Sunday, July 13, 2014

Orchards


Apples

We have an orchard. It was a long journey, and I am still on the road.  We have an orchard and yet, I do not manage the orchard. I am 57 years old, and it is still an orchard dream.

  I dreamed of having an orchard when I lived in Johnny Appleseed country in Richland County, Ohio.   Unfortunately for me, like Johnny Appleseed, once I planted an orchard, I moved on.  

I lived in an apartment, just out of college, and with a good job.  No room for a garden, only pots on the fire escape in a downtown apartment.   I lived there a few years, until there was a murder outside my window.  I scraped together my assets and moved on. 

I had enough money for a down payment on a mobile home (almost).  I borrowed the rest from my grandmother.  My grandmother had a lot of money in the bank, the result of having been parsimonious during the Great Depression and afterwards.  She lent me the money I lacked, and I paid her the going interest rate of 4%, knowing that she and my grandfather had worked at jobs for $.25 an hour or less to earn that money. I made sure I paid her on time and with the full amount of interest that she might have earned in her savings account. It was proud day for me when that debt was paid off in full.

I lived in the mobile home for a few years.  I paid my “mortgage”, and I paid my grandmother, and I paid the lot rent, and I paid the utilities. Unfortunately, I learned about the “rule of 78”.  That means that you pay all the interest up front, and when you are halfway done paying off the mortgage, you still owe the original amount of the mortgage, in principal.  My naivety.  Their profit.   My kids came along.  I paid my husband’s credit card bills, my naivety. His profit.  I paid the grocery store.  All the time I longed for a patch of land to call my own, where I could have an orchard.

My new husband and I bought a house on 2 acres.  I rented the mobile home to a coworker.  She was a great renter, paid on time every month.  The new house was next door to a home with established apple trees, and had 2 young trees already planted. I was really looking forward to my orchard.  The neighbors were great, they were friendly, and the property backed up to a private park, with ATV trails to the lake.  We got a membership at the lake club and life was good for me and my kids.  Maybe not so good for my husband and his girlfriend.  They went through a lot to convince me that I should not be married to him anymore.  OK.  So it is. I get the house (and the apple trees) and he gets a reduced amount of child support.  My renter moves on to a new job, and I sell the mobile home.

A job change means I get to move to Michigan. No fruit from the apple trees in Ohio yet.  OK.  I will move, because I need the job to survive with my kids.  We move.  Michigan is different.  Way different. We are in a “metropolitan area” instead of a small town.  The neighborhoods are measured by “Mile Roads” and the further north of 8-Mile, the better the neighborhood.

My back yard is really small.  It backs up to the middle-school track, and is just around the corner from the park, so the kids learn to live in a metropolitan area.  My oldest daughter was in elementary-middle school and the youngest was just starting kindergarten. There is no room for an apple tree, but a family of skunks make its home under our porch.

 A job opens up back in my hometown (same company.) With only a small hesitation, I take it.
We move back home.  Thomas Wolfe said “you can’t go home again” and I fear he was correct. My friends from high school and previous school activities had moved on.   I planted three trees, one Liberty, one Enterprise, and one Freedom.  All three are disease-resistant varieties. 

I start dating again, and fall completely in love with the love of my life.  Unfortunately for the apple trees in my back yard.  They were just starting to bear fruit, and I had to move again. 

 But, as it turned out, he owns an orchard in Michigan!  There are Northern Spys, Grimes Golden, MacIntosh, Steel Red, Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious, Greening, Yellow Transparent, Jonathon, one Wagner, and one Red Astriken. There are also pear trees and a single Damson plum tree.  The trees are old, and haven't been properly pruned for many years. 

His back yard in Ohio had a MacIntosh apple tree.  For some reason, it did not bear well.  He said it is because MacIntosh is a variety that has a heavy crop one year and a light one the next.  We never got the heavy crop. 

Fast forward, the factory closed.  We move to Michigan.  There are two Cortland apple trees in the backyard.  I did not even realize they were real fruit trees until 2013, when I harvested a bushel of apples from each tree!   It was the first time I got a real harvest from an apple tree that I owned!
 
I am looking forward to learning more about how to manage the orchard.  There is poison ivy everywhere, and I am wondering if goats would be advisable.  

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