One of the many fun things about buying raw land is the ongoing discovery of what each season presents, especially when you haven’t yet lived there. Take Sunday, for instance. I had recently reconnected with an educator & writer friend at an Intentional Communities Workshop (wheelockmtnfarm.weebly.com) near my land. She was transitioning back to Vermont (retiring from the Waldorf schools) and was interested in building a place of her own within a community. Discussions about small space living and community life continued between us, finding the idea of living within a creative intergenerational permaculture community an idea we both liked and thought to explore. Since I already had land, I offered to show her around and share some of the vision/ideas I had been considering, as well as lessons I’ve learned thus far about the whole buying land & prepping/building process.
What a blast we had – an ideal way to spend a stunningly gorgeous post-storm Sunday afternoon! Walking, talking, envisioning and mapping our futures of unknown length as aging women (mid 50s/60s respectively) – we simply enjoyed the land and the day’s energy for all we could. Since it was the first sunny, cool (low 70s) day we’d had in a month, we kept our time open-ended and just let things flow. My friend, having also studied permaculture, educated me on the many plants we saw growing wildly along our walk, as well as ideas for further plantings and development of the land. Of particular joy for both of us was seeing the blossoming fruit on the apple trees, remarking it just may be a decent season after all! Last year was a rather sad one by most accounts, with fairly limited fruit yields (if any) by those I spoke with. One great thing about our Vermont landscape – apple trees seem to grow everywhere! Take a leisurely ride most fall seasons and you can usually stop to pick an apple right of a tree somewhere – delicious!
My trees are still a ways off from bearing a good crop for eating – it will take years of pruning and nurturing for that, having been left uncultivated for decades. But, they still may provide a sampling or two for me to learn which kind they are. Having friends in the organic and heirloom apple business has taught me there are more apple varieties than one can ever think might still exist. (Last year’s apple tasting, in fact, must have had close to 150 varieties to choose from. Mindboggling to think, isn’t it?)
At this stage, I don’t know if they are all the same apple, a few different ones, or if there is a wide range of flavors in which to enjoy. I suspect I probably have more than one, though, given the propagation of my trees thus far. However, one of them intrigues me, as it seems to bear a taste along the lines of what I call a ‘pear-apple’ – looks like an apple, tastes like a pear. I managed to spot one of these buggers to snag off a branch late-season two years ago, which is how I know what it tasted like (and one I definitely marked for future eats, too). I mean, that was a bit of a mind-twist with the first bite – I didn’t know what I’d just bit into. The mind is a tricky thing sometimes, especially with things like food – it doesn’t quite know how to react and process when a familiar food and the flavor it exudes don’t match. I remember feeling a bit like Spock – it was illogical. Still, I was glad I tried it and discovered a flavor I hadn’t had (in apple form) before. And, that friends, is literally the extent of my orchard’s knowledge. Well, with the exception (purely observational and not necessarily factual) that apple trees – left wild – seem to multiply like rabbits.
Don’t laugh. At my first original count right after I bought the place, there were 15 trees. At last count this past fall, there were 22 – and not all in one nice little orchard grouping, either. They seemed to cascade out in no particular pattern all along the whole front piece of the land (slightly over 700′). Stemming from the neighboring property, they seem to have leapt across the brook that lies between us, then traveled up along the road, circling back and down through the patch of firs and poplars, over and through the bramble and berry bushes, and finally landing 3/4 of the way to the other brook. My guess: the deer have something to do with it. Maybe, like so many of my fellow humans, they (the deer) like their food ‘to go’ and don’t think too much about where they drop their trash (seeds, in this case) when they’re done. At least out here in the country, this type of waste provides food back!
Wistfully observing the lowering sun in the sky, my friend and I knew our day was drawing to a close. Somewhat famished and parched, we slowly – grudgingly – trekked back (fighting a few ‘skeeters for lead position) to the car to prep our minds (and snacks) for the leisurely 30 minute drive home.
Reflecting on the day’s adventures and perfect weather, and seeing my budding apple trees with their little bundles of love growing, I am very much looking forward to uncovering new and ‘fruitful’ discoveries this fall – my most favorite season of all! And, if I time my build just right, I may be whistling that old (somewhat familiar) tune … “Hi ho, hi ho, an apple picking we will go” …