The Cherry trees have been blooming for a while. The apple and pear trees burst into color this week. After winds the driveway is carpeted in white and pink petals like confetti for a wedding or ticker tape parade.
Our farm is a constantly evolving place. It started as forests which were wiped out by the advancing glaciers in the last ice age. When the glaciers receded, after scalping our mountain and filling in part of the valley with gravel, they left behind a nearly sterile landscape. Lichens, moss, grasses, scrub and finally trees recolonized the land to produce the old growth forests that supplied the King of England with masts for his ships. Settler bought land sight unseen from speculators and came to farm hundred acre lots making a village in our valley. The lucky ones had not bought the peak of the mountain (no water) or the marsh (too much water). The lot where our farm is centered is the oldest surviving building in the valley with it’s original section built about 1777 – one of the lucky lots with a good spring above and fields which are the closest thing to flat land you’ll find on the mountain.
Most of Vermont’s forests were cleared to make sheep pasture to supply the woolen mills. At one point almost all of our land including the steep mountain slope was hay fields and pastures. In the late 1800’s the mini-ice age cause crop failure for three years in succession. There were no supermarkets so this was quite serious. Many Vermonters, including most of the residents of this valley, abandoned the hard land and headed west to find their fortune and easier farming. The forest gradually crept back in over the stone walls, filling the fields. Deep forests lose biodiversity as they mature and little light gets to the ground. In 1989 I began the process of starting our farm, clearing back a little of the forest to the stone walls, the old field boundaries. In the process I found many apple trees, some that were from the old homesteads. Now decades later our savanna style fields are abundant with a diversity of flowers, forages, wildlife and our livestock.
As we continue to develop our farm part of my plan is to plant a lot more apple, pear and nut trees around the edges of the pastures, lanes and roads. I’m also planting annuals and perennials in the reserve lines that can then seed into the pastures. Setting the fencing up as creeps lets the smaller animals clean up the fruit near the trees while keeping the larger animals off the bark and root zone to protect the trees.
Apple trees can live for hundreds of years. The ones I planted as five foot tall saplings took about five years to produce their first apples and now produce several crates each year. It is an investment in the future to plant them as apple trees take about fifteen years to reach mature production levels. I plant apple trees. I invest in the future. It’s the long view that can span generations and centuries.
Outdoors: 79°F/50°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/65°F
Daily Spark: Take the shit and make compost.