The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

93 Fruit Trees

May 22nd, 2017 by Ed Bruske


Our farm came with an orchard of  young fruit trees–apples, mostly, with some peaches and pears–but we were never sure how many. This year after pruning I  decided to put an end to all the speculation and count. The answer: 93.

Turns out 93 trees is a lot for one man to prune. No wonder I always feel a bit spent. But finally I have some decent tools–like these pole loppers in the photo–that make the job so much easier.  I’ve decided I don’t want our trees to grow much more than seven or eight feet tall. I’d rather not be dragging a ladder around the orchard. Pruning with both feet on the ground suits me fine.

I did not come to this with any experience beyond pruning roses and tomato plants. What I do know has come from books and watching videos on YouTube. Don’t laugh. You can learn a lot about farming on the internet.

By any measure, I’m still an amateur. I know to cut “water sprouts”–the new branches that grow straight up–as well as growth in the middle of the tree and branches that cross one another and branches that are creating shade in the wrong places. Once you get the hang of that, you can focus on training your young fruit tree to grow in the correct shape: baskets and vases are preferred, umbrellas are discouraged.

There’s an old saying that you know you’ve done a good job pruning when you can throw the family cow through the tree. It seems the more experience I get, the more I cut. After pruning 93 trees, I usually have a first-rate pile of branches I hope eventually to turn into chips to spread around the trees. This year I’m in the dog house because my wife thinks I cut the peach trees too much.

The first year we were here, there were so many peaches we lost some big branches off the trees just from the weight of them. (We didn’t get the memo to thin the fruit to prevent that from happening.) After record cold the next two winters we didn’t see any peaches at all. Last winter wasn’t so bad, but then the temperatures dropped to -20 in April and wiped out all the fruit. This year, conditions have been just about perfect and my wife was looking forward to a peach bonanza. Until she saw how much I’d pruned, that is.

“We might get a pies worth,” she says through clenched teeth.

I’m hoping she’s wrong. I’m hoping those peach trees have some fruit buds in reserve. On the bright side, the trees are looking just marvelous.

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Hey, Kids!

April 30th, 2017 by Ed Bruske


Our first lambs of the year–female twins–were born March 28, a bit earlier than usual. Over the next two weeks, 12 more followed. And unlike last year, when we lost several to a bitter cold snap, everybody has been doing just fine.

The goats, meanwhile, started having their babies March 29. We’ve had nine in all. And between sheep and goats there have been three sets of triplets, a new record for us. And guess what? They did it all without any help from us.

There’s so much going on this time of year it’s hard to take it all in. But you can’t help being amused by these little critters as they learn to hop, skip and scamper around. Out the kitchen window, I watch a swarm of lambs race up a hill, zigging and zagging like a murmuring flock of jittery starlings.

Baby goats like to climb on anything–a block of wood, a pile of rocks, doesn’t matter. One minute they race around the pasture, the next they snooze in a furry clutch.

Now the grass is up and the animals are all grazing and nursing, grazing and nursing. The whole farm is shifting into high gear, pointed toward fall.

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