nevada orchard

January 2009 - Time to get the hands dirty and do some real work, enough with the same old routine year after year.  Not that the routine is bad, but sometimes I feel it was filled with to much "busy" work.  What better way to get focused than by spending time together at something tough and at the same time rewarding.
 
So the New Year's resolution was to plant an orchard...
 
Three months later we are now awaiting delivery our first tree order, but let me back up a bit and fill in a few details.
 
1. we needed land, preferably with surface water, and lower than our home base of 7100 feet.
2. just wishing for it wasn't enough, so I put a free ad in the local classifieds - orchard land wanted.
3. three weeks later the first call came in with an offer for us to use/lease as much land as we needed for $1 a year.
   (with an old orchard thrown in, which was great because of the shade and the potential to get some fruit this summer)
 
Side note: I knew our family would make something happen sooner or later.  A week before our first call, I rode up chair 2 at Mammoth Mountain with a guy over from a small farming town in Australia.  We got to talking and he told me he just rode up the same chair 10 minutes earlier with a guy from Bishop, CA who had enough of his orchard and just gave it away last week.  We were getting closer.
 
Anyhow, we drove out to Nevada and took a look.  The old homestead and orchard had been neglected for many years, but the water was plentiful and the dirt in good shape.  Just walking around and looking was hard work.  We're now going to plant and grow on about 2.5 acres, maybe more in the future.  Check back for updates, until then, enjoy the photos.
 
Group photo with the loppers.  (apple island)


Got the old ditch running again, then it started to rain!


Maybe an old apple tree, probably wished we'd had shown up 20 years earlier.  That's alright, good firewood and hugelkultur makings.
 

Apricot blossoms, March 28, 2009.

 
A new ditch.  An old apple tree tri-plex.  (three planted in one hole)  Small peach tree between the two apples.
 


Kid's pond empties into small ditch.


Never had digging so easy.  Nothing but rocks at our house.


Had to turn the water down on the ditch, kept running for about a mile past this photo.
 

Huge apricot tree -- a real survivor.
 

Plum tree surrounded by willows, really getting ready to blossom, looks very much like a Japanese plum we have back home at hilton creek.  Will definitely do some weed wacking around this tree.
 

Bridge leading to apple island.  Loppers came in handy here.


Apple tree still surviving after so many years, a little water should help.

 
East side of the White mountains and Indian Creek drainage, Hilton Creek about 30 air miles away straight over the top.

 
Lombardy poplars growing along the ditch.  View looks towards the FLV hot springs.


 Update, 4-21-09
 
Planted 10 trees and a whole bag of strawberry plants, chicory, dutch white clover, 1/2 pound of perennial mountain wildflower seed, and a grab bag of horse pasture mix. (alfalfa, red fescue, more clover, orchard grass, etc.)
 
The idea is to see what grows best at this altitude (5,500 feet) and then focus in on the hardiest trees for the years coming.
 
Trees in on 4-16-09 -- all semi dwarf except for the chestnuts and locust.
 
Wealthy apple (Malus domestica)
Italian Honey fig (Ficus carica)
Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) x2
Green Gage plum (Prunus spp.)
Puget Gold apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris)
Marron Di Val Di Susa chestnut (Castanea sativa)
Sleeping Giant chestnut (Chinese x American x Japanese)
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Avalon peach (Amygdalus persica)
 
Because this orchard is managed from afar, we are attempting to create more of a food forest than a traditional orchard that is built in symetrical rows.  We are assembling a mix of big trees, little trees, bushes, ground cover, and perennial plants that will survive year after year with minimal intervention on our part.  I'd say the existing orchard has been neglected for 25 years and is still surviving - already a real testament to hanging on. 
 
