A good friend and her parents, with a beautiful piece of land outside of Ithaca, have graciously given me the opportunity to cultivate my budding desire to tend fruit trees. The past few months I, with their help, have begun the resurrection of a few ancient apple and pear trees that remain from some long forgotten era of the farm predating the current inhabitants. This endeavor has allowed me to satiate some of my deep-rooted craving to tend the land.
For the most part, the work has largely involved the clearing of over-grown ground cover, and lots of honey suckle. We have also cut out lots of dead wood that has accumulated over the years from lack of care and sunlight. The more vigorous growing maples and ashes have grown up around the pear trees forcing them to concentrate their energy on growing their crown towards the remaining light. Only one of the six or seven pear trees is bearing fruit this year and most of it high in the upper reaches of the tree.
The two apple trees on the property are at this point mystery varieties. Based on their location on the farm I suspect they were planted, however I can not rule out without further investigation the possibility they are seedlings. Both have largely hollow trunks and one of the trees (above), we propped up with an old tire rim to relieve stress on the fragile trunk, which miraculously still transports nutrients and water to the substantial crop of apples. Although I have thinned and pruned the trees, I have not found the time or resources to do any disease or pest control. Despite this, some of the apples on the trees have so far shown little or no signs of infestation.
I suspect such a restoration project will take several seasons to be fruitful and may largely be a study in patience and visioning. Ground cover will have to be maintained and many of the surrounding trees removed to give both space and sunlight to the lower reaches of the trees. There is something very rewarding in working with such a relic -giving new life to an old body. Perhaps it fulfills that same niche in me that has dreamt of buying old rundown houses, only to fix them up and resell them. The reward is not always in the product, but also in the process. But, if a gallon or two of hard cider and a few pints of pear preserves are also a result of my labors, I will not complain.