When we first began farming, we immediately wanted to plant some fruit trees and blueberry bushes. Ethan had this idea of piping water over to a distant clearing that was covered in prickly ash. We disagreed about this, but I had no better suggestions until I looked up from fencing the garden area and noticed the field right next to it already had some wild plum trees and kind of looked like an orchard. So that became the orchard instead.
It had a very rough start. I was the only one going out to work every day, with both children, and Rose was just a baby. We went out every morning, which seems like madness now because the heat became so intense that time of day that I would end up completely exhausted. If the new chickens escaped the now defunct “Hell-on-little-wheels” coop, I would have to set the baby down in between cactus or blackberry and chase them until they were all caught. It made me late several times to pick up my son from his twice a week Rainbow Dayschool, and this annoyed the teacher so much that she still has not forgiven me!
Dark days, those days. We spent really more than we could afford on blueberry bushes, peaches, nectarines and persimmons in hopes of having an orchard, but of course there was no time to put them in. I would beg Ethan to come out and plant them over the weekend, reminding him how much money we had spent, and bringing his attention to how many had already died. The pigs had even gotten in and eaten some of them.
Perhaps it was the nagging, but on weekends, the last thing Ethan wanted to do was plant the orchard. I would be working as fast as possible on my chores so I could plant, too, and he would shuffle around uselessly, picking at things, or disappear for a long “nature walk.”
I finally got them all planted and watered in, but they were not well planted. I didn’t have the time or energy to fertilize them, and it took Ethan two years later to run water over there. I had to carry water over in a bucket if I wanted to water them, and there were twenty blueberry plants alone!
All the plants looked miserable, neglected and stunted. We got a handful of blueberries after a couple of years. When people came out and we told them it was an orchard, they had to squint to see the fruit trees among the wild plums, snaggles of wild blackberries and towering dog fennel.
Two years ago I finally mulched and fertilized the trees. They grew shockingly, and we got one peach!
Last year I laid down cardboard to keep the weeds back, and put on some compost. The blueberries shot up. They are now taller than me, and this year seem to be setting tons of berries!
The early blooming ones (Rabbiteye, I think), already have big berries on them.
And the peaches have peaches! The persimmons are even blooming this year.
It’s amazing what a little mulch and compost can do.