Ah, you decided to return to the Orchard Adventure at the 4K River Ranch.  Let’s review:  trenches dug, ditches filled, terraces built, compost dumped, land rolled, irrigation laid, water bubbled, and booze drunk.

Day 9:  Dig holes.

Where’s that Advil?   Yes, the irrigation lines are completely done and 630 daffodils were planted next to the holes for the trees.*  I was so impressed with my cleverness at using the existing trench lines to put in 20 bulbs per trees.  Why so many you ask?  Excellent question Orchard Oprah!

Two reasons you plant bulbs near new trees.  One is for good and the other for bad.   First the good, let’s talk pollinators…young bees are trained by expert bee foragers early in their career.  Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)So, the minute it is a warm spring day, training begins.  Besides learning to fly and return to the hive, forager bees find the tasty treats of pollen and nectar.  You can hear them now,

“Flower at 9 o’clock, going in for a look, cover me girls.”  (Did I mention almost all honeybees are girls, they kill off almost all the males or drones after mating, let’s leave that for another discussion).  Anyway, you want to attract bees to your fruit trees and since daffodils bloom before the tree blossoms, attracting those training bees early to the area is important.  Otherwise bees can travel over 3 miles to find their food, but why, when beautiful yellow flowers sway gently in the Texas breeze.  Yeah right, the Texas wind may actually flatten them to the ground.

The second reason for planting daffs near fruit trees is they act as a repellent plant, warding off the evil eye.  Not sure what the evil eye is, but I read it somewhere.  Actually, daffs repel a number of rude bugs who try and take up residence in the trees, eat the fruit and leave without paying their bill.  So, these flowers can keep these rude bugs at bay.

Tomorrow we pick up trees from Womack Nursery in De Leon.   Womack is the Costco of bare root trees.  So many trees so little space…

Day 10: Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)

Today, we traveled to De Leon by way of Stephenville, Dublin and Strawn to get our trees and 100 blackberry bushes.  But we had to stop a Mary’s Cafe.  Now for those of you who know nothing of this restaurant there are not enough words, grease, or calories to cover what they serve.  You might be asking why two vegetarians would eat there.  Two words—French Fries.  Enough said!

We got to Womack Nursery and as we approached the fields, Iver whispered to me, “look away from all the trees; we do not need 1,000.”

“But they’re so pretty,” I sighed, leaving moisture on the window.

As we waited for our order, young Mr. Womack greeted us in the office.  Without being asked, I proudly told him of the lengths we had gone to in order to ready our land for the trees.  I explained the permaculture technique, the holistic orchard physiology, and arcs.  He nodded knowingly, leaned an elbow on the counter, and in his Texas twang exhaled, “May I give you some advice?”

I nearly peed my pants, why yes, advice from the famous Womack grower, known throughout Texas for their generations of pecan and peach stock.

”Yes sir,” I breathed, scrambling for my pen and notepad.  Finally, with pen poised above the paper I moved in closer, phones quit ringing, the room grew still, and dust suspended in mid-air.

Looking deep into my eyes, he cautioned, “Don’t over think it.”

I blinked twice.  Iver stifled a chuckle.

What the H… Did he not know about the broke tractors, the four wheeling semi, the compost, the freezing hands, the painful math lesson, and 630 daffodils…OMG, really!!

With trees loaded in the truck, it proved to be a silent one-hour ride back to the 4K River Ranch.  All I could do was think if I was over thinking it.

Day 12:  Planting Day. Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)

Before the trees and bushes came out of the greenhouse to move into their permanent home, I had a good long talk with them. (Plants communicate remember)  Ignoring Womack’s sage advice, I paced in front of the trees that seem to stand at attention awaiting their final orders.  Much like my days as a military commander, I reminded these young trees of the expectations and what mission success looked like.  “You grow and produce fruit, period!”

The trees nodded knowingly.  At this moment I might be losing it…might.

So, the planting began, it was indeed an FFF Day—Forced Family Fun.
Planting 130 trees and bushes had all the logistics of a large military operation:Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)

Volunteers, gloves, shovels-Check
Gravel, paint, T-post-Check
Tee-pees, cages, seaweed-Check
Food, wine, hot tub-Check and Recheck.

Our recipe for planting bare root trees:

Plant tree high enough to expose graft point facing into prevailing southern wind (strongest part to wind)
Drench with compost tea and seaweed mix (excite microbes)
Cover ground at base of tree with gravel ring (keeps debris off young trunk)
Paint trunk with diluted white paint (protects from sunburn and rude bugs)
Drive T-post, place Tee-pee around tree (warms ground and conserves water)
Secure cage to T-post (prevents snacking deer)
Sip wine look longingly at hot tub, I digress.

Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)Speaking of family, here is how it went down:

My daughter got all the groceries, made chili and supervised lunch.  Volunteer troops must be fed.  The resourceful brother-in-law and fiancé showed up with muscle and a Bundt cake.  My mother-in-law rolled in with her legendry brownies and a reminder of the greatness of time (she’s 86 by the way).   She
tracked the names of the plants and supplied water.  And just when the group’s energy waned, my son and his girlfriend showed up (she eventually married him despite the FFF day).  Youth always brings Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)energy and enthusiasm to any project.  As always Iver weaved in and out of the work like a master.  By midafternoon 30 trees, 100 blackberry bushes and my family stood proudly in the orchard.

Maybe Mr. Womack’s advice had nothing to do with the trees, for there in front of me were all the people I loved the most, giving of their time and talent for this living project.  What a glorious day for my family, for they too were a living orchard in themselves.  Each brought their gifts and indeed I did not have to think about it.  Holy crap, I just made myself cry.

Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)



Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)


Orchard Adventure: Crack the Whip at Dawn (Part II)











*As of this writing only one daffodil remains, but we have the fattest gophers around, they ate all 629 daffodils.