Tag Archives: Orchard

The end of another season at Ravens View Farm 2015

August 31 2015 – It feels like the end of another season at Ravens View Farm

This has been the season of all seasons. It started way earlier with a warmer winter and then a warmer spring, which continued to deliver the hottest summer on record not only for the Okanagan, but the world, and possibly the driest, but that is not altogether unexpected in the Okanagan Valley, which is a dessert after all with only 9 inches of precipitation annually.

However clouds, not the smoke from Washington’s wildfires, have rolled in the past few days and the temperature has dropped with the light rain we received. Last night in fact held a maker for fall when I put on an extra sweater because the evening breeze was chilly. With the overcast skies I slept until the dogs awakened me at 6:30. But after feeding them and letting them out I went back to bed with a cup of tea to finish the book for book club tomorrow evening.

There are still some jobs to complete on the farm. Aren’t there always? But my sense of urgency to get out there before the day gets too hot to work has diminished, because my body, which is fitter, firmer, leaner and meaner than ever before, is craving rest, the deep rest that comes with fall.  And this is speaking louder than the demands of the farm.

Fall has never actually been a favoured season here in Canada, unlike my years in the lower 49 states, because it portends the temperature inversion that brings the blanket of cloud that put the orchards and gardens to sleep for the winter. It also foretells of the much shorter days to come above the 49th parallel beginning on the Equinox just a few three weeks away. This may be why I love the bears that are our constant companions this time of year. Their search for food in ours and the neighbors’ orchards, instigating the encounters with our dogs to get the plums, is a reminder of the coming season of hibernation – a reminder that there is a time for bodies to relax, for minds to release and spirits to rise.

This year I find myself looking forward to fall. I have grown weary of getting up with the birds that began to stir at 3:45 am and were in full song by 4:00 calling me out of bed by 5:00. But what a glorious way to start a day with the mating songs of so many species of birds that decided that Ravens View Farm, whose ravens had moved up into the cooler mountains, was the place to call home for the summer. With our daily refreshed birdbath and a constant rotation of irrigation on the fruit trees, they were assured a good source of water and as it turns out food as they proceeded to take a bite out of every fourth peach as they ripened.

This was a also season of new pests, from tent caterpillars to the dreaded spotted wing drosophila fruit fly as well as many diverse pollinators I had never seen before accompanying my favourite insect the honeybee. It also marked the arrival of more creatures.  We have seen more lizards and garden snakes and rubber boas this year than ever before. It feels like we created an oasis in the midst of the intense drought when their natural habitat became too hot dry and food became scarce. The insects and mice and rats (both Pack and Norwegian) and of course the snakes, lizards and spiders have all come along to savour the “fruits” of the farm. So this is a year of all kinds of abundance in the midst of our experience of global warming. With it however we lost a higher percentage of our peach and plum crop to birds who created the seconds that I and my customers turned into jams and chutneys. We fed the rodents a fair percentage of the chicken feed.

Now I have to address the spotted wing drosophila that has become the scourge of the fruit growers in the northwest and British Columbia.  My most important chore right now is to rake all the rotten Italian prune plums into black plastic bags and heat them up to kill the larvae and determine what I can do as an organic farmer to ameliorate them in future seasons. Without our annual cold snap that kills off so many of the hibernating predatory larvae in the ground beneath the trees we will be inundated again next year earlier with even more. So plans to finally renovate our heritage plum orchard through deep and strategic pruning are already underway with marks being made on the branches to be cut come winter. The result will be less fruit but healthier, easier to harvest in a timely manner at the just prior to full ripeness to avoid the fruit fly. I will probably end up with just what I need to sell to ensure the farm remains viable. I look forward to a more manageable orchard next year and the feeling that I have restored and reinvigorated the old plums.

At times I feel a distinct other presence in the orchard. Mark has identified it as the fairies that live in the trees. Now while I am in the old orchard cleaning up and contemplating which branches to prune, I am sensitive to the fairies that guard and protect the trees. I believe they invited us here in the first place to save the orchard and they have been watching ever since to be sure that we are good stewards. In that spirit and perhaps with their guidance we will endeavor to do the plum orchard justice and the peach trees as well.

There’s much more to recount of this growing season here at Ravens View Farm, but my cluttered desktop now beacons me to begin the process of filing months of papers that have been accumulating, lying in wait for this cloudy cool day to be addressed. And of course this is the year that the farm will be assessed by the Farm Bureau to be sure that we are indeed a working farm and deserving of the small tax breaks and lowered water rates that farm classifications bestows. There are always chores to do on the farm and now I get to dig into my least favourite, the paperwork.

Until my next moment of procrastination, enjoy life and all it has to offer as I seem to do here on Ravens View Farm.

 

 

Musings on Pruning in Peachland on Ravens View Farm

Pruning in Peachland on Ravens View Farm.

With 45 old plum trees and 35 young peach trees on our small organic farm in the Okanagan, the month of March invites us outside to begin the process of cultivating the farm by pruning the orchard. We get to study each individual tree and consider its future health, productivity and hopefully shapeliness.  For a person who takes time to carefully consider each decision in order to make the best one, pruning takes practice and pruning has become a practice. I am practicing my ability to stay present in the moment, I am practicing my memory of the key principles of pruning, and I am practicing decision-making with every cut.  Mark has been fantastic at cutting the water sprouts and dead wood each year and ensuring the overall shapeliness with his artist’s eye.  However over time the ends of
the branches have begun to criss-cross and overlap because I have not tended to this refinement for the past several years.  So it is time and my turn to cut away the branches from underneath. With the meandering tendrils of fruiting wood intersecting, I am forced to determine what to cut and make sure I am not cutting more than the
recommended 1/3 each year.  At all times I am testing the branches for strength, because the greatest damage to our trees are the bears in the night who indiscriminately pull down on the branches until they break to feast on the fruit at their convenience. With this in mind I must add that I am pruning the tree for strength.  It is this final consideration that eases my mind when I wonder, have I cut too much?  I am remembering the words of our first pruning mentors who came the first winter with chain saw in hand and startled us by valiantly cutting away the large inner limbs that sheltered the rest of the tree from the valuable rays of the sun that ripens the fruit.  “Be Brave” they said.  With this refrain echoing in my mind I realize that pruning is a seasonal practice for cultivating courage.