Halftime intermission

I write this while sitting at Rurikia having completed pruning the orchyard and encouraging, as far as targeted thinking can do so, the fruit trees to slow down their rapid progression into spring. It feels like late March, and the trees have responded to this warm winter with accelerated budding. I am more pessimistic than the trees – I feel a few more hard freezes ahead. Hopefully the trees will still manage a crop this year.

The maples are in flower and the daffodils are starting to push up. The Swiss Chard in the garden has revived itself to give the foxes something to nibble on. A young buck has been rubbing his antlers on a few of the apple trees. Several flights of large migratory birds (snow geese?) circled and joined into a larger flight overhead, while a kestrel (I think) harassed a bald eagle which must have been getting too close to it’s nest.

The trees seem to have healed over last summer’s cicada damage quite well. The cider from 2010 is better than when it was new but not as good as it was in September of last year. The old cherry tree is still standing despite several new major exploratory excavations by the woodpeckers. My Bramley’s Seedling looks surprisingly strong and stable for once. Golden Russet is still a bit questionable on it’s roots, but it is more stable than it used to be. The quince and pear trees seem to have had relatively few issues. It’s not quite the right time, but since I was here to do it I tried grafting Golden Russet onto Pomme Gris in case the Golden Russet tree loses it’s battle with it’s roots. Good if it takes, no harm done if it doesn’t.

It has been a short but very busy visit. I am a little past halfway through my scheduled time in Tokyo and, while in an uncommitted world Rurikia would certainly not be my top vacation destination when based in Asia, there are things that simply need to be done during dormancy and this was my only chance to do so.

I am always amazed by the volume of material that is removed during even fairly light pruning. Since I am concerned with deer and my trees are still fairly young, I tend to go for a hybrid between central leader and open goblet in order to get a large number of apples out of deer browsing range but still have light and airflow. That ends up with quite a bit of wood on the tree, which generates quite a bit of growth in directions other than desired. At the end of the day the pile of clippings is too big to ignore but too green for the woodstove or the chipper (which tends to bog down with green wood), so out comes the burn barrel. Combined with the branches dropped from the silver maples, it makes a wonderfully fragrant smoke, perfect for interrupting the burning long enough to put a grill over the barrel and cook a lunch of smoky grilled bell peppers.

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