Bedded Down

Some friends came up to Five Islands from Boston for the weekend, and we made great progress on the orchard. On Saturday, Brandon, Sharon, and I gathered rocks and roots from the surface of the orchard, and extracted one substantial boulder about three feet long and the shape of a potato. The weather was overcast and misty, but pleasant enough. We then leveled things out and spread the lime, greensand, and rock phosphate, harrowed it in, and dragged it flat with the chain drag I built last weekend. My grandfather’s old spreader worked great for the sand and phosphate, but the little agitator in the bottom wasn’t capable of breaking up the compacted lime powder in the box, so we ended up spreading all 2000 lbs by hand, which was tiring but not as bad as you might think. Definitely need to think about better equipment to do liming.

Alea brought some friends up Friday night and they went to the CommonGround fair on Saturday, and four stayed to help on Sunday. It was a picture-perfect fall day, with clear skies, bright sun, and a fresh northwesterly breeze. Some of the maples were just starting to turn colors. Before breakfast I filled a trailer with rotted goat manure from the barn, and the crew schlepped another round of rocks and roots off the plot while a couple of us laid out the trees, rows 30 feet apart and 28′ spacing in the rows. One place had to be left out because of a ledge outcrop, and the corresponding tree was relocated to a more suitable spot, but otherwise the layout appears reasonable. Once we had a stake in the ground for each tree, we piled goat manure around each stake, and then folks took tractor, trailer, and buckets down to the shore and gathered up about 200 gallons of seaweed. Meanwhile, I spread a bag of Fedco “fall tree prep” organic amendment mix on each pile of manure. After a pause for lunch and some hard cider (Farnum Hill Summer Cider – carbonated, very slightly sweet, really pleasant stuff – since we are pretty much tapped out of last year’s production), the seaweed went over top of the piles.  I went lightly over the soil one more time with the harrow, then folks took turns running the hand-cranked broadcast seeder to spread rye/vetch mix and inoculant powder over the plot. One more pass with the chain drag and the orchard was bedded down for the winter. Hopefully we get some showers this coming week to get the seeds going.

Next up: I eyeballed post locations for an electric fence to keep the deer out, and concluded that a few more trees will need to come down before the fence goes up; that goes on the list for fall/winter. There are a bunch of tractor maintenance items that need attending to, and of course there’s clearing for the maples along the stone wall down the hill to the shore. I’ll need to get the fence up for the deer as soon as possible, both to preserve the cover crop and to get the critters habituated to it before the trees go in.

Thanks to everyone who helped out; the orchard is coming along very well.


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