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Decoding the Secrets of an Orchard

There are several areas of the farmstead that we are working on right now. But the area I find most fascinating is the orchard.

It sits right next to the main farmhouse with an ancient and rusted wire fence running along the perimeter. Brambles cover much of the fence line and the remnants of an old chicken coop can be found towards the back.

They must have kept the chickens close to the house so they could be monitored for predators. And it also made it an easy walk from the kitchen to collect the eggs. Oh yes!

I remember the first day I walked through this place in early spring and saw these ancient fruit trees.

With no leaves, you could see their bare bones – all gnarled and brawny. Somewhere in the past, several of them had been butchered. You could see the scars and wounds where errant pruning had all but killed many of them.

Perhaps it happened when the man who cared for these trees passed away several years ago and his wife had to run this place alone. But I really will never know.

Yet, despite all that, they still (very slowly) opened their arms and flowered.

And then bore fruit. These trees are tough!

And this is where we are now – trying to decode the different fruits.

So how does one document an orchard like this?

I need to determine the variety of each tree and then note the quality and quantity of the fruit. And although the enclosed portion of the orchard is 115 feet wide and twice as long, this place is NOT laid out in neat rows. Oh no! There are trees everywhere – with many more outside the orchard. Yep. There are fruit trees all over the property waiting for me to discover them!

So, I decided that I will assign a number to each tree and tag it so that I can keep the records in order. That should work, don’t you think?

On each visit, I will check each tree and document how it is doing. I can tie that information back to it’s number. Eventually, I hope to know all of their individual statistics by heart.

So, that is my project for my next trip to the farmstead – number and tagging the trees.

And now, I have a tree question for YOU.

I know there are many, many gardeners among my readers and perhaps you can help identify what is going on in the photo below.

Several of the oldest trees are covered with these holes in the bark.

I’m unsure if it is a beetle or a bird or what. Any ideas?  The holes appear to be as old as the trees so maybe it was something that happened several years ago and is no longer an issue? The affected trees seem to be healthy in every other way and are in fact bearing lots of fruit now. (Several apple trees and a pear tree have it)

So what say you?  What is making these holes and what do you think I should do about it?

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.