A Family Builds a Homestead in the Rain

Pruning Time

The next time we haul a load up to the property and get any work time in, it will be spring, so this trip was my last opportunity to prune the trees and vines before they begin to bud out.

The property has endured many years of neglect, and opportunistic ivy and blackberry brambles have consumed most of the trees. If you look closely to this top photo, you can make out the lichen-covered branches of an old apple tree, as if reaching out for air and sunlight.

Last year, we were fortunate to see the place at height of ripeness– otherwise I would never have known, or at least not until later this year, that this was an apple tree at all. But it was putting off some small, scabby apples, and I hope that with some care, the tree will be a good start until our tiny new orchard-to-be begins to bear.

The rescue operation took hours, using a saw, loppers, a rake, and oddly enough, a crow bar. The ivy vines, which are terrible parasites that will ultimately kill a tree, wound around the trunk and branches, digging into the bark with abundant wiry roots.  I was able to cut the thickest vines, with a massive three-inch diameter, into segments and pry most free with the crow bar and lots of sweat.

The pile that I removed made a towering heap. The tuft of ivy that remains will die, and then I will cut it off. Until I began working, I didn’t realize that the tree was planted on a steep slope that made work particularly difficult. The original trunk had been cut down and is now the home of some nesting animal. Three offshoots are now the primary trunks.

When we first saw the place last year, the Concord grape vines were also heavy with hundreds of pounds of plump, sweet fruit. However, they had clearly not been pruned in many, many years, if ever. By winter, it looked like this:

It turns out the primary vine boasts a 12-inch trunk! Some of the largest chunks are dead and decayed, but most of the main vines are more than an inch thick, some several inches. The trellis, fortunately, is in fantastic shape and sturdy.

The prospect of cutting the beast back was intimidating, and it took me two days with my husband’s help.

I was more timid than I know I should have been, and that I could have aggressively hacked off most of the woody vines. The photos fail to show the four-foot-high piles of snarled debris.

I attempted to propagate a half-dozen cuttings, but it was nearly dark when I got them in the ground and it was a haphazard effort. At the outset of the project, though, I did make several grapevine wreathes to update the décor on the front door.

I’m hoping that at least this will give a good start for future years and that we still get a significant crop this coming summer. I’ve got my heart set on Concord grape wine.

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2 Comments

  1. March 6, 2015    

    Girrrrl you make me feel like a total duff LOL! You are having to do a lot of excavating but in the end…it’s going to be so awesome and I hope you’ll share the awesome here. The wreath is beautiful! Oh and now you have a bunch more stuff for your mulching!

    • March 6, 2015    

      Thank you, my dear. I felt like I should have gotten more done! But I do so look forward to seeing how it all buds out and grows! Can’t wait for grapes, blackberries and apples, even before all of our new plantings take off!

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  1. The May Garden | Little Fall Creek on May 31, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Welcome!

I'm Kelly. Writer, crafter, forager, country winemaker, cook. Mama of an awesome toddler and married to my best friend. We recently returned to the Pacific Northwest, where we're setting out to grow, make, and learn as much as we can as the future unfolds.

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