Archive for November, 2006

Aerial View

November 28, 2006

Here’s the site of the orchard, as seen from google earth.

aerial view of orchard site

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Recent History

November 28, 2006

Hi, this is Ben.  I started this blog to chronicle the progress of an apple orchard I’m starting on Georgetown Island, in Maine, where I grew up.  My friend Holly and I caught the apple bug last fall, and we made 15 gallons of hard cider and several more of sweet cider, using my great grandfather’s old cast iron press.  He documented last year’s adventures on his website.  This year we built a new press and doubled our production. 

 My grandfather has tended a few trees in the yard for as long as I can remember, and the idea of planting a cider orchard seemed like a natural one.  It was not hard to choose the spot, in my grandparents’ woods where several scraggly old apple trees and a grassy mound marked the site of a farmstead long gone.  Tumbledown stone walls from those times provided a natural boundary on the south and west, and the land sloped gently northwest toward Robinhood Cove.  A quarter acre seemed a good size to start.

 Early in this summer, my wife Alexis, our friend Jonah, and I started clearing the spot on an unbearably hot, humid day.  On Labor Day weekend, my cousins Matthew and Sam helped out, and the clearing steadily grew.  In October, my parents (Emily and Dave) joined in to drop a big field pine and a triple-top red maple.  With winter closing in, it’s time to get the stumps pulled and the roots grubbed out, with an eye towards preparing the soil come spring. 

1/4 acre cleared

November 27, 2006

Alexis and I went to Five Islands for Thanksgiving and I made good progress on the orchard with help from the folks, while she studied neurology and pharmacology.  The orchard site is up to its intended size of about 1/4 acre, and its ready for the machine to come and tip out the stumps. 

 We’ve got an old cordwood trailer that Dave made out of the frame and rear axle of an expired half-ton pickup.  It hadn’t been used for years, but the tires weren’t completely flat, and after charging them up, Emily and I got out about two cords of good-sized maple in four foot chunks; added them to Pops’ pile for next winter.  The trailer worked great towed behind the small Kubota tractor, though the tires dug ruts in the track leading out of the woods.   At the end of last trip I left a couple of red maple tops on the ground, and these I cut up and threw on the brush piles.  I also mowed down a thicket of small moose-maple between 1 and 3 inches in diameter, and dropped a scraggly old dead apple tree, about 8″.  On Sunday Dave joined me in the morning and we dropped the last tree, a 12″ red maple, and cut it up.  The brush is all in 4 piles, all the small cordwood has been hauled away, and there are 5 or 6 large maple logs that will be pushed aside by the machine when it comes for the stumps.  We’ll drag a log splitter into the orchard, dice the logs to stove length, and split the pieces before hauling them out in the spring.

 I also cleaned up the orchard site with Pops’ walk-behind mower (“The Whippah”), a two-wheeled, one-blade machine that did a fine job of knocking down a few remaining saplings and a whole forest of small white pine seedlings.  The mowing definitely gave the site a more civilized appearance, despite four huge brush piles and the several large logs scattered around.  With the same walk-behind mower, I also prepared a nursery bed to receive the baby trees next spring.  I mowed a swath about 8 feet wide and 100 feet long at the edge of a dormant field where Emily grew pumpkins for the local market when I was a kid. 

I then hitched up a two-bottom plow to the Kubota and took a couple of passes down the field.  The plow flipped the sod right over in most cases, though the left (rear) furrow did not turn reliably, and after spending maybe 1/2 hour flipping the recalcitrant bits with a spade and turning fork, I resolved to figure out how to adjust the plow properly next time.  It wasn’t that bad really, and Alexis and Emily came out to help at the end.  The sod will rot over the fall and winter, and next spring I’ll smooth it out with a harrow and stick in the trees when they come.  The nursery bed is adjacent to an existing fenced area, so I will just have to move the fence over by 8′ or so to protect the young trees from the deer and moose.