fresh from the homestead: fruit orchard

Not far from where I live, a fruit orchard lived for many years along the river. There are a lot of trees between there and here.

I have a three acre space on the edge of the Kootenay River that houses more coniferous trees than I’ll ever need to heat a house for a lifetime.

The bald eagles and osprey, the squirrels and black capped chickadees, the stellar jays and woodpeckers…they enjoy their lives right alongside us.

I cleared a tiny little space outside the chicken coop for a tiny little orchard.

I planted a honey crisp apple tree, two plums, two apricots, a cherry and two peach. One peach tree didn’t survive the first year: it just didn’t root properly. An elk heard ripped through our yard and ripped the apple tree in half. The Italian plums only flowered for the first time this year, four years post-planting.

I left that quarter sized apple tree in place and it is presently green with tiny little blossoms not more than a few feet high. I can hope for apples in the decade, but will likely have to purchase them locally instead.

In the meantime, my intention for the fruit orchard is to decorate the chicken run. I planted clover, which grows literally anywhere, even spaces that don’t have almost any soil. I have planted oregano and chamomile and comphrey under each of the trees (both a benefit for the chickens and the fruit trees). And now I have let the chickens run free during afternoon hour; they fertilize like I never could.

I’ll continue to cut the coniferous trees as required (they grow old and teeter to the side revealing a dangerous event awaiting our home or coop or electrical lines). As we continue to cut, we’ll gain more sunshine for fruit tree growth.

When I take fruit from those trees, I will surely let you know. How delicious food from our own orchard or garden is.

Until then, I’ll enjoy the gifts of plums neighbours have given us, so I can make midwinter tart n’ sweet plum cakes that everyone loves. I’ll continue to freeze local peach slices and make peach BBQ sauce, and chutneys for lentils and rice. I’ll slice apples for pies and crisps. I’ll rinse bags of cherries and sit on the back patio with the kids while we play games and let the red juice drip down our arms in summer bliss.

When starting a fruit orchard, you have to know a few things about best growing conditions.

It’s important to prevent these easily preventable mistakes.

This year, I’m learning to prune our fruit trees. Spring or fall? How do I cut? Mlgardener will let me know.

What to do with all that fruit? Here’s a few of my favourite recipes:

Peach cobbler, my favourite.

Apricot galette (love me a galette, because it’s really just an easy to create pie crust)

You know what you can also do with apricots? Jam. The prettiest jam there is.

You have a fruit orchard? Why not plant a few berry bushes too? I planted an extra couple DOZEN this year. One cannot have enough raspberries and blueberries. Thankfully, the wild raspberries are popping up naturally all over our homestead.

Have you heard of a guild? Since no plants grow without the presence of many other plants and trees, we learn what the best plant relationships are to grow together.

And if you’re not sold on building an orchard into your home, check out the story of this couple and their homestead development down under: you’ll be inspired.

Every week I’ll share a healthy offering “Fresh from the Homestead” in my self-care strategy newsletter.

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