Two years ago at this time, I was pruning with my shirt off. It was 80 degrees, and the buds were pushing greentip. This morning it was below zero (again), and everything is still pretty tight. Which is nice — hopefully we’ll avoid the big swing that killed buds that season.
We’ve been pruning right along through the winter, and are about half finished with our orchard. Brad and I have clipped through all of the big MacIntosh at the top of the orchard, and almost all of the smaller trees in the south block.
We’re leaving a fair number of trees unpruned, either because we’ll be sawing them for grafting, or because we want to take scion wood from them. On the south block, we’ve left a few Golden Russets, the Blue Pearmain, the Windfall Golden and Arkansas Blacks, and a few grafted branches like the Ashmead’s Kernal and Yellow Belleflower.
The leftover apples are blistered orange visages at this time of year, hanging like flocks of robins. And the robins are back, too, pecking away at them. The other morning, a flock of turkeys streamed through the gaps in our burn piles, out into the field. A pair of redtails rode above us, and it was so clear I could watch them drift all the way out to East Middlebury, which took them no time at all.
It’s been an uncharacteristically cold spring, with Otter Creek frozen more emphatically than it has been in years. A flock of mergansers had been living in the small stretch of open water below the falls in Middlebury, but they’ve finally migrated out. Even though it’s still friid, the days are longer. The trees and birds know it’s time to move.
Within the next couple weeks, the buds should silvertip, and the suckers will get whippier as the sap moves up. The longer it stays cold, the shorter our grafting window will be, but we’re still hoping to put in an array of cider fruit this season. Pomme Gris, Wickson, Calville Blanc, Egremont, Muscadet de Dieppe, Rubinette, Binet Rouge, Medaille D’Or, Zabergau, Michelin, Tremletts, Kingston Black, Dabinett, Herefordshire Redstreak and Brown Snout are all on the list, though we’ll see what we have the time and scions to get in.
We’ve also been lucky to work with the Shacksbury Cider boys, pressing their Lost Apple mix. These guys spent untold hours finding, tasting, and collecting fruit from wild trees throughout the county. The blend is great, and we’re excited to graft in some of the fruit that they found.
We’ll bottle our own limited release of sparkling dry cider sometime in the next week or so — look for it to come out this summer.