Bear Swamp Orchard & Cidery

Certified Organic Hard Ciders and Apples

Taking advantage of the snow

Today I took advantage of the snow day, and the feet of snow in the orchard, to do some orchard management. Each spring, every tree is covered in flowers, and if all goes well most of those flowers turn into tiny fruits. The tree can’t possibly support every fruit, so many are abandoned by the tree. Most varieties of trees drop these abandoned fruits right away, but for some reason Cortlands hold onto these dead fruits by the hundreds. Each one of these dead fruits becomes something like a biobomb - the fungi and other microorganisms that decompose dead fruits are now to be found up in the tree rather than on the ground, and these decomposers can infect living fruit if the dead fruits remain on the tree. We pick off the dead fruits when we thin in July, but we can’t get every one. Every time I go by the trees in summer and fall I pick off dead fruitlets, but I can’t reach those high up in the tree. Right now with feet of snow on the ground I can reach nearly the entire tree. I just have to be careful not to step on and damage branches under the snow, and I don’t want to push into the tree, as branches are much more brittle this time of year. So, thanks to the snow, I can reduce the disease pressure the tree will have to fight this coming season.

We have some help in the orchard with vole management this year, as a fox has been frequenting the orchard. We saw it dig up a rabbit and trot off one morning this week - that doesn’t help the orchard much but is a relief for the kitchen gardens the rabbits discovered last year. Hopefully the fox is eating its share of voles as well. It must be eating well, as it is incredibly healthy looking. We have heard a lot of fox barking and screaming at night, perhaps part of courtship? I hope for a nice den of kits somewhere nearby to work on our vole population. We will have to be careful of the chickens though!
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