“So, what do you do in the winter?” is a question I often get asked. Quite a lot, actually. Winter is the time when we prep and repair equipment for the coming spring. We still have apples and pears in the cold storage to pack and sell. We also try to save a few “inside” jobs for when it is actually raining or snowing, but mostly we are pruning our apple, pear and peach trees. As I mentioned in my last posting, we have 17,000 trees that must be pruned before April, so anytime it isn’t snowing or raining, we are outside pruning.
I have also had folks ask me why we prune if the trees aren’t very big yet. We actually start pruning or training the tree as soon as we plant it. It is important to get the tree started off right and the first several years in the life of a fruit tree is the time we build the framework or structure of the tree. Once the structure of the tree is established, the pruning process is mostly thinning, renewing and cutting back branches to maintain the tree. Over the years I have had friends, customers and neighbors with fruit trees who call several years after they have planted the tree in their yard and they figure it is time to think about pruning it. Usually in these cases the trees are too far gone to ever have a chance of establishing a proper structure.
There are lots of resources on the internet. Here is an example of one that covers the basics.
There are articles and even YouTube videos on the subject.
Pruning and training fruit trees are equal parts science and art (Some aspects of farming require equal parts science, art and luck.) Every tree is a little different, but once you understand enough about what the goals are, you can “see” the cuts you need to make. You will be pruning for the current crop, as well as leaving some branches that will be the renewal wood to take the place of the current framework and fruiting wood in the tree.
One of the things I love about farming is that you have a very tangible measure of what you have accomplished. At the end of a day, you can look back down a row or across a field and see what you have accomplished. There is beauty in a well-pruned tree and you can see you made a difference and imagine how that tree will look in the spring with blossoms or in fall, full of fruit.
By now the holiday season is behind us and the new year has started. The holidays were filled with many things; friends and family, giving thanks for all that we have, and FOOD. About the food, while some side dishes during the holidays are healthy, most of the food that gets consumed is not. Cookies, candies, appetizers while all delicious did not end the year well in the eating well category.
In the new year for my family we are focusing on trying to make healthy choices (a bit clichy for a new year’s resolution, I know). A big part of that focus is around my 2 year old daughter, Addie. She is at that point where she is trying to push boundaries and that includes food. If she could have her way all she eats would consist of cereal, grapes, goldfish, crackers, hot dogs, and chicken noodle soup. And if it is a green vegetable, forget about it. We are working hard to expand her horizons with food and try not to go the easy way out and provide her those few favorites.
With that said there are a few things that we are trying to do to increase the variety of food that she eats this year. One thing is meal planning at the beginning of the week and doing it so that there isn’t a second option for her for dinner. On Sunday with that meal plan in mind we went to Bishop’s. There are two things that get Addie excited about going to Bishop’s: getting an apple from the basket at the entrance and pushing her own cart. Going around the store with a two year old pushing the kids cart definitely takes some time but the smile on her face makes it worth it. This is part of the process where I hope it translates to her eating, helping get the food from the store. I picked out the fruits and vegetables from the shelf, hand it to her and she would put it in the cart. While doing that we say the name of the food as part of the learning process as well. Keeping her involved and excited hopefully translates to the same feelings at home when the food is on her plate.
An additional component of trying to eat better is having Addie be a part of the cooking process. She does have a play kitchen that she loves to cook in and she also loves cooking with us. Even at two there are simple tasks that she can do to “help”. For example, if ingredients need to be mixed together in a bowl, we will measure items out and she will dump each one in the bowl and mix it together. She also likes to be on a chair at the counter just watching us cook. She loves to be involved in the process. It also makes us feel good because she is a bit of a cheerleader, she will say “Yay, Mommy did the cooking!” or “Yay, Daddy did the cooking” when we are done and ready to eat. Who doesn’t like a little motivation?
It is just the beginning of 2016 but I hope to stay on track and get my daugher involved in learning to love various foods that are good for all of us.
Beginning a new year is a good time to make resolutions and set goals.
In farming we begin each new year with the hope that mother nature will be kind to us in the coming year and resolve to make positive changes, always striving to learn from, grow and improve from our past successes and failures. So many of the factors necessary for a successful year are beyond our control so we set about taking care of what we can to make sure we are ready when the time comes. Most of our time the next few months on the farm will be spent pruning our 17,000 fruit trees, planning our vegetable plantings for the coming year and preparing equipment.
In farming, no matter how bad or good the past year was, the new year is a new beginning and filled with hope. Farmers are optimists. Why else would we will invest so much time and energy planting and caring for crops knowing we could lose them in an instant to a freeze or hail storm, etc… A hurricane or tropical storm can wipe out a whole season’s work. There aren’t many farmers who are recreational gamblers. We get all the excitement we can stand at the “office”.
I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year and success with your New Year resolutions. We will endeavor to do our best to at least help with the healthy part by providing fresh, nutritious, locally-grown food for you and yours.