Spring Unfurling

Spring Unfurling

Our orchard is now unfurling and unfolding into so many thousands of little blooms, many destined to become delicious fruit for you, my readers. It’s SO EXCITING! I really love this time of year, when the trees wake up, and all the efforts to prune, fertilize and care for them show signs of paying off. Is this edition of the farm newsletter mostly to show off all the spring blossoms?
Yes, yes it is.

The super dry weather in February definitely had me worried. We are on a good aquifer, and should have plenty of water for the season, but I worry about drought and fire throughout California this year. Now is a good time to think about water saving and fire proofing steps we can all take, well in advance of the hot and long dry season to come.  Looks like we are going to get a bit of sprinkles in the next week, but we are still under average for the season. Keep in mind, a farmer is pretty much never happy about the weather. And thus concludes your Birdsong Orchards weather report.

Cherry blossoms, not overrated

However, there is one upside to this weather: I think we are going to have an outrageously successful stone fruit season. Usually the plums, peaches and especially the apricots start blooming right in the midst of heavy rain, and the rain plus wind knock the flowers right off the trees. The super wet conditions also provide the perfect environment for a host of fungal diseases. Well this year we have had none of that, and my trees have never looked better. I don’t want to jinx it, but but but … we might have apricots for sale in a few months!

The whole orchard is waking up, bit by bit, tree by tree

How to Dig a Hole

I try not to discuss politics here, but one of the candidates said something that really annoyed me. Former presidential candidate Michael  Bloomberg was caught on video saying, “Anybody, even people in this room can be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.” He then argued it takes so much more to work in today’s information economy. “The skill sets that you have to learn are how to think and analyze, and that is a whole degree level different,” Bloomberg said.

As many of you know, I left a career as a software designer to become a farmer. I know which job is harder, and it isn’t the one sitting in front of a screen pushing pixels. Regenerative farming requires in depth knowledge of everything from biology to small engine repair, climate and soil science, integrated pest management, planting and pruning, livestock care and disease … and so much more. The heart of being a successful farmer is being able to recognize problems before they explode, and respond to them quickly, often after extensive research. 

Even something as apparently simple as digging a hole requires thought and technique. Here is how I do it. Holes should be twice as wide as the rootball of the tree and slightly deeper as well. When removing the soil, it’s important to consider that soil eventually needs to go back into the hole. So carefully placing the removed dirt in piles makes the process so much easier. Those piles should be uphill and not downhill from the hole, if there is even the slightest slope. Tree roots should be gently spread out in the hole before refilling. When refilling, it helps to create a slight indentation or basin around the tree to collect water. Once the hole is refilled, water the new tree in gently to settle the soil and remove air pockets around the roots.
My new hole digger - high in enthusiasm, low in technique