Why a food forest?  At Hilton Creek we live in an aspen forest, it will survive with or without our care.  The trees are healthy and so is the understory of miscellaneous shrubs, flowers, and ground cover.  Traditional orchards generally do not thrive on neglect - but what if they could be designed better in which all the fruit trees and edible plants were assisting or complementing each other in some manner -- it could mimic nature's design.  The whole idea of everything intertwined can be found in the study of permaculture. (easily described as permanate agriculture)
 
A few times we've been asked, "What are you going to do with the fruit?"  That's easy, eat it.  And, give it away to those who want it.  Our Vons supermarkets in Mammoth and Bishop are the highest grossing stores in the state of California - for a reason.  Captive audience, and the notion that it is OK to squeeze every last cent from our pockets all in the name of profits.  Sound familiar?
 
Next up is learning how to graft and T-bud some of the older trees so they aren't lost.  I'm sure that some of them are 100+ years.
 
Money spent to date:
$1 rent for the year
$8.61 new shovel
$89.30 seeds
$96.60 tree tubes
$35.98 misc hardware
$129.50 trees
 
Total $360.99 but that doesn't include any costs from taking a day (5 so far) and traveling, gas, mileage, meals, etc.
 
Ordered from:
www.burntridgenursery.com
www.plantra.com
www.mainstreetseedandsupply.com
Do-it Center, Mammoth Lakes
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Update 5-05-09
 
Everything starting to green up, all the trees doing well except for one - the black locust.
Some of the trees in the tubes have really grown especially the chesnuts and paw paws.

 
Surprised a couple of wild horses when we pulled up.  Photo taken from under the apricot tree, many apricots growing all about the size of M&M's.


We had fenced a few trees that were too mature to fit into a tube.  We'll see if the chicken wire keeps out the horses and deer.
 

Some of the apples were in bloom, still to early for others.
 

Close up of some spicy/cinnamon smelling apple blossoms.
 

Apricot tree in a sea of willows.
 

Chestnuts in tubes, existing black locust in foreground, Lombardy poplars completely leafed out since two weeks ago.


Update 5-19-09
All trees are thriving with some getting ready to exit the grow tubes - one chestnut seedling grew over 3 feet!  And one casualty, the locust tree, it never broke dormancy.  Luckily there are several locust trees already growing there of various sizes and they are now in bloom too - attracting huge bees that I thought were humming birds.
 
Planted 4 more trees, two Lattarula figs and two Italian prune plums.  That makes for 25 trees planted in the past two months over three locations: 14 here (the upper McNett), 7 on the Indian Reservation in Big Pine, and 4 back home at Hilton Creek. Time for a break.
 
Green Gage plum center, Puget Gold apricot distant right.  Paw Paws in tubes plugging along.
 

Turned the irrigation back on, the trees actually liked being able to dry out a bit for the past two weeks.
 Indian Creek diversion transformed into "Chocolate pond".


Update 6-21-09
 
The one tree I thought was DOA (black locust) exploded to life in it's tree tube - extra slow to break dormancy I guess.
 
Spent a lot of time taming the creek.  Jumping the banks in about four different spots, some of the water had made the 3 mile journey down to the access road.  I'm sure the spring melt-off is about done.
 
Lots of bugs and wild flowers everywhere.
 

Apples.
 

Our $1 vintage aluminum trailer.
 

This trailer came with a wood burning stove, custom installation, and wonderful for the cold snowy nights to come!


Trailer views, previous night had a lightning show over these desert mountains.
 

Update 7-25-09
Well, a month ago we spent a lot of time fighting the creek to stay within it's banks and on this visit the water levels have really dropped.  Temps have been hovering near 100's for a couple weeks and as a result the orchard wasn't getting enough water due to the heat and evaporation, plus the melt-off has really tapered back.
 
The two paw paws and one fig where definitely stressed from lack of moisture, but I think they'll pull through.  Everything else looked good - after a couple hours of adjusting the irrigation system (gravity fed ditches) the water flows were back to normal.
 
If this was a willow farm we'd be millionaires.
 
Continue on to Nevada Orchard 2010?
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