Our small orchard was planted out on July 4th, the first opportunity we had to transfer the 12 bare-root whips I had received back in January from their temporary pots to permanent ground. It took so much longer than I had anticipated to ready that permanent spot: building a retaining wall along the driveway in order to provide a level grade, getting the fence up to protect the young trees from the deer, and erecting our garden shed in the adjacent space. Finally, armed with pick-axe and shovel, we broke ground, amended soil, and wrestled the trees from their pots though the day was a hot one – we just didn’t want to wait any longer to establish our orchard.
When I say ‘small orchard’ I mean that literally. It’s not just that we have a small number of trees, but rather that I have pruned them according to the advice from a book called Grow a Little Fruit Tree, which will yield . . . well, small trees. The idea is to nurture trees whose mature canopies top out at about 6 feet, meaning the fruit is easy to harvest; crops are reasonably sized; and the trees may be planted relatively closer together.
We have planted two plums (Early Laxton and Blue Damson), two apricots (Blenheim and Moorpark), two pears (Comice and Seckel), four apples (Ashmead’s Kernel, Yellow Bellflower, Grimes Golden, and Cox’s Orange Pippin), a Van Deman quince, and a Black Mission fig – all this in a space that measures just over 100 feet square.
Of course, it will be two or three years before we harvest any fruit. Cultivating an orchard is an exercise in delayed gratification, to be sure. But we have the thrill of anticipating the literal fruit of our labor someday and the satisfaction of reaping the metaphorical fruit already: I am utterly delighted to gaze out upon the orchard from the nook in the kitchen, appreciating that it stands both as a promise for the future and in tribute to our labor of love in fulfilling the vision we have for Acorn Lodge.
Meanwhile, much of our recent labor has yielded tangible results more quickly: the lavender we planted at the edge of the orchard is in bloom, and the basil that we’ve been carefully tending nearby has already been put to use in several batches of pesto for the freezer in addition to lending flavor and visual appeal to homemade lemonade.
Lemonade with Lavender and Basil
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
3 tbs. dried lavender blossoms
1½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 fresh basil sprigs
3 cups water
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Set over a medium heat and simmer, without stirring, until the sugar is fully dissolved and the resulting syrup is clear. Remove from the heat and stir in the lavender blossoms. Leave to steep for at least 30 minutes and as long as an hour. Strain the syrup into a pitcher, then add the lemon juice, basil sprigs, and water. Stir and chill thoroughly before serving.
For me, the surest contentment comes of having done the work myself, whether stirring up a pitcher of lemonade from scratch or planting out an orchard on a previously bare patch of ground. I like feeling at the end of the day that I’ve been productive – that is the sweetest fruit of all.