Hurry up and wait
The conclusion of apple season brings with it the clearest point of relief on the farm. Throughout the season, work ebbs and flows, but the last bin of apples carted in from the orchard marks perhaps the most definitive end. Whether a challenging season fraught with adverse weather that damaged the crop or a season yielding gobs and gobs of perfect, sugary orbs, at least now one can pause to rest, knowing that what’s done is done.
Not that work ceases, by any means! While certainly more slowly paced, winter work requires a constant plodding to prepare for spring. Eighty-hour weeks half to forty, if only because there’s not enough light to work more. Every sleeping tree must be pruned. The brush must then be cleared away. Firewood must be cut, split, and stored. Equipment must be repaired and maintained. Trellis must be repaired, the sheds must be straightened up, certain tree trunks must be painted white to protect them from cold damage. And paperwork piles up higher than the snow – budgets, taxes, production data analysis, crop insurance, tree order plans, spray program plans, nutrient management plans, cover crop plans, insect trapping plans, and food safety plans.
If we’ve planned well and kept up our momentum – which no fruit grower ever does to their complete satisfaction – spring is a welcome opportunity to pick up the pace once again. Diminutive buds begin to swell and turn silvery, harbingers of the rapid development soon to follow as blank skeletons fill with greens tips, then flowers, then leaves and fruits. Like a ship sets sails to harness the power of the wind, so the trees set leaves on their branches to harness the power of the sun, transforming its warm, bright energy into delicious fruit.
This year, our silver tips came early – 2-3 weeks earlier than expected. In just a few days, an on-schedule pruning program fell behind as tree growth outstripped our pruning crew. Spring spraying began. Every day, we diligently go out to monitor to the pace of growth. While the recent cold snap has slowed things up again, the trees are awake. It’s very easy to become caught up in the rush, to worry about what’s not done and how best to do it. But just the other evening, driving the tractor down to scoop up peach brush, a gentle wind wafted down over the hill, carrying the fragrance of the peach blossoms with it. It was a tangible reminder that, no matter how unpredictable the weather or what work remains undone, it’s still important to stop and smell the flowers.