Earth Day, Orchards and Carbon Sequestration, Hiking the Town Boundary

“Focus Keith!”  I’m on the move, always another challenge to distract me and learn! So how do I succinctly tie in all the ideas filling my mind for Earth Day #51 in 2021?

I’m staying close to home, minimizing my use of hydrocarbons, savoring the power produced by our farm’s 1,489 solar panels as well as the 39 panels on my own home. I recently went to check on our peach trees which are now in full bloom, as well as the apple trees which are currently at the ‘green tip stage.’  I brought along our new Beagle rescue, Nettie, who loves roaming the orchards, sniffing around, but unaware of the beauty above. Heavily weighing on my mind is the hope that no late spring freezes devastate the buds or the blossoms in the next month. As I look at the view from the orchard ~300 feet above Long Island Sound, I can make out the Long Island shoreline “cliffs” at Suffolk 25 miles away to the south, Bluff Head 6 miles away to the North… and thousands of acres in between. I’ve hiked most of the trails in Guilford, and am thankful for those that make this access possible, especially the Guilford Land Conservation Trust.

This month, Bishop’s Orchards is pleased to have the proceeds of our ‘Round Up’ contribution campaign go to GLCT (see prior blog). A recent hike with Isak took us from Guilford’s Westwoods to Branford’s Stony Creek Quarry Preserve. We crossed the townline and marveled at the “Selectmen’s Stones”, rocks that were once piled (now preserved as part of an Eagle Scout project) with numbers and initials inscribed on them.  These “Selectmen’s Stones” were placed here as part of the practice of ‘agreeing’ and marking the town boundary with stones carved with the date and initials of the Selectmen, a boundary tradition which can be traced back to the settlers from Europe. 10 miles to the North, another pile marks the tri-town border of Madison, Guilford and Durham, re-marked in 2008 by the then current 3 Selectman.

Marking the boundary for Durham, Madison, and Guilford is a rock pile with numbers and initials inscribed on them. These “Selectmen’s Stones” are placed here as part of a tradition which can be traced back as far as the Celts. The practice of marking a boundary with stones such as these crossed the Atlantic with the Puritans. Laura Francis, Durham; Carl Balestracci, Guilford, Al Goldberg, Madison; Walk of The Boundaries by the Selectmen of Madison and Guilford, Connecticut Trails Day, June 7, 2008, 10:00 am.

My mind and work boots are back in the orchard, admiring the habitat. Those of us with orchards know just how many beneficial insects and birds make their homes among the regimented trees. Work at my alma mater, Cornell’s Geneva Experiment Station, on an orchard’s footprint determined “an acre of orchard each season fixes about 20 tons of CO2 from the air, releases 15 tons of oxygen, and provides over 5 billion BTU’s of cooling power. Carbon is sequestered by trees, though estimates are hard to make” (more information). The wood of the tree sequesters carbon as it is held without microbial degradation that digests the annual leaves and other dry matter produced by photosynthesis. 

What else does Earth Day inspire as I reflect upon the land that makes my family’s living possible? Right now I’m hungry and I think… “local food and drink”. The apple trees down the hill from my sight line are specialty varieties destined for Hard Cider. A few rows over are Stayman, great for making ‘Apple Crisp’ and next to them ‘Crimson Crisp’ a newer variety great for eating.  Fewer miles from tree to your table, using less transportation, saves fuel and reduces pollution– sure, just little bits at a time, but they add up. Your being connected with our farm and our family is appreciated, whether it’s a part of our CSA, PYO, or coming to our Farm Market. Helping folks “re-connect with the land” and care how local land is being used is more important than ever.