When we bought the farm we had 1000 trees planted down by the river, a mixture of firs and deciduous trees. Mac had the idea we could always sell them as firewood and that could be an extra income in years to come. Alternatively, the ash could be used for making hurling and camogie sticks. They were down by the river, a good bit away from the house. Since we didn’t live on the farm then permanently, we couldn’t look after them in the first year after planting when there is the danger of the little saplings being overgrown by weeds. Herbicides and any non- organic spray were out of the question anyway. We hired a farmhand, Siney, to trample the weeds instead and paid him all summer long. While we were there on vacation we helped, Mac and I, and to some extend the two toddlers who grew tired of this pastime even faster than I did. Whenever we checked on Siney, he was just having a tea break or asleep in the high grass. Did he even turn up in our absence, I wondered?
On the yard and in the front garden, we planted 10 edible chestnut and walnut trees, fully aware that it would take 10 years for them to produce the first nuts. Ironically, the first nuts showed up the year I left the farm.
Our orchard had a dozen or so of old apple trees which didn’t bear much fruit anymore and they were tiny. Maybe older trees aren’t that prolific anymore anyway, or the lichen that grew on their stems prohibited their growth. The summer I was pregnant with Patrick, before we moved in for good, we tackled the lichen. A triangular gadget with 3 sharp edges, a scraper, was used to scrape off the unwanted growth on the bark of the trees. Not exactly how a 6-months pregnant woman wants to spend her vacation but it had to be done. Later we planted an additional orchard of about 20 apple trees where we erected a big greenhouse in the field near our vegetable rows. Young apple trees need about four years to mature. Especially in the first year, their stems need to be grass free. Mulching is a good method to keep the weeds down. We put paper down around them with grass cuttings on top.Obviously we couldn’t do that with the 1000 trees.
Apple trees want proper cutting; preferably in the winter to keep them in shape. A summer cut needs to check that year’s growth. A tree that is pruned doesn’t produce any fruit but puts all its energy into growing. A good bit of manure as fertilizer will prepare their growth for the coming year. In spite of good care taking we never had enough apples for our apple juice and cider making needs. But more about that another time.