of this ambrosial fruit. Let it all unfold! I am ready for the New Year............