Fourth Annual Orchard Weekend

Four years ago in late April we first invited friends to come and help plant apple trees, and it has grown into an annual tradition. Last weekend was the fourth in the series, and it was a fantastic success. In addition to adding two more rows of apples and peach trees, we enlarged the orchard fence, improved the drainage, and extended the row of Cornell University selected “sweet trees” down the hill all the way to the shore road. An incredible amount got done in a very short time, despite uncooperative weather, thanks to the remarkable enthusiasm and dedication of the assembled team. For the first time this year Saturday evening’s activities included a tomahawk throwing contest, with a fine hand-forged tomahawk as prize to the winner (JD). All in all a fantastic weekend – many thanks to all who helped to make it the best orchard weekend yet.

Thursday morning I hit the grocery early to stock up on grub for the weekend, then headed downeast. I stopped at J&K’s to pick up some tools; we loaded a large saw log that we had previously cut on the flatbed trailer and Kauf towed it up to add to the pile that has accumulated in Five Islands from salvage following the storms this winter. He and I then took the tractor and winch into the woods and did some quick clearing to make room for the rest of the maple trees, which it turns out were coming after all. We sent him back with a trailerload of four foot firewood.

Friday Joshua came back up, Jake and Joanna came over, and we put up fence posts defining the corners of the new enlarged orchard fence. Then Eileen (old friend from Morse) and her husband came by for a visit with their new baby girl, and they helped plant potatoes in the old pumpkin patch. We swept out the cabins and distributed drinking water. Holly and Becky arrived with the kids about dinner time, after which we headed over to the west side, hung out by the water, and guided folks in to the cabins as they arrived.

Saturday was damp and intermittently showery, but fortified by blueberry pancakes the crew pitched in, hauling brush, moving rocks, setting drainage pipe, and dismantling and moving the fence. Lunch was served in the upper cabin around the woodstove, including corn chowder, Joanna’s good sandwich bread, and chocolate chip cookies. By dinner time almost all the new trees were planted, the new fence was up and mulched, a great wagonload of seaweed was harvested, and the way was cleared for the new maple trees to be planted along the stone wall. Dinner was lasagna, green salad, more of JT’s bread, chocolate cake, and lots of cider. After dinner there was a tomahawk throwing contest by Jake – a dollar bill was tacked to an upended stump, and the first to part it in two with the tomahawk wins the prize. But since the blade was not as wide as the bill, it was kind of akin to a pinyata contest without the blindfold – the dollar became increasingly tattered, and finally it parted with a blow struck by JD, who won a beautiful new tomahawk handmade by Jake in the forge. After the contest we settled in to play some tunes in the kitchen by the woodstove, and folks gradually retired to the cabins.

Sunday was cool and breezy but drier, and we finished up the planting of new fruit trees, planted the new maples, fenced around them, and transplanted one apple tree from the middle of a field into the orchard proper. The crew then departed to check out J&K’s place, where we planted four new trees and explored the woods, then most folks had to head back to Boston. At the end of the evening I loaded up two more logs on the trailer and returned to Five Islands.

Monday Joanna, Emily, and I spread lime on the new ground, fortified the trees with lime and wood ash, seeded the new ground with clover, timothy, orchardgrass, and an experimental patch each of wheat and barley, and prepared places for two long rows of pumpkins and winter squash. I also patrolled the old fenceline, pulling out weeds and adjusting the position of insulators. We then cleaned up, watered the trees one last time, and I hit the road.

All in all it was a fantastically productive weekend, with a great effort by all leading to a fantastic result. With a bit of luck, in a few years we will be swimming in fruit.

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