Well, the dozen plus Baldwin apple trees on Concord Road were long overdue for a major haircut. They were planted at least twenty years ago by Brian, an old-time Land’s Saker, and nobody can remember the last time they were pruned. Needless to say, they were looking unruly. Last year’s harvest was plentiful and tasty but many of the apples were small and blemished by the “apple scab” fungus. Those apples were small and ugly but they sure tasted good!
To start the pruning project we first cut very large branches out of each tree to allow more sunlight and air circulation to reach the remaining branches. We were careful to chose the main branch that will become the “central leader” of the apple tree, growing up in the middle of the tree and higher than all rest. We removed, on average, 3 to 4 very large branches from each tree, leaving 5 to 6 intact. This was a severe pruning.
We also cut off many smaller branches, especially those that were growing up straight and vertical. An apple tree branch can do one of two things —grow up straight and vertical and produce no apples, or grow horizontal and produce apples. We chose horizontal. All of this pruning left each tree looking rather denuded after we finished, like a wet dog after a bath. The good news is that the trees will now flourish this coming fall. They will produce only half the number of apples, but the apples will be much bigger. The apple scab will also be greatly reduced by the increased sunlight and air circulation. (Thank you, Ben, our new farm manager, for all your insight and guidance on the entire tree pruning process!)
After we finished pruning, branches littered the Concord Road field. It was time for “Jaws.” Jaws is a “DR Rapid-Feed Wood Chipper” for wood chipping up to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. I do not think the “DR” stands for “doctor.” This thing will chomp your fingers off in one second flat. We donned our safety glasses and earmuffs and began stuffing branches into Jaws’ maw. Jaws went to work, “I think I can, I think I can.” The razor sharp chipper knife on its massive flywheel powered through branches of all sizes. The smell of burning wood wafted through the air as Jaws spewed wood chips up into the back of Land’s Sake dump truck with ease.
To our surprise, after we ground up about 100 branches (exaggeration), we had maybe ONE CUP of wood chips! This thing grinds up tree branches into nothing. Nevertheless, we pushed on and three hours later filled up the back of the dump truck with a bed of wood chips two feet thick. What will happen to these wood chips? Well, hang on to your socks. We are going to bag them up and you can purchase them at the farm stand this coming Summer. Imagine that wild salmon cooked on the grill over a bed of coals smothered with Weston’s own Baldwin apple wood chips. Yum. And you can thank “Jaws” for this — that tireless, relentless, branch eating monster of a machine who is ALWAYS hungry. Thank you, “Jaws!”
Jim Danaher, logger first, farmer second