From grapes to apples

When it came time to order the grape vines for the vineyard I decided that since I already had a couple of apple trees I might as well plant a couple more. I decided I wanted the Elstar variety that I had had in Germany and tried to find a nursery selling them. I did not have any luck finding Elstar, but I did come across several nurseries selling antique apples and decided I would give them a try.

The apple trees arrived for fall planting whereas the grape vines would be coming in the spring. When I came home from work the day after planting the apples I found a distressing sight: the 3 foot tall trees I had planted the day before were now about 6 inches tall. Looking around I noticed deer tracks in the soft dirt around the trees. I had seen no sign of deer before and my plans had not taken them into account, but it was now obvious that deer were in the vicinity and I needed to find a way to prevent them from damaging future plantings. Luckily I had been concerned about mice and rabbits eating the bark and had put hardware cloth wrappers around the bottom of the trunk, and the deer had stopped when they got to the top of the rabbit guard. Since the deer had not eaten all the way to the graft union, I put some chicken wire over what was left of the trees and hoped for new growth in the spring.

One of the things I had really liked about a vineyard was that all pruning and harvesting activity could be done from the ground instead of having to be on a ladder. Knowing that deer were in the area changed my thinking a little, and I realized that a vineyard offered perfect browsing for deer. Trees, on the other hand, would have their fruit and new growth above the deer provided I could protect the trees from the deer long enough to grow that tall. The end result of my first exposure to deer browsing was that my focus shifted from grapes to tree fruit before I had planted the first vine in the vineyard.

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