Orchard Life

Orchard life..image1

… so long as you crop the two dirty, tired, sweaty keepers of the place out of the photo it looks almost idyllic.

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Easy Orchard Mowing

This spring we upgraded our riding lawn mower and replaced our broken tractor all in one fell swoop with the purchase of a Steiner. I’m not exactly sure what it’s truly classified as but I like to describe it as the love child of a riding lawnmower and a tank.  The Steiner and I have been getting along fabulously. I’ve been using the blade to level a spot for the pool, moving dirt with the scoop bucket, towing my chicken and duck houses into new spots, all by myself, and mowing the paths through the orchard.

Of course all those things had to come with an occasional Diet Coke break!

Now, because of this fantastic plan we found, where you purposely don’t mow your orchard until July, (Best plan ever!) to help naturally (not to mention more easily) control nasty things like apple scab, today was the first day I was going to mow the whole orchard with it.

I started the day with confidence. The mowing deck is more than twice as wide as the old riding mower! It mows in reverse and the mowing deck is attached to the front so it can go under low hanging branches, I was going to be done with the job so quickly!

(Just in case you were wondering that was a bit of ironic foreshadowing and breaking out some cynical laughter here would be completely appropriate.)

But, I’m me… so I was starting the day without one of the two belts on the mower. But, in a rare case of foresight, I had two new belts waiting and the one I needed to replace wasn’t even the one that required taking the mowing deck off to put on.

I put my new belt on. Put the old belt on. Stepped back. Scratched my head. Swore. Took both belts off and put them back on the right way.

I was up and running!

The far side of the orchard where the earliest, least tasty and mushiest of our apples were ripe. I ate this one anyway. Sometimes it’s the principle of the matter.

I headed to the orchard, I mowed one, nice, wide, pass all the way to the far side of the property when the other belt blew.

That belt, was the belt that required taking the mowing deck off. I drove all the way back.

I took the mowing deck off. I got the belt in position. I put the mowing deck back on. I put both belts on.

I was ready to go!

I had to take all three dogs to their vet appointment.

After taking all three dogs to the vet the kids who had been playing with a friend quite nicely up until now decided that they were unsatisfied with everyone and everything in the world and that only swimming in the pool in the backyard would solve their issues. Like any mom worth her salt, I made a deal. Cleaning for pool time. I’ll be in the orchard, come get me in 30 when the rooms are clean and I’ll watch you in the pool.

I’d get so much mowed in 30 minutes, it was going to be fine.

(Cue laughter.)

I jumped on, headed down to the far end of the property and moments later there were children waving their arms. A smoke detector was going off and they smelled smoke!

Back to the house I went where there was no smoke but there was indeed a smoke detector going off. I stood on a chair and pushed the “hush” button. It didn’t hush.

I pushed it again.  It didn’t hush.

I repeated this process adding in frantic twisting motions to get the *&^% thing off the ceiling while four girls yelled “helpful” advice at me over the noise of the beeping.

Eventually the beeping and the “help” became too much. I abandoned finesse gave a yank and pulled both the smoke detector and the screw holding it onto the ceiling off. This caused it to stop beeping. I’m not sure why, my only guess is that it could sense that my next step was to smash it with a hammer so it decided to behave.  I gave it a serious eyeballing, just in case it didn’t get the message, and threw it on a shelf, sniffed around for smoke, checked to see that we did indeed own other smoke detectors that were not going off and went back to my mowing job.

Oddly enough I didn’t get much more mowed before it was “time” for the girls to swim in the pool.

Time to swim turned into time to take the friend home turned into time to make dinner…

Eventually I made it back on the Steiner and as the sun was setting I finished up mowing the orchard.

Mowing the orchard all at once.

Super easy.

So fast.

*sigh*

I love the Steiner but I still hate mowing.

 

The Pruning Challenge

We’ve been pruning our apple trees.

I like the challenge of deciding what to do with each tree. But not so much the challenge of standing on the top of a ladder.

What branches need to go? Which should stay for the long haul? And what branches should only stay for now?

Each tree grows with a different personality.

They have twisty branches or willowy branches. They grow with limbs that want to grow out forever and others that want to reach up forever. The ones that grow up forever are John’s job. 

Pruning the trees is a constant exercise in studying the details. Watching for rot and fungus while looking at angles that limbs grow out of the main truck. Checking to see how a branch responded to what was done to it last year to know what to try this year. And double checking to see if your ladder is stable. 

And then, at the same time, trying to hold a picture of the whole tree in your mind, not just today’s tree, but what today’s tree should look like in three years. This is better than holding a picture in your mind about how far off the ground you are, that’s ill advised.

It’s a challenge, and I like it. Well, other than that whole “heights” thing.

Except that today, a week in to the process and so close to done, my brain broke. I couldn’t figure out what to do with another wonky branch or just how many waterspouts to cut and how many to leave.  I left John plugging away at it and stumbled out of the orchard in search of a Diet Coke and dinner. Also shortly before this I may not have triple checked the stability of my ladder and while I’m sure I didn’t actually almost fall two whole feet to the ground and die – it felt completely possible at the time. 

Pruning is a challenge.

I always like a challenge, I’ll be back out there again tomorrow. Unless the last trees are really tall and then it’s all John.

All John. 

Picture taken for The Dogwood Photography Photo Challenge: Macro

Quiet Moment

Quiet Moment, week 4 of the Dogwood Photography Photo Challenge. 

I briefly entertained the idea of taking a photo of a quiet moment in my house.

There was a dog sleeping peacefully in a sunbeam.  So I snuck up with my camera to capture it. But the beep of the camera caused the dog to leap up, other dogs to run to me from all directions, and a few cats to get stepped on in the process.  The kids yelled to see what I was doing, pigeons flew in all directions, a duck got trampled in the commotion while the geese honked, the smoke detector sounded off, the radio blared and the chickens flew in circles.

Or something like that…

In reality this photo, captured outside, wasn’t that quite either, but I think it looks like it might have been, don’t you?

 

Lawnmower Limbo

There are no winners in Riding Lawnmower Limbo.
In fact, Riding Lawnmower Limbo isn’t a thing.

No matter how tempting it looks, don’t do it.
When the branches start taunting you, trying to convince you that you can do the whole thing without ever stopping, backing up or getting off, don’t believe them.

The ducks and geese can organize their own orchard limbo. They'll probably do fine so long as they don't learn how to use the lawnmower...

The ducks and geese can organize their own orchard limbo. They’ll probably do fine so long as they don’t learn how to use the lawnmower…

You know why?

Because if you are mowing an area at high speeds (There are totally winners at high speed lawn mowing just so long as you have the reflexes to miss the dead cat!) and you start doing the lawnmower limbo, you will lose. You will lose your sunglasses and your ear muffs and a bunch of skin off your back and the only thing you will gain is a lump on your head for your efforts.
Because it’s the limbo.
And, as everyone knows, when you successfully limbo once, the bar just gets lower and lower and lower – until you bleed.

True story.

Apparently branches make me competitive. I went under this one, you know, the one the dog is walking around...

Apparently branches make me competitive. I went under this one, you know, the one the dog is walking around…

There is no such thing as Riding Lawnmower Limbo.

But if there were, I would totally be a star.

A high speed, bleeding, bruised star…but still a star!

Walking in Circles Looking Up

The weather here has been nice and our days have been spent pruning the apple trees.

I feel that, in my relative apple tree pruning inexperience, I spend a lot of time staring up at the tree and walking in circles.

I forgot about the trail camera we put out to see if we could discover who ate the ducks.

pruning apple trees

Turns out that walking in circles while looking up is exactly what I do.

Only seven more trees to go